Baylor will face Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium for the eighth time Saturday, but it never gets old for the players and coaches.
They relish the opportunity to play at Jerryworld, the NFL’s most elaborate stadium with its humongous scoreboard and all the other bells and whistles.
It’s even a big deal for first-year Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who was up in the coaching box when he was a New York Giants offensive assistant in a game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.
“I went up in the coaches’ box, and they gave me like Kobe beef sliders and sashimi,” Rhule said. “In the first quarter, I kind of found myself, like it was almost surreal. I’m watching the big screen, and I’m eating instead of being locked in to doing my job. Coach (Tom) Coughlin and the staff quickly corrected me on doing my job.”
Rhule will be more focused when the Bears face the Red Raiders at 11 a.m. Saturday in Arlington. The Bears (1-8, 1-5) hope to build off their first win of the season, a 38-9 blowout of Kansas last weekend in Lawrence.
“We didn’t want to go 0-12, so to get a win like this is good, and we’ll try to build from it and get another win,” said Baylor receiver Denzel Mims. “We needed it bad. People are more confident in themselves and we’re still hungry.”
While the Bears finally broke through with a win, the Red Raiders (4-5, 1-5) are trying to relearn how to win. After jumping into the Top 25 following a 4-1 start, the Red Raiders have dropped their last four games to fall to 4-5 overall and 1-5 in the Big 12.
Last week against Kansas State, Texas Tech opened up a 35-24 lead in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats rallied to send the game into overtime before pulling off a 42-35 win in Lubbock.
Texas Tech fans booed the Red Raiders at the end of the game. Fifth-year coach Kliff Kingsbury needs a win to increase the Red Raiders’ bowl chances with TCU and Texas remaining on the schedule following this weekend.
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Kingsbury believes the Bears have improved throughout the season, and anticipates a strong challenge.
“The one thing that’s been impressive is how they’ve gotten better throughout the year,” Kingsbury said. “I think when you have a new coach come in and he’s instilling everything he wants in his program, that’s going to take some time when you tear it down to build it back up. But that’s the path they’re on, and they played the best game of the year last week, and that’s what you want as a head coach.”
Freshman Charlie Brewer will get his second start for the Bears after leading them to last week’s win over the Jayhawks by hitting 23 of 29 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Brewer showed his mobility by running eight times for 22 yards and also caught a 20-yard pass from wide receiver Jared Atkinson.
Kingsbury coached Brewer’s older brother, Michael, in 2013 before he transferred to Virginia Tech.
“(Charlie) Brewer is very elusive and can extend plays,” Kingsbury said. “For a young player, he really takes care of the football well, and I think that’s what they like about him. He’s made some plays with his feet, and every time he’s in there, he’s seemed to move the ball.”
Brewer will likely need another big day to try to match Texas Tech’s dynamic offense. Nic Shimonek has passed for 3,068 yards and 26 touchdowns while Keke Coutee has caught 69 passes for 1,026 yards and nine scores.
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Texas Tech also has a strong ground game led by Justin Stockton with 525 yards and four touchdowns and Tre King with 504 yards and three scores.
Baylor played its best defensive game of the season as Kansas finished with just 249 yards, but the Jayhawks don’t have nearly as many offensive weapons as the Red Raiders.
“They’re a good team and throw the ball real well,” said Baylor defensive end Brian Nance. “They use tempo a lot and have a good running game too. In the past they had their quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes. But they still have a good quarterback now and they’ve got some good skill players around him. We’re just looking to control the tempo and play fast and play hard.”
The Baylor coaches have stressed forcing more turnovers, which will be important against the Red Raiders. The Bears forced two turnovers against the Jayhawks as freshman cornerback Harrison Hand intercepted a pass and defensive lineman James Lynch recovered a fumble.
“Turnovers will definitely help us win games,” Hand said. “We always talk about as a group that we’ve got to have a lot of picks, so we knew we had to get the ball more.”
The Bears can’t wait to make their annual pilgrimage to AT&T Stadium, and try to avenge last year’s 54-35 loss to the Red Raiders. It’s especially big for Baylor’s seniors.
“This is my last one, so all the seniors are just cherishing every day,” Nance said. “I played there in high school (at Euless Trinity), grew up in that stadium, so I always love going back there.”
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