INSIDE SLANT: Baylor

Baylor has not been in a bowl game since 1994, but the return of quarterback Robert Griffin has given the Bears high hopes in trying to win their first game in 15 years against Texas Tech.

INSIDE SLANT

The Baylor Bears fully understand why their fans are in a jovial mood.

Baylor is 4-1 and only need two more wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994.

But the Bears don't want anyone getting ahead of themselves.

In 2005 the Bears opened the season with a 4-1 record but dropped five of their last six games and missed being bowl eligible by one game. Two years ago Baylor started the season 3-3, but won only one of its final six games and finished the season 4-8.

And last year the Bears were 3-1, but lost seven of their last eight games and finished with another disappointing 4-8 record.

So until they secure win No. 6, the Bears are rightfully overly cautious.

"I think right now we're just focusing on next week," linebacker Elliot Coffey said. "We're not thinking too far ahead of anything."

Baylor teams have been 4-1 before and haven't gone to a bowl game, so we want to make sure that at this point we focus on next week, we get that win, and then six wins into this thing we start talking about bowl games."

The Bears will get their first crack at win No. 5 this Saturday when they meet Texas Tech at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It is a reunion game of sorts for Baylor coach Art Briles, who grew up in West Texas, graduated from Texas Tech in 1979 and was the running backs coach at Texas Tech under former coach Mike Leach from 2000-'02.

Briles, however, said there is nothing about the game against Texas Tech that's personal for him.

"Quite honestly, I'm keeping the personal issues out of it," Briles said. "Professionally, what we have to do is just keep getting better."

Still, Briles, whose name surfaced last winter as a candidate to replace Leach at Tech, would cherish a victory over the Red Raiders.

"I would be humbled honestly, in all sincerity, for a variety of personal reasons -- not on the professional side at all -- due to the fact where the game's taking place," Briles said. "So that would be my victory."

Baylor is coming off its most impressive win in school history. Last Saturday's 48-point margin of victory in the 55-7 Big 12 Conference win over Kansas was the largest margin of victory in a conference game in Baylor history.

Plus, the 678 total yards the Bears racked up against the Jayhawks also were a single-game school record. That crispness on offense — and the stingy defense that allowed Kansas just 270 total yards — are intangibles the Bears want to take into the game against Texas Tech.

"It was fun to have fun the other day for our players, our fans, Baylor University, and it was a much-needed victory," Briles said, referring to the win over Kansas. "Any time you can get a Big 12 win it's a big thing, and we certainly will never lose sight of that.

"I think we are, right now, playing at a pretty good level. The critical thing is to maintain that level and improve on it."

NOTES/QUOTES

— Even when things didn't go right for Baylor against Kansas, they wound up going right. While he was in a shotgun formation at the Kansas 11, Bears quarterback Robert Griffin had a snap from center Philip Blake slip through his fingers. Griffin ultimately gave chase and scampered all the way back to the 30, and -- while eluding some fast-moving Kansas defenders -- eventually heaved an incredible pass across his body that Terrance Williams caught in the end zone for a touchdown. That wild play wound up No. 3 on ESPN's Top 10 best plays of last week.

— The Bears came close to defeating Texas Tech the past two seasons. Baylor lost to the Red Raiders, 35-28, in Lubbock two years ago, and then lost to Texas Tech, 20-13, last year in a game played at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, TX.

— Baylor has an 11-12-1 all-time record in the Cotton Bowl. The last time the Bears played in this facility was at the conclusion of the 1980 season when ninth-ranked Alabama defeated sixth-ranked Baylor in the New Year's Day Cotton Bowl, 30-2.

  SERIES HISTORY: Texas Tech leads Baylor, 35-32-1 (last meeting, 2009, 20-13 Texas Tech).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE

After TCU beat Baylor, 45-10, on Sept. 18, a few of the TCU players said it looked to them like Bears QB Robert Griffin had lost a step. Griffin wonders how they would know that since that's the first and only time he's played TCU, and now he's playfully challenging any of the players to a race. Texas Tech's defense got exposed big-time last week when they allowed lowly Iowa State to score 52 points -- 28 of them in the fourth quarter -- and have two players rush for over 100 yards.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE

Baylor's defense is steadily gaining national attention. In the Bears' four wins, they've allowed just two touchdowns, five field goals and 7.3 points per game. And after five games, Baylor is 15th in the nation in turnover margin at .80. The Bears have picked up five interceptions and recovered four fumbles this season, while turning the ball over just five times. Baylor will endure a severe challenge from a high-powered Texas Tech offense which scored 38 points and gained 508 yards last week at Iowa State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Earlier (Baylor) teams were just building. This year, with the way things are going, we are very confident and believe that we can do anything we put our minds to." -- Baylor tailback Jay Finley.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Baylor vs. Texas Tech (Cotton Bowl, Dallas), Oct. 9

The way Baylor and Texas Tech have played this season, the Bears ought to be the favored team and should win going away. Baylor is performing with so much confidence, while the Red Raiders are riding a two-game losing streak because they can't seem to get out of their own way. If the Bears are able to successfully run the ball and control the clock, it's going to be another long day for Texas Tech.

KEYS TO THE GAME

The Bears need to find a way to contain Texas Tech's dynamic pass-catch combination of QB Taylor Potts and WR Lyle Leong. Potts has thrown 13 touchdown passes this season, and nine of them have gone to Leong, who has at least one TD reception in all five games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Robert Griffin — He was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after completing 26-of-36 passes for a career-high 380 yards and a career-high tying three touchdowns against Kansas. He also rushed eight times for 64 yards and a TD against the Jayhawks, while finishing the game with a school-record 444 total yards.

K Aaron Jones — A former walk-on, Jones earned a scholarship before the season and has made it pay off. On the career-high 50-yard field goal that he kicked last week against Kansas, Jones said: "I hit it real well. It felt good coming off my foot. The snap and hold were absolutely perfect. Everything just went well for me."

S Byron Landor — He had a team-high 10 tackles last week against Kansas and is ninth in the Big 12 with 8.6 tackles per game.

ROSTER REPORT

— CB Cliff Odom (sprained ankle) could return for the game against Texas Tech after missing the past two games.

— CB Antareis Bryan (pulled hamstring) missed the last three games, but may be ready to play against the Red Raiders.

— DL Zac Scotton (knee) sat out last week's game against Kansas. Scotton, who has one of Baylor's 10 sacks, probably will be in uniform this weekend.

— DL Terrance Lloyd was sidelined for the Kansas game with a knee injury, but there's a chance he could see action against Texas Tech.

 


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