After seven straight losses at McLane Stadium dating back to last season, Baylor hopes to change the story line and send out its seniors with a win in the home finale.
Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against Iowa State will be the last for seniors who have contributed a great deal to the program like linebacker Taylor Young, tight end Jordan Feuerbacher, defensive end Brian Nance, offensive tackle Mo Porter and safeties Taion Sells and Davion Hall.
Beating resurgent Iowa State will be a major undertaking for a Baylor team that’s 1-9 overall and 1-6 in the Big 12. The Bears have lost all five games at McLane Stadium this season, but they’d like to make this one special for the seniors.
“We’re hopeful that our team goes out there and puts it all together for them on Saturday,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “I think the thing I can say is that so many of them had already graduated, and they could’ve gone somewhere else. They could’ve restarted their careers, but they chose to finish them here. While you could say it hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to go, they are a part of rebuilding the program.”
The Baylor underclassmen are equally motivated to send out the seniors the right way.
“It’s a lot of motivation because they’ve been here through everything,” said Baylor freshman guard Xavier Newman. “We know that they’ve been through a lot of stuff and they just want to go out on top.”
Iowa State’s trips to Waco haven’t been fruitful in recent years.
Standing in the way is an Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) team that has been the best comeback story in the Big 12 this season. Under second-year coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones have gone from 3-9 last season to reaching as high as No. 14 in the Associated Press poll two weeks ago following a 14-7 win over then-No. 4 TCU.
It was their second win over a top five team after stunning No. 3 Oklahoma, 38-31, in Norman on Oct. 7. Though they’ve lost their last two games to West Virginia and Oklahoma State, the Cyclones are bowl eligible for the first time since 2012.
“In terms of how you fix it, Iowa State is a great example of how you fix it,” Rhule said. “You just go to work every day. You don’t talk a lot, you just play a lot and practice a lot. They have guys who play together and play football the right way. They never beat themselves.”
Remarkably, the Cyclones haven’t lost a fumble in 10 games this season while throwing just nine interceptions. In contrast, the Bears committed four turnovers in last week’s 38-24 loss to Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Freshman quarterback Charlie Brewer will make his third straight start against Iowa State, and a major focus will be eliminating turnovers. He fumbled twice and threw an interception in the end zone against the Red Raiders.
“It’s 100 percent my fault,” Brewer said. “The quarterback needs to be in charge and make sure everyone’s doing the right thing and taking care of the ball and moving the chains. So whenever that doesn’t happen, it’s the quarterback’s fault.”
The Bears will face an Iowa State defense that has been among the best in the Big 12 all season. In conference games, the Cyclones rank second by allowing 19.6 points per game.
Iowa State’s leader is middle linebacker Joel Lanning who has racked up a team-high 99 tackles, including seven for loss, three sacks and an interception. Lanning is Iowa State’s iron man since he still plays quarterback in some situations.
In Baylor’s 45-42 win over Iowa State in Ames last year, Lanning hit 17 of 23 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 57 yards and a score.
“He’s an excellent linebacker and he can go back and be the wildcat quarterback,” Rhule said. “But you can’t treat him like a true wildcat because he can throw. He brings a power dimension to his game which kind of matches the overall ruggedness of their team.”
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Iowa State has started three quarterbacks this season. After Jacob Park started the first four games, walk-on Kyle Kempt stepped in against Oklahoma and helped the Cyclones win four straight games.
When Kempt went out with a shoulder injury in last week’s 49-42 loss to Oklahoma State, freshman Zeb Noland came in and hit 17 of 28 passes for 263 yards.
Kempt is listed as day to day coming into this week’s game. Baylor will prepare for both Noland and Kempt.
“Noland came in and played lights out,” Rhule said. “So I think at the end of the day they’re one of the leading passing teams in the conference, and have a great offensive system. We’ll prepare for both and see what we get.”
The Cyclones feature a balanced attack as David Montgomery has rushed for 936 yards and 11 touchdowns. Allen Lazard is one of the top receivers in the Big 12 as he’s made 53 catches for 652 yards and eight touchdowns.
Baylor’s defense has performed well in the last three games and hopes to continue the trend.
“It’s getting better but we’ve still got to get more turnovers,” said Baylor defensive lineman Bravvion Roy. “We only had one last game, so we need to get up to the three or four range each game. We need to beat every team in turnovers to win games.”
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