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Baylor Bears are feeling good about football progress

WACO — The Baylor Bears have the same record this season they had at this point last year. But there’s something different about the 3-6 record the Bears have this year.

Art Briles.

Since Briles replaced Guy Morriss as the Bears’ coach last winter, enthusiasm has been sky-high at Baylor. And no one is more enthused about the direction of the football program than Ian McCaw, Baylor’s director of athletics.

“By my measuring stick, our football program has progressed light years from a year ago,” McCaw said. “You can’t see the wins, but we’re playing in the toughest division [Big 12 South] in college football this year with four teams in the top eight in the country.

“Certainly, we all wish we had more wins, and quite honestly we’re a handful of plays from being bowl-eligible right now. So we’ve really — from a competitive standpoint — taken a big step.”

Briles’ team has always been prepared to compete in what might be the best conference in the nation.

“Our guys, the things that I’m so proud of them about and honored to be associated with them is that every time we come to the table, we walk up there and we’re going to eat a full meal,” Briles said. “We’re going to bring what we’ve got and we’re going to take home with us everything we brought, so we’re not going to leave anything laying around.

“That to me is encouraging and it also gives you a chance to have a good outcome at the end of the game. Right now we’re kind of rallying up with ourselves and we’re fighting hard to make other people believe us, and we’ll continue that journey.’’

No moral victories

Anyone thinking the Bears are satisfied with losing close games to good teams doesn’t know Art Briles.

The Bears have lost competitive games to Connecticut (31-28), Nebraska (32-20) and Missouri (31-28, last week). Those three losses, noted Briles, hurt the same as the losses to Wake Forest (41-13), Oklahoma (49-17) and Oklahoma State (34-6).

“Last week definitely was a disappointment for us because I felt like we really came a long way as a football team,” Briles said. “What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to cross over to the next side and come out of there instead of finding good things to feel good about, we’ve got to come out there with wins.

“Those days are coming and our guys are going to get us there. So I feel comfortable and confident in that aspect.”

So does offensive tackle Jason Smith.

“There are some games that we played this year that we should have won,” Smith said. “Did we win them? No. So what are we going to do? We’re going to worry about this one [against Texas] and we’re going to control this one.”

Recruiting in Texas

When it comes to high school recruiting in Texas, Baylor’s next three opponents — Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech — present the biggest in-state challenge to secure blue-chip talent. That’s why it’s so important for Baylor to hold its own on the field.

“When you live in the state of Texas, you recruit in the state of Texas, you make your living in the state of Texas, these next three opponents for us are critical, critical games,” Art Briles said. “Because when we go out on the recruiting trail we’re going to see guys with a Longhorn on their shirt, an Aggie bumper-sticker on their car, and a Texas Tech Red Raider on their sleeve collar.

“We’ve got to be able to do what we do to get on as equal ground as we can with those people because we’re all trying to do the same thing with the same folks in the recruiting world. I want our people at Baylor to be able to go to family reunions and feel really good about what’s happening at Baylor University and with the football program, so there’s a lot of things riding on the next three football games, beginning this Saturday in Austin.”

Comparing McCoy to Bradford, Daniel

The Bears have already had a close look at Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Missouri signal-caller Chase Daniel this season. Now they’ll get their shot at Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who presents a mixed bag of challenges for any defense.

“Colt is a coach’s kid, and I’ve known his dad for a long time,” Art Briles said. “He’s a competitor, he’s intelligent on the field, and he’ll fight hard to win, which is the way everybody who plays the game ought to be.“He possesses the ability to throw the football, rally a team and make plays with his feet at the same time.”

Bears not worried about a hangover

With an 11 a.m. game Saturday at Texas, Baylor doesn’t have time to worry about last week’s close loss to Missouri.

“We don’t have any choice but to get up and go fight again,” Art Briles said. “We’re fighting hard for respectability and credibility.

“The only thing I know is to keep working, keep fighting, keep hoping and keep believing, and some day it’s going to happen. That’s the option we have and that’s the one we’re taking.”

The Bears must win their last three games to become bowl-eligible.

Shipley compares to Maclin

Whatever magic dust the Bears used to try to bottle up Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin last week, they will need it again this Saturday against Texas. That’s because UT receiver/returner Jordan Shipley is as dangerous as Maclin.

Shipley is 10th in the nation with 64 catches for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also is sixth in the Big 12 in all-purpose yards with 122.9 per game. He returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown last week against Texas Tech.

“Jordan has been an outstanding player all through his career in high school and collegiately,” Art Briles said. “He’s just a clutch receiver who has the ability to take the ball the distance, and he’s a great return guy to go with it.

“He and the Maclin kid from Missouri are eerily similar.”