How Teams Have Beaten Baylor

This was a really a good year for the Baylor Bears, but their favorable schedule and a season of greatness by their quarterback probably made it the best in the history of their school. Their record was only 9 and 3 and that was greatly enhanced by the very fact that they played eight home games (one at a neutral site) and four on the road - and they didn't do as well in those.

They were only 1-3 when playing away from Waco, and will have to travel at least three hours to San Antonio in order to play the Huskies. Their only road win this season was against the last place Kansas Jayhawks, who didn't win a league game this season. They will definitely be the home team for the Alamo Bowl but still will have to travel and that hasn't been a good thing for the Bears.

Beating both Oklahoma and Texas in the same year hardly ever happens to the Bears, or anyone else in the Big-12 Conference for that matter. They beat both of those teams at home and were opportunistic in beating the Longhorns by forcing seven turnovers. Ball security will be important for Washington because each possession is critical whenever you play a high scoring team.

After watching five games and plenty of their Heisman Trophy Winner - Robert Griffin III, there is no doubt to me he is a special Michael Vick-type player, and he essentially led the Bears to this great season without much help from their defense. Griffin was selected First Team All-American by the AP, CBS Sports, SI, Fox-Sports, Yahoo, and the Football Writers Association. He was second nationally in passing and first in passing efficiency. He averaged 386 yards per game and accounted for 36 touchdowns. Plus, he rushed for 644 yards and had a receiver, Kendall Wright, who also made All-American second team. Wright caught 101 passes for 1,572 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wow! Besides ball security, keeping their offense on the sidelines is clearly the best approach to winning this game.

A little over ten years ago, Baylor Head Coach Art Briles was coaching high school ball in Stephenville, Tex. He is the architect of the Bears' potent offense. Baylor has not had this good of record since 1986, but they have had a lot of luck and good fortune fall their way besides a home-loaded schedule.

Their games against the Sooners and Longhorns were impressive and both came in the second half of the season. They only lost to Texas A&M, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State. All ended up bowl teams, with K-State and Oklahoma State having banner years. All three teams used the same formula to beat the Bears: They stopped them from running and ran the football in the second half, keeping Griffin on the sidelines. They all held Baylor to under 35 points, with K-State winning in overtime. A&M and OSU simply blasted Baylor by scores of 55-28 and 59-24.

A&M held Baylor's league-leading running back, Terrance Ganaway, to only 34 yards on 16 carries while running the ball 45 times for 266 yards themselves. They never punted, and even though Griffin passed for 430 yards the Aggies' defense held Baylor to 31 total yards rushing and average of 1.6 yards per carry. They stopped the run and ran to football to win the game.

Kansas State ran the ball 51 times for 210 yards and held Baylor to 83 yards rushing on 30 carries. Even Kansas, who was 2-8 and 0-7 in conference, gave Baylor everything they could handle before losing in overtime. KU rushed the football for 296 yards before losing and by doing so kept the ball away from Griffin, thereby giving them at least a chance to win.

Oklahoma State gashed Baylor with the run game, totaling 327 yards on 27 carries. It was never a game, leading 35-0 at half.

It bears repeating; the teams that stopped the run and ran the ball effectively all beat Baylor, and all did so on the road. Only against lowly Kansas did Baylor win both on the road and by scoring less than 40 points.

It would seem to me that if Washington can hold Baylor to 35 points or less they can win the Alamo Bowl. One way or another, this appears to be a shoot-out, but for Washington to win it they'd be better off holding Baylor under 40 points. Whatever the Huskies do, they will need to win this game with their offense scoring at least six touchdowns.

It would help to get a cheap score but this game is probably going to be high scoring. That means going for it on fourth downs. Baylor has done that a lot this season, and the Huskies need to be prepared to get stops in those situations. Baylor has gone for it on fourth down as many as seven times in a game this year.

Defensively, the Bears like to play a lot of 4-3 shaded strong, with cover 4 - or 4 deep secondary - behind it. Their defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, likes to blitz when they have you in second or third-and-long situations. Bennett actually came to Seattle years ago to study our defensive schemes and philosophy. He is an excellent defensive football coach and was last with Pitt before coming to Waco to take over the Bears' defense this season. He is still in the developmental phase of teaching his defense, and that is obvious on the tapes. His side of the football has struggled to keep pace with their opponents, but they still won nine games - including ending the season on a five-game winning streak. Like Washington's defense, Baylor has simply been good enough to win.

Washington's best chance of pulling off this upset is to get a cheap score either through the kicking game or from their defense. Then they need to keep the football away from RGIII by establishing Chris Polk. They have to come out with the offense on fire and use their mix of Polk and Keith Price to keep coach Bennett and the Bear defense off-balance and guessing. When coach Sarkisian is on his game as a play caller and wheeling and dealing with play selection, the Huskies are as good as anyone with their offense.

If UW can build a lead, they have a chance to reduce the game to a time-consuming ground affair; pound the rock and win the battle of the red-zone by getting stops and forcing field goals instead of touchdowns. The Huskies can force Baylor to be one-dimensional by taking away their run and run it against them for something like 240-250 yards. Winning the turnover battle by a plus-2-3 will help but they will have to be at least solid in the kicking game, if not winning it outright to win this game.

This has indeed been a magical season for Baylor, but they could easily have lost to Kansas, barely beat Missouri 42-39, barely beat TCU 50-48, and lost every time they failed to score 40 points or more. Sounds like a great chance for the Huskies, and if Polk can play his game Washington can run away with this one.

Baylor gets away with lots of holding up front offensively, and if they are allowed to do so then getting to RGIII will be really difficult to do. The Huskies have to keep him in the pocket and hopefully Alameda Ta'amu can repeat his bowl game performance of a year ago when he was easily the most dominant player on the field. If the Huskies' edge pass rushers can contain Griffin by keeping him inside then they could at least disrupt his throws by having the inside players get their hands up.

Baylor is beatable here if the Huskies can simply score with them and give themselves a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. Certainly a win in this bowl would be another giant step up the mountain. It is an excellent opportunity for this program to win a game on the national stage and prove they have turned the corner in their climb back to national respectability.

A win in this game will at least give them a view of the summit. Keep on climbing.


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