BAY­LOR BUILDS BIG EARLY LEAD TO COAST TO WIN OVER KANSAS

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - SPORT SUNDAY - By Suzanne Hal­libur­ton shal­libur­ton@states­man. com Con­tact Suzanne Hal­libur­ton at 512-445-3954. Twit­ter: @suzhal­libur­ton

WACO — You can imag­ine that Bay­lor coach Matt Rhule has a run­ning men­tal check list of things to ac­com­plish this sea­son.

On Satur­day, the Bears checked off a ma­jor box — win­ning their Big 12 opener. There were sub cat­e­gories that needed an­swers. How does a team re­bound from a loss? How quickly could the Bears es­tab­lish their pres­ence in the open­ing half ? Pos­i­tive check, and check.

Bay­lor beat Kansas 26-7 at McLane Sta­dium to up its record to 3-1. Keep in mind, a year ago, the Bears won only once, co­in­ci­den­tally at Kansas. So each vic­tory is celebrated, no mat­ter the op­po­nent.

“We’re the kind of team that will have to fight, scratch and claw for every­thing we want,” Rhule said. “I think you saw that to­day.” The Bears were com­ing off a dis­ap­point­ing 40-27 home loss to Duke. Bay­lor found it­self down 23-0 at half­time and ba­si­cally out of the game. Mean­while, Kansas was surg­ing, build­ing mo­men- tum with wins over Cen­tral Michi­gan and a road game against Rut­gers. The Jay­hawks led the na­tion in turnover mar­gin. They’d gen­er­ated 13 turnovers, which topped the coun­try. The of­fense had lost only one fum­ble. But Bay­lor was able to play a near per­fect first half, build- ing a 23-0 lead over Kansas. Then the of­fenses of both teams stalled in the fi­nal two quar­ters. Bay­lor’s of­fense suf­fered no turnovers. About the only neg­a­tive stat for Bay­lor were the num­ber of penal­ties. The Bears were flagged 13 times for a neg­a­tive 140. For the first three con­tests, Rhule had been ro­tat­ing his quar­ter­backs, switch­ing from Char­lie Brewer to Jalan McClen­don every three se­ries. But he de­cided to stick with Brewer while the game was com­pet­i­tive. Brewer was 19 of 27 for 221 yards and three touch­downs. He also rushed 12 times for 56 yards. The Kansas de­fense sacked him twice. Rhule said the rea­son he stuck with Brewer is be­cause Bay­lor kept scor­ing.

Brewer had touch­down throws to Chris Platt, Tyquan Thorn­ton and Josh Fleeks. The Bears punted on their open­ing drive of the game, but scored on their fol­low­ing four. Rhule feared a change of quar­ter­back could abruptly stall the mo­men­tum.

“When your num­ber is called,” Brewer said, “you have to be ready.”

The bright spot for Kansas was the run­ning of fresh­man tail­back Pooka Wil­liams. He led the Big 12 in rush­ing com­ing into the game with 288 yards. That in­cluded con­sec­u­tive 100-yard games against Cen­tral Michi­gan and Rut­gers, both Jay­hawks vic­to­ries.

Wil­liams gained 89 against Bay­lor. The Bears tack­led him for losses on three of his 14 car­ries. His best play was the 72 yarder he popped free down the side­line in the third quar­ter to set up Kansas’ lone score.

The Jay­hawks used three quar­ter­backs. None of them were ef­fec­tive. Starter Pey­ton Ben­der was 10 of 17 for 105 yards. Over­all, Kansas was 16 of 27 for 149.

Rhule wor­ried how his team would re­spond to the Duke loss. He showed them scenes from the movie The Re­place­ments. And he also brought in for­mer Bay­lor quar­ter­back Nick Florence, who spoke to the team about the 2012 ver­sion of the Bears. That team was with­out Heis­man win­ner Robert Griffin III and strug­gled to find its iden­tity through the first two months of the sea­son. Then they hit re­set.

Rhule’s mes­sage was when you feel like you’re stuck, ask for help. He saw how the team re­sponded.

“How do you get out of quick sand,” Rhule said, “you ask your brother to help pull you out.”

JERRY LAR­SON / WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD

Bay­lor re­ceiver Chris Platt catches a touch­down pass against Kansas cor­ner­back Co­ri­one Har­ris on Satur­day.

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