The largest concern for most Baylor faithful about the 2016 football season, in regards to on the field performance, wasn't related to scheme, or strategy. It was a little bit about depth and health, but that was still second. The key was always going to be the mental edge and focus of the players and coaching staff.
Saturday afternoon against TCU, Baylor saw its worst fears come alive in a 62-22 loss that was even worse than the score looks. It was an epic beat-down of a team that was more focused on making statements and feeling their voices heard than actually winning the game. With coaches tweeting out support of their former head coach, players wearing black to protest something (a big game, or for their fired coach, or for the victims, or any of the other "reasons" given), the focus and attention to detail was nonexistent.
As coach Jim Grobe said, the staff and coaches were more worried about protesting and making a statement than winning on Saturday. The focus of the Baylor program has shifted off of the football field and on to things that are out of their control at this point, and that has to be frustrating.
After the defeat, Coach Grobe addressed his coaches and demanded that the focus be on the players and this program for the next 4-weeks, something that these kids deserve. The coaching staff even apologized to the players this week, for letting the off the field stuff impact their focus and said they would not let it happen again. "Coaches can't do a good job if it's not all things football right now. That needs to be our mentality right now," said Coach Grobe.
That is a step in the right direction, but will it actually happen? Can it actually happen? Human nature is in play here, as this is not a video game with pixelated characters living our your football and sports dream. These are men and young men who have real thoughts, feelings and emotions about the events that have occurred the past 7 months. It is impossible to expect there to be zero fallout from the emotional drain they have gone through. The TCU game was that fallout.
It was the result of the past 7-months building up. The feeling of frustration and lack of having their voice heard. It was the feeling that everyone is against them piling up into a mountain. They are human.
Can they recover in time for the stretch run of the season? With a difficult trip to Big 12 leading Oklahoma just a few days away, will it even matter? This was always going to be a flawed team, even in a perfect scenario. The lack of depth and size on the defensive line, and the transitioning at offensive line and wide receiver to a new group of leaders was always going to be difficult. Add in the fallout of the scandal and you have an almost impossible situation to reach your full potential.
Baylor is not 40 points worse than TCU, even Horned Frogs would admit that. I don't even know if a fully functioning and bought in Baylor team would have been able to defeat TCU the way they played on Saturday, but it would have been fun to see.
Maybe we can see it against Oklahoma, a team that has struggled to stop opposing offenses all year. Maybe this game is the spark, a trip away from Waco and away from some of the dark cloud hanging over the University and program. We will all find out Saturday morning together, including the team.