Keys to the Game – Baylor

Matt Warden

Battered and beaten both physically and mentally, the Texas Longhorns enter Saturday’s matchup against Baylor with a lot to prove.

Following a blowout loss in the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma, Texas will face the Bears with a lot of exposed flaws in its plan of attack. Although Baylor is winless in the Big 12 so far, the Longhorns still need to do a few things to avoid a third consecutive loss.

Tighten up tackling:
As children, a lot of sports fans played a game with their friends that involves one man running with the football until someone else tackles them and takes possession. If this were the game the Longhorns were playing the past few weeks, they might never have gotten the ball. Against Oklahoma, the Texas defense was embarrassed on the ground, allowing 343 rushing yards. Missed tackles which allowed receivers to turn five yard gains into 20 yard gains were prevalent. Much like the offensive attack the Longhorns faced against West Virginia, Baylor has a talented group of receivers who gain the majority of their yards after the catch with speed and elusiveness. Already vulnerable to long passes, the Longhorns need to make sure to wrap up ball carriers in this game to avoid another loss. The defense currently ranks No. 102 in total defense as they enter a matchup with the No. 4 scoring offense. If the Longhorns want to contain this attack the plan is simple: tackle the man with the football.

Run, Run and Run some more:
Oklahoma took a few things from Texas on Saturday, its quarterback being the most important. In the loss to Oklahoma, David Ash injured his wrist, and although he claims he will play against Baylor, his impact could possibly be marginalized. Although backup quarterback Case McCoy has some valuable starting experience, Texas should look to minimize any impediments of Ash’s injury with a strong running game. The Texas offense has proven most efficient when the running game is firmly established. In their two Big 12 losses, the Longhorns only managed 135 and 74 rushing yards respectively. Freshman Johnathan Gray and sophomore Joe Bergeron have been the most impressive runners for the season, each averaging over four yards a carry for a team that averages over 187 yards a game on the ground. If the Longhorns want to avoid another Big 12 loss, which would all but ruin their chances at a noteworthy bowl game, they need to run the ball relentlessly against Baylor whose total defense currently ranks No.124 in the nation.

Play to Strengths:
If there’s one thing the Texas Longhorns do well it’s getting pressure in the backfield. With one of the best defensive lines in the conference, Texas dials up the pressure every game to allow its defense to make plays and get the ball back in the hands of its offense. Although the pressure wasn’t enough against Oklahoma, Landry Jones was still hurried and pressured, throwing one interception while being sacked once. The main game plan for the defense has to be to wrap up and get guys to the ground, but it can help itself out a bit and facilitate this game plan by rushing Nick Florence often. The Texas linemen must show up in a big way in this game to force the Baylor offense into positions of discomfort. This is turn should make everything else fall into place.