Baylor Game: UT's Last Guaranteed Win Of 2003?

Texas doesn&#146;t need RB <B>Cedric Benson </B>to beat Baylor this weekend. Just like Texas didn&#146;t need him to beat LSU (46 yards), Nebraska (86 yards) or Baylor (64 yards) last year or even Kansas State (54 yards) this year.

Texas, however, does need a ground game and will, in fact, bring one to Waco in the person of QB Vince Young. With 50 yards (which is to say, by halftime) the RS-freshman will become Texas’ leading rusher this season and is already averaging a few more yards per game (74.8) than Benson (71.1). Young, of course, has done it on half the carries (57) and just one career start. He boasts the longest run from scrimmage in five of the six games in which he's seen action.

There’s no doubt Benson will be in the starting lineup against Nebraska and will respond with, oh, 60 yards or so. This week, the Horns are looking to third-down back Brett Robin, backup Selvin Young (98 yards against Baylor last year) and what could be a weapon-in-disguise in Anthony Johnson (61 yards on 12 carries) to carry the mail at Floyd Casey Stadium.

But there is no doubt that Texas is the nation’s No. 17 rushing offense (up from No. 74 last season) largely because Mister Young has sparked the unit that now averages 199 yards per outing. Young’s influence is likely to open lanes for the running backs as opposing defenses now must account for the Texas QB on every play.

Baylor officials opted against Pay-Per-View because they know Bevo is a cash cow for their beleaguered program. The Texas game is their biggest money-maker because enough Orangebloods will make the trip to Waco (cha-ching) to keep the turnstiles moving, even if it does mean the Horns will have the home field.

The coach-speak this week centered around Baylor’s 42-30 win over injury-riddled and perennially psycho Colorado.

"Now even Baylor and Kansas can beat you," head coach Mack Brown said, referencing the overall top-to-bottom improvement in the Big 12. "They (Baylor) are playing with more confidence, which is probably the biggest thing."

Maybe, but this is a program that has had as many head coaches as it has Big 12 wins until the Colorado game. And that laugher was sandwiched between em-bear-assments to Texas A&M (73-10) and North Texas (52-14). Of course, most teams bring their A-Game when Texas comes calling.

"I’m expecting the best Baylor team to show up," FS Phillip Geiggar said. "They always play their best when they play us. I’m expecting them to come out fired up and ready."

Although it wasn’t that long ago, it’s hard to fathom that the series was dead-even (10 wins apiece) from 1974-1993. In fact, Baylor was the last team to shutout Texas when it posted a 16-0 win in 1980. Texas has won nine of the past ten, losing only in 1997 when the Longhorn football team fired coach John Mackovic weeks before AD DeLoss Dodds did.

First year Baylor coach Guy Morriss is 3-4 and has infused the program with guarded optimism and discipline. But with contests remaining at OU and Kansas State plus home games against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech (a combined winning percentage of .780), the Bears probably won their last game of 2003 when the goalposts came down against the Buffaloes. Morris replaced Kevin Steele who was fired before the completion of his fourth season.

"Kevin improved the place but he couldn’t get over the hump because he couldn’t win the one that would give the program some credibility," Brown said. "Then he lost a couple of games, like to UNLV, that just killed him. With them beating Colorado three weeks ago, their staff now has credibility."

The Bears also have a running game.


Baylor RB Rashad Armstrong is third in the Big 12 (No. 23 NCAA) with 98.7 ypc. He also leads the leagues with 159 carries. With just three yards Saturday, the senior will have rushed for more yards than any Baylor player in a decade (Brandell Jackson, 899 in 1993).

Baylor has departed from its no-huddle offense from Steele’s days.

"They’re running the ball better," Brown said. "They’re using play-action pass. From what we can tell, they’re doing what Spike (Dykes) used to do by running out of the huddle and getting down right quick so you can’t adjust very much and snap the ball quick. They’re doing some things to give them a chance in every ballgame."

Baylor’s rushing offense, overall, is pitiful at just 117.3 ypc (NCAA No. 91).

QB Aaron Karas owns the program’s career completion percentage of .601 (292-of-486), just ahead of legendary QB Don Trull. On the season, the junior is 106-of-181 for 1,115 yards including 10 TD and 8 INT. But Baylor’s passing offense of 176.6 ypg is ranked No. 96 nationally, ahead of only Nebraska in league standings.

The only Baylor WR worth a mention is senior Robert Quiroga, who has provided the team’s only 100-plus yards receiving game this season when he responded with 113 yards on eight grabs against Colorado. He is seventh among active Big 12 receivers with 116 career catches.

The good old Baylor line has a future star in RT Nick Pace. The true freshman is listed at 6-3, 284.

"We should have recruited that guy," defensive coordinator Carl Reese said. "He was on our list."

Still, it adds up to the Big 12’s worst offense (293.9 ypg) to rank No. 108 nationally.


Baylor’s two-deep chart features nine true freshmen for the Texas game, including DT Quincy Jenkins, making the Cubs, er, Bears, the league’s youngest team. What the defense lacks in experience, it is trying to compensate with aggressiveness. Baylor is becoming more of a blitzing, bump-and-run team than in years past.

"They are blitzing the heck out of you now," Brown said. "They’re playing man (coverage) all over the field. If you don’t hit passes, they’re right in the middle of it."

I’m sure SE Roy Williams is shaking in his shoulder pads when he sees that he has a four-to-six inch height advantage over every Baylor DB. Still, safety Derrick Cash is fifth on Baylor’s career interception return yardage list with 189 yards.

LB John Garrett is 4.5 sacks shy of the school record set in 1992. He has six sacks on the year, and no Bear has posted seven or more single-season sacks in a decade.

Bottom line: Baylor’s pass defense is mediocre (219.9 ypg, NCAA No. 61) and its run defense is woeful (195 ypg, NCAA No. 103).

While the Bear defense hasn’t slowed anyone (other than Colorado) all year, it cannot impede the coach-speak.

"They’ll have their best game, they’ll have their best shot, they’ll have their best crowd, and they’ll have the most energy," Brown said. "We understand because that’s what we get every week, so we’re expecting a great game out of them. Our guys have practiced like they’re ready to go and this team is getting better each week and they’re growing up each week. They understand how important this game is."

There is a bright spot or two for Baylor: P Daniel Sepulveda leads the Big 12 and ranks ninth nationally with a 45.3 average. And Baylor’s football program posted a 77 percent graduation rate according to recent figures, the best in the Big 12.

The Horns and Bears tee it up for the 93rd time at 6 p.m. (Central), the third-most played series in UT history.

Horns Digest Top Stories