Baylor coach as illuminating as Willingham

SAY THIS FOR FIRST-year Baylor head coach Art Briles: He can provide a non-answer to a question as beautifully as anyone this side of Ty Willingham. Asked the other day about his thoughts on upcoming foe Washington State, Briles offered scintillating insight: "We just have to be us. That is the main thing. We just have to continue to get better as a football time and fight hard for a victory."

He added, "That is what we are going to do. That is what we control and that is what we will take care of."

The File On
A private Baptist-affiliated research university founded in 1845. It is the largest Baptist university in the world. Named in honor of Judge R. E. B. Baylor

On the banks of the Brazos River in Waco, Texas, a community of 200,000 people.


For Church, For Texas

NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary; former Texas Gov. Ann Richards; legendary Iowa football coach Hayden Fry; World War II hero Joe Dawson; Singer Willie Nelson attended the school for one year.

Baylor and the soft drink Dr. Pepper are forever linked through a school tradition that began in 1953 when the director of the Union Building scheduled a special hour each week for students to enjoy a "frosted Dr Pepper" and "talk amongst themselves." The beverages vary sometimes, but the atmosphere and fellowship remain the same all these years later.

Freshmen are required to attend chapel each week. Dancing has been allowed for the last 10 years.

Forbes magazine ranks Baylor as the nation's 34th-best university and the top school in the Big 12. Forbes pegged Baylor as the third-best university in Texas behind SMU and Rice.

Asked about WSU's 66-3 loss to Cal, Briles was more cryptic: "We don't even look at what happened to them."

He did, however, go out on a limb with this one: "I think we'll have a great crowd and a great atmosphere Saturday."

At least Briles didn't refer to himself in the third person.

Rest assured, though, Briles is skilled at more than handling questions without really saying anything. At Houston, where he was the head man before taking the Baylor job last November, he guided a program that was lower than low and proceeded to earn four bowl invitations in five seasons.

His challenge this season won't be easy. The Bears, who opened with a 41-13 pounding at the hands of then-No. 23-ranked Wake Forest, have the fifth-toughest schedule in the land, according to Eight opponents this season participated in bowl games last season. Three of them are currently in the top 10: Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas.

The only gimme on the schedule, tiny Northwestern State, was dispatched by the Bears 51-6 this past weekend. The win ended a nine-game Baylor losing streak. The margin of victory was the team's largest since 1989.

History may be on the side of the Bears this weekend. In 39 career meetings with schools who now comprise the Big 12, WSU is 12-26. However, WSU has won three of its last five, beating Colorado (47-26) and Texas (28-20) in 2003, and Baylor (17-15) in 2006. The losses were to Oklahoma State two weeks ago, and to Colorado at Qwest in 2004.

• Coach Briles has a penchant for giving his players nicknames. Virtually every player on the Bears' roster has one. Some came to Baylor with their nickname, and some have been given nicknames by Briles. Among the Briles-given monikers are are: Shazam (QB Blake Szymanski), Romeo (IR Romie Blaylock), All-Star (PK Ben Parks), Diego (BS Larry Washington), Motown (RB Jeremy Sanders), J-Willy (S Jeremy Williams), Yosemite Sam or Yo-Yo (RB Ray Sims).

• Baylor is a 2 ½-point underdog against the Cougars. Kickoff is set for 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time. The game will be televised on FSN, will Bill Land and Dave Lapham calling the action. The Village Pub in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood will be welcoming Coug fans with $5 drink and food specials, plus their 28 flat screens tuned in to the Cougs.

• Be sure to check out KJR Radio's one-hour weekly Cougar podcast preview, hosted by Jason Pucket. The show goes on line at every Wednesday at midnight.

• WSU senior middle linebacker Greg Trent, with five tackles against California, is now one stop away from becoming only the 17th player in WSU history to record 250 career tackles. Trent, who has made 26 straight starts, is on track to conclude the season somewhere in Billy Newman territory (325 career tackles). WSU's all-time leader, with 524 tackles, is Lee Blakeney.

• In 2006 against Baylor, Gary Rogers came off the bench to guide the Cougs to a three-play, 34-yard scoring drive capped by a 13-yard aerial to Jason Hill.

WSU and Baylor have played five times. Baylor leads 3-2. The last meeting was at Qwest Field in 2006. The Cougars won, 17-15, on a last-second Loren Langley field goal. Prior to that, the nearest meeting of the two was in the 1994 Alamo Bowl, which the Cougars won 10-3 thanks to the Palouse Posse defense of Ron Childs, DeWayne Patterson, John Rushing, et. al. That game marked Baylor's last bowl appearance.

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