Last year the Baylor Bear football team wanted to change some attitudes, be more competitive, and aim the Baylor football program in the right direction. This year, the Baylor Bear football team is ready to win football games.
The Bears started off right in Week 1 against Wake Forest, narrowly hanging on for a tough 24-21 victory in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Now the Bears face their second straight tough nonconference opponent in the University of Connecticut Huskies, but this time it's on the familiar confines of the turf at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas.
The last time the Bears took the field at Floyd Casey, they pleased Baylor fans by thumping conference rival Texas A&M. After what seemed like an especially long offseason, the Bears are ready to continue their excellent play in Waco, but UConn would like nothing more than to stop that from happening.
In its first two weeks of play, UConn has seen some things it likes - namely, defense; and some things it's not so sure about - namely, offense. It's not quite that cut and dried, but, when you hold a top 20 ranked team to 12 point on your home turf, you expect to win the football game. Unfortunately for UConn against UNC last week, it's offense was only able to muster up 10 points. Let's take a quick look at what to watch for Saturday in this Baylor-UConn matchup.
UConn's offense starts with their ground attack. Led by sophomore Jordan Todman and senior Andre Dixon, this ground attack punished Ohio in the first week averaging 6.3 and 5.3 yards per carry respectively. The pair was not quite as dominant in week 2 against a stout, and ranked North Carolina defense, with averages dropping to 3.7 and 3 yards per carry. Certainly if Baylor is able to contain the pair of backs as UNC did, Baylor's chances of winning this game go up dramatically.
At quarterback, backup Cody Endres will get the call in place of injured starter Zach Frazier. Endres had some playing time against UNC, going 3 for 7 for 30 yards. He was also the starting QB for a brief time last year, including a game against Cincinnati in which UConn pulled off a big win. Endres will likely see some pressure early as the Bears will want to test his poise on the road. A big game out of Endres for UConn would be a bonus and make UConn a much tougher team for Baylor to beat.
On defense the story this year starts with Lindsey Witten, a senior defensive end leading the nation in sacks. Based on a technicality, he was credited with 3 against UNC last week, but in all reality he had 4. Witten was constantly in UNC's backfield, and will be a tough test for Baylor tackles. If Baylor is able to neutralize Witten, through either straight blocking schemes, or by diversity of play-calling with speedster quarterback Robert Griffin, the UConn defense will have to find other ways to slow down the Bears.
One way to slow them down could be if junior captain Scott Lutrus returns to the lineup. The home-grown Connecticut linebacker had double digit tackles against Baylor last season, and will be a big asset to UConn if he can get on the field. He has continued to be bothered by a neck stinger he suffered in week 1 against Ohio, and is awaiting medical clearance from the doctors.
The Bears have made no secret about their motto of starting games fast. In Week 1 against Wake Forest, they were able to do just that scoring on their first two drives (a touchdown and field goal). However, both of the even quarters were slower for the Bears, as they tallied zero points in both the 2nd and 4th quarters. UConn is expected to make this a more deliberate game, like they had with UNC - where running and defense will be the key. If junior running back Jay Finley can put in another solid performance, the Bears will be well on their way to a 2-0 record.
With season ticket sales at their highest mark in over 10 years, and an incredible buzz that has lingered from the offseason and the opening win against Wake, expect a charged atmosphere to start the game on Saturday. If Baylor can live up to their motto, that atmosphere will keep going all day long - making the job of Cody Endres and the UConn Huskies that much harder. With both teams having games next week against teams not considered on the same level, this will certainly be a fun battle to watch Saturday at 4:00 - and if it's as close as the 31-28 UConn victory last year, Baylor fans will be nervous until the end. But if it turns out the same way the Wake game did, the hungry Baylor nation will be stuffing their face with excitement.
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