BAYLOR BUILDS BIG EARLY LEAD TO COAST TO WIN OVER KANSAS
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.”
Baylor receiver Chris Platt catches a touchdown pass against Kansas cornerback Corione Harris on Saturday.