Baylor Oklahoma St Football

Baylor’s Greg Roberts (left), Taylor Young (right) and the Bears aim for their first win Saturday.

Asscoiated Press — Sue Ogrocki

Making their first home appearance in nearly a month, the Baylor players can’t wait to get back to the comforts of McLane Stadium.

Though they’ve lost their three home games this season, the Bears believe they’re on the verge of breaking through with a win. Baylor hopes it comes on homecoming against No. 23 West Virginia at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s really nice to be home, and playing in front of them makes me want to play hard, especially since it’s homecoming,” said Baylor freshman running back Trestan Ebner. “We want to have a chance to win going into the fourth quarter and actually pull it out this week. We have guys doing better each week. Once we come together as a team, we’ll get a win and we’ll keep getting wins.”

The Bears (0-6, 0-3) haven’t played at McLane Stadium since a 49-41 loss to then-No. 3 Oklahoma on Sept. 23. Though the Bears lost that Big 12 opener, they played their best game of the season as they rallied in the second half before the Sooners pulled out a 49-41 win.

Since then, the Bears dropped a 33-20 decision at Kansas State on Sept. 30 followed by last weekend’s 59-16 thrashing by No. 10 Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

While the Bears are winless, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen knows his team can’t overlook them. In two previous trips to McLane Stadium, Baylor won a pair of lopsided games, including a 73-42 decision in 2013 and a 62-38 decision in 2015. Last year, the Mountaineers hung on for a 24-21 win in Morgantown.

“I don’t care who you play in the Big 12, you better not look past anybody,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve had a little bit of a past with them, and some of the same guys are still there who whipped our tails two years ago and took us to the wire last year. We’d better be ready to go.”

West Virginia (4-2, 2-1) features one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier has been tremendous, as he’s completed 65.7 percent for 2,092 yards and a nation’s-best 21 touchdowns.

“I think the thing about Grier is that he doesn’t just throw it, he can run and he’s really intelligent,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “He was a good player at Florida, and he’s a really good player now. He can beat you with his feet. He can pull the ball down and run. He can beat you with his head, and he can beat you with his arm. I also like his toughness, his moxie. You can tell he’s a kind of guy that you want to go win with.”

After facing Oklahoma State’s vaunted receiving corps, the Bears will face another talented group. Gary Jennings leads the Big 12 with 48 catches for 586 yards while David Sills has amassed 39 catches for 601 yards and a nation’s best 12 touchdowns. Marcus Simms has made 31 catches for 461 yards and five scores, and is also a dynamic kick returner who is averaging 28.4 yards on 10 returns.

The Mountaineers balance out their offense with Justin Crawford, who ranks second in the Big 12 with 609 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. West Virginia is averaging an impressive 547.2 yards and 44.2 points per game.

“They’re explosive in terms of getting the ball in playmakers’ hands,” Rhule said. “They see what defense you’re in and they’ll violate that defense. They’re going to run the football. I think it’s really well put together and really well designed, and they have a toughness about them.”

For Baylor to have a shot to win, the defense will have to play at a much higher level than last weekend when the Cowboys rolled up a staggering 747 yards. The Bears’ offense will need to be much more productive in the passing game.

The Bears solved some of their issues running the ball against Oklahoma State as they finished with 219 yards, including a season-high 95 yards on 10 carries by Terence Williams. Freshman John Lovett is expected to miss Saturday’s game with a toe injury, but the Bears feel confident with Williams, JaMycal Hasty and Ebner in the backfield.

But Baylor got very little from its passing game against the Cowboys as Zach Smith hit 11 of 28 passes for 127 yards with an interception. Wide receiver Pooh Stricklin isn’t expected to play after going out with a sprained foot against Oklahoma State, so the Bears are counting on Denzel Mims and Tony Nicholson to lead the receiving corps.

Nicholson led the Bears with four catches for 57 yards against the Cowboys.

“I was pleased with Tony,” Rhule said. “He and I are a work in progress, and we’re learning how to coexist, and I was really proud of him. I’ve challenged him a ton. We were behind and he wasn’t pouting, even though he didn’t touch the ball early on very much. He didn’t complain, and he just competed until the end of the game. I think that’ll accentuate his role now, especially with Pooh probably being out.”

The Bears will play at McLane Stadium for the next two weekends with Texas coming up Oct. 28. But Rhule doesn’t want to wait another week to win. He wants to see the Bears finish in the fourth quarter and break into the win column against the Mountaineers.

“The biggest thing right now is that our players are going through this tough time, probably one of the toughest times of their lives,” Rhule said. “It’s what they learn from it. It’s how they emerge from it. And if they attack it and don’t blame other people and continue to press forward, then they’ll say ‘I was one of the mentally toughest players in college football.’ ”

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