Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has spent part of the last two weeks showing his players the epic film “Nightmare in Morgantown.”
The Bears’ defense hit an all-time low when it allowed a school-record 807 yards in a 70-63 loss to West Virginia in last year’s Big 12 opener.
After giving up just 23 points in their first three games this season, the No. 17 Bears can’t believe they played that poorly last season.
“We’ve talked about it, and looked at it and we realize we’re not that defense anymore,” Baylor nickelback Sam Holl said. “We saw mistakes and wonder how we did that. We have to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes this year. We have to tackle better, cover better and play smart.”
The Bears are eager to show how much they’ve improved in their Big 12 opener against West Virginia at 7 p.m. Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.
The Baylor defenders realize they’re not playing against the Mountaineer offense that featured record-setting quarterback Geno Smith and talented receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
The Mountaineers haven’t been nearly as explosive this season as they rank ninth in the Big 12 with 20.4 points per game. But West Virginia (3-2, 1-1) put the Bears on high alert following a 30-21 upset of then-No. 11 Oklahoma State last weekend in Morgantown.
With Florida State transfer quarterback Clint Trickett making his first start, the Mountaineers made a dramatic turnaround following their 37-0 road loss to Maryland the previous week. Trickett passed for 309 yards and a touchdown while throwing two interceptions.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday that he doesn’t know who will start at quarterback since Trickett took a hit to his throwing shoulder against the Cowboys. Trickett could start but Ford Childress and Paul Millard have also played quarterback for the Mountaineers this season.
“Trickett gave them a spark, he was accurate and made some plays,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “But we have to play assignment football regardless of who the quarterback is. We certainly have a lot of respect for West Virginia with the caliber of athletes and coaches they have.”
West Virginia’s most consistent offensive player has been University of Houston transfer Charles Sims, who has rushed for 388 yards, including 60 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma State.
The Mountaineers’ defense played a big role in the win over the Cowboys with two interceptions, including cornerback Ishmael Banks’ 58-yard return for a first-quarter touchdown.
Briles understands how difficult it can be to play at West Virginia’s Milan Puskar Stadium after experiencing that atmosphere in the Mountaineers’ first-ever Big 12 game last season. He wants Baylor to make it equally difficult for the Mountaineers at Floyd Casey Stadium.
“If you look at the two losses they’ve had (this season), they’re against Oklahoma and Maryland on the road,” Briles said. “West Virginia does a great job with home crowds and the environment, and do a great job protecting their house. The bottom line is we didn’t get out of there with a win, and we played extremely hard.”
The Bears hope to win their fourth straight home game after dominating the first three by a combined score of 209-23. They scored 70 points and racked up a school-record 781 yards in both of their last two wins over Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe.
Coming off its second bye week in September, Baylor is eager to dive into Big 12 play in the next four weeks against West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas.
Ready to see field
“We’ll have played one game in 27 days, and that’s incredible when you think about it,” Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said. “We love playing football and didn’t come here for bye weeks. But now we can kind of keep it rolling. This is for real now. This is for the Big 12 championship, so it’s an added level of focus and hype. ”
The bye gave tight end Jordan Najvar and running back Glasco Martin another week to heal from injuries. Both missed the Sept. 21 game against Louisiana-Monroe, but are expected to play after Martin reinjured his ankle against Buffalo on Sept. 7 and Najvar went out with lower back and hip injuries in the same game.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” Najvar said. “The main part was bruising on my hip, and that’s why it took so long to get my range of motion back.”
Briles is also planning to play safety Ahmad Dixon, who was arrested Thursday on a misdemeanor assault charge in a Sept. 17 incident involving a 21-year-old man. Dixon was booked into county jail and was released on a $1,500 personal recognizance bond.
“Before the ULM game, we took all the facts and information we had at that time and evaluated it and made a decision to move forward,” Briles said. “He’s remorseful. He was in a situation he shouldn’t have been in.”
BEAR FACTS: About 3,500 people from in and around the West community are expected to attend Saturday’s game with complimentary tickets from Baylor. West is recovering from an April 17 plant explosion in which 15 people died. “It puts a special meaning on the game,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “That’s a good thing for Baylor toward the community of West.”