In blowout wins over SFA and UTSA, the Baylor football team looked so proficient and eager to play that it would like to keep playing this weekend.
But the Bears will try to make the most of the bye week by polishing some areas before hitting the road for the first time to face Rice at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 in Houston.
“We want to keep the momentum going, especially after two big games where we put up a lot of points,” said Baylor tight end Rob Saulin. “But a bye week can also do some good things because you can actually put in new plays and see what doesn’t work and fix it to be even better the next week.”
Baylor junior quarterback Charlie Brewer has shown his maturity and leadership by completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 362 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions in the first two games.
He’s been getting the ball to his array of playmakers as the Bears scored 42 points against SFA before he went out following the first drive of the third quarter in the season-opening 56-17 win.
In last week’s 63-14 thrashing of UTSA, Brewer helped the Bears open up a 35-0 halftime lead. He didn’t return in the second half after feeling burning sensations in his feet on the scalding turf at McLane Stadium, but Rhule said Wednesday that the quarterback is doing well and has balked at missing any practice time.
“We held him back a little bit on Tuesday, but he was mad,” Rhule said.
Though Rhule has been pleased with the productivity of the offense, he said the Bears are working on fine tuning some things this week including the drop-back passing game.
“In our drop-back passing game, we haven’t had a lot of cause to use it,” Rhule said. “We haven’t really dropped back and thrown it a lot. As a result of that, we have to make sure we get those reps somehow. We’ve been really good on third down, which I’m pleased with. We’ve protected the quarterback at a pretty good level. But we just have to prepare for some of the wars we have coming up.”
Defensively, Rhule said Baylor is focusing on getting better angles to make tackles. The Bears have only forced two turnovers in the first two games, an interception by linebacker Blake Lynch against SFA and safety JT Woods’ recover of a fumbled UTSA punt.
“From a defensive standpoint, we can tackle a lot better,” Woods said. “Coach (Joey) McGuire has really, really been stressing turnovers all spring. So now we need to start ripping the ball out to get some takeaways. I know they’re going to come. We just have to keep going at it and running fast to the ball.”
The Baylor coaches will get an opportunity to see two future opponents when Rice plays Texas on Saturday night in Houston. The Owls are off to an 0-2 start following a season-opening 14-7 loss to Army and last weekend’s 41-21 loss to Wake Forest.
“The biggest thing is Texas is a three (defensive linemen) down team, so it gives us a chance to see that,” Rhule said. “Texas is a little more like us in the way they line up, and we’ll be able to see more of what Rice does. The first game against Army doesn’t really help, looking at their defense against the triple option. But you see how hard they play on defense. They played Wake Forest, which is more of an offense like us.”
Despite temperatures that soared over 100 degrees against UTSA, the Baylor players came out of the game without heat related issues.
Woods credits Baylor’s training staff for coming up with innovative ways to stay cool like having a truck equipped with a freezer parked outside of the locker room that the players took advantage of at halftime.
“We had something called the meat locker, an 18-wheeler with a huge freezer,” Woods said. “I went in there and a lot of people went in there at halftime, and it cooled us off. We could put our elbows in a tub. We did that during pregame. It cools your body down. The turf was like 180 degrees or something like that. But it didn’t really feel that hot because they were taking care of us.”
Baylor has been fortunate to get through preseason drills and the first two games without injuries to key players. With the NCAA’s rule that went into effect last year that allows players to participate in up to four games without losing their redshirt, Rhule and his staff will take a closer look at which players could be potential redshirt candidates.
“It allows us to sit here this week and target, ‘Hey, this guy might redshirt, let’s be careful with this guy with the amount of games we play him,’” Rhule said. “So with the early bye week, it allows you to sit back and take stock, knowing things will change. You can have two injuries in the next two games and all of a sudden have to make adjustments. But at least we’re able to plan and do the best job we can of putting guys in the right position.”
Rhule believes Baylor’s maturity and experience will help during the bye week because the veterans know how the extra practices can prepare the team down the road.
“It’s vital,” Rhule said. “You can’t waste a day. You want them to come out and appreciate the opportunities to get better and also appreciate the opportunities to see their families this weekend and do whatever they’re going to do. It’s way more fun when you have a mature team that handles their business and wants to be pushed to be great.”