If there was ever a time for Baylor to dust off former Texas coach Darrell Royal’s wishbone offense, this might be the week.
Army ran its triple option attack to near perfection in its 28-21 overtime loss to No. 6 Oklahoma last weekend in Norman. The Black Knights controlled the clock for more than 44 minutes in regulation, and methodically ran the ball 78 times for 339 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’ve been running a little bit of triple option here and there,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “We ran a couple last week. But I don’t think (Oklahoma) is going to be too worried about that from us after seeing it last week with Army.”
The Bears are 23½-point underdogs heading into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against the powerful Sooners in Norman. But Baylor will have some momentum after opening Big 12 play with an impressive 26-7 win over Kansas on Saturday at McLane Stadium to improve to 3-1 for the season.
The biggest problem the Bears will face is containing dynamic quarterback Kyler Murray, who has proven himself a worthy successor to Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield in the Sooners’ 4-0 start.
Murray ranks second in the Big 12 in passing efficiency as he’s thrown for 1,028 yards and 11 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He ranks eighth in the league in rushing with 240 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries.
Those superb passing skills combined with extraordinary speed and ballhandling abilities make him a nightmare for defenses.
“He is dynamic in the run game,” Rhule said. “OU has a very good power football run game, but he is also capable of pulling the ball and making explosive runs. He is also a tremendous passer, so we have to keep him in the pocket and we have to rush him or else he will get out of the pocket and make plays. He has been a tremendous player his whole life. He will be a tremendous test defensively along with the rest of their offense.”
Though the Sooners miss explosive running back Rodney Anderson who is out with a season-ending knee injury, Trey Sermon is a capable back who has rushed for 275 yards and two scores. Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb are both deep-threat receivers who have combined for 35 catches for 659 yards and seven touchdowns through the first four games.
Defensively, the Sooners are led by sophomore linebacker Kenneth Murray, who was named Walter Camp national defensive player of the week after collecting an astounding 28 tackles against Army. He leads the Sooners and ranks second in the Big 12 with 47 tackles for the season, including five for loss and two sacks.
One of the reasons Murray and fellow linebacker Curtis Bolton combined for 51 tackles last week was because Army kept the ball for so long. While Rhule likes for his team to control the ball and give Baylor’s defense some rest, he also likes quick-strike touchdowns.
The Bears didn’t have a turnover against the Jayhawks, and will try to play mistake-free football against the Sooners.
“You’d love to go out there and slow the game down, keep their offense off the field, but that’s not where we are right now,” Rhule said. “We’ll have to go out there and just be us. Army limits mistakes and that’s how they win. I thought that was a key for us last game. Army is built to keep that great Oklahoma offense off the field and I’m not sure that we’re really wired for that.”
Baylor’s offense piled up 446 yards against the Jayhawks, but most of the damage was done in the first half when the Bears accumulated 256 yards as they built a 23-0 lead.
Charlie Brewer started for the Bears and played all but the last series, completing 19 of 27 for 221 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 56 yards on 12 carries.
Though the Bears finished with 189 yards rushing, they’re still seeking to get more production from their backs. After a first-half suspension for his role in a scuffle against TCU last year, JaMycal Hasty was effective in the second half against Kansas as he reeled off 60 yards on five carries.
Baylor was held back by 13 penalties for 140 yards against the Jayhawks.
“I thought we did a lot of significantly better things, but holds really hurt us,” Rhule said. “We had some good runs called back because of holds. Kansas did a good job, they sold out to stop the run. We’ve faced four unique defenses and now we’ll face another one. I think we’re getting better, but by no means are we where we need to be.”
The Bears will be without left guard Xavier Newman, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Kansas and will be out indefinitely.
“It’s not what we want,” Rhule said. “Xavier is becoming a really good player. We have Pat Lawrence who can play tackle and guard, we have Johncarlo (Valentin) that can play tackle and guard, we have Christian Beard who started the year for us. We’re working on it right now in terms of what we’re going to do, game plan wise.”
BEAR FACTS -- Baylor senior punter Drew Galitz was named Big 12 special teams player of the week after averaging 45.6 yards on five punts against Kansas. Galitz leads the Big 12 with a 45.2-yard season average.