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Is WVU that bad? Is Baylor that good?

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If Baylor's almost surrealistic performance against West Virginia Saturday night did nothing else, it provoked a couple of legitimate debates.

From West Virginia's point of view, the question arises - again - about whether the Mountaineers are really that bad. Unlike the discussion of the first few weeks of the season, however, now WVU's defense is involved.

As for Baylor, well, the talking points are the same. Is this team really that good?

A 73-42 rout in which the Bears gained 864 yards and could have scored 100 and gained 1,000 will do that.

Let's be honest here, though. It's not as groundbreaking as it's being made out to be. After all, weren't these the same questions being asked after last year's WVU-Baylor game? Of West Virginia?

"I saw it a few games out of us last year,'' Dana Holgorsen said. "What they did to us Saturday is what we did to them last year offensively.''

Indeed, Baylor's 73 points and 864 yards weren't much different than WVU's 70 and 807 in a 70-63 win in Morgantown. And remember, that was the game after which Geno Smith was all but conceded the Heisman Trophy and the only real question regarding the Mountaineers was whether they'd be in a BCS bowl or THE BCS bowl.

Oops.

There are differences though, not the least of which is that West Virginia's 70-point, 807-yard performance was under duress. The Mountaineers had to push to the very end. At halftime Saturday, Baylor was on pace to go for 112 points and 1,234 yards. And if the Bears had to have done it, they might have.

That's the scariest part of what Baylor is doing right now, at least to the teams still in their way. Take Kansas State's Bill Snyder, who has coached about a billion games and has seen it all.

"I don't know that there has been [an offense to compare to Baylor],'' said Snyder, whose Wildcats are next up for the Bears. "I haven't taken time to look in the record book and don't want to. It might frighten me. But I don't remember anyone being as productive as Baylor.''

Nor does Holgorsen.

"They're doing it at the highest level possible. They're doing it as good as anybody has in college football,'' Holgorsen said. "We'll see if they can keep it up.''

Yeah, like keeping it up in a second half. The really interesting thing about Baylor is that the Bears haven't played a down of football that mattered beyond the first quarter of any of their four games this season. The starters haven't played more than a handful of second-half snaps. Consider that Lache Seastrunk is second nationally in rushing yards per game and has carried the ball twice after halftime.

Perhaps because of all that - because his offense hasn't been tested - Baylor coach Art Briles isn't even sure if his offense is clicking yet.

"We've only played four football games and we're still just trying to figure out exactly how we can do things to be as effective as we can be,'' Briles said. "I know that sounds silly with what's been going on, but we're still in the process of trying to make sure we're really doing the right thing at the right time.

"I know our guys have a lot of confidence. They're playing with a lot of intensity and effort. But we still think there's more out there that we can accomplish, without question. We haven't done anything yet.''

The questions about Baylor figure to be answered slowly the rest of the season. The Big 12 has never been known for its defense and until Oklahoma goes to Waco on Nov. 7 the Bears might not be really tested.

The questions about West Virginia? Well, even after being eviscerated Saturday, it's hard to really put a finger on how this team stacks up. The offensive questions remain, but that was always understood to be a matter of progression. It's even more so with the continued uncertainty - be it because of effectiveness or health - of the quarterbacks.

The defensive performance, though, is now worrisome. But again, will anyone stop or even slow Baylor?

"We still have moving parts on offense,'' Holgorsen said. "We took a step back defensively, obviously. I think Baylor's going to do that to a lot of people this year. Offensively we've got to just keep plugging away.''

This isn't the first embarrassing defeat for the Mountaineers, of course. After the first one, that 37-0 whitewashing at Maryland, Holgorsen swore that his team wasn't as bad as it seemed and was actually close to being a pretty good one. Then they went out and beat Oklahoma State before going back in the tank.

And now? Still close to being good?

"I think we're still close to being a good football team,'' Holgorsen maintains. "We didn't play as good as we had hoped. Baylor was prepared. They were fresh, they were fast, they were energized. The way we played against Oklahoma State, we played at a pretty high level. We didn't get that out of them Saturday, but I think Baylor had a lot to do with that.

"I'd like to think it's a combination of us being a little bit worn out - not an excuse at all, but being a little bit worn out - and Baylor being pretty damn good.''

The good news is that there's a break now before Texas Tech comes to Morgantown a week from Saturday (announced Monday as another noon start). It's time for West Virginia to get healthy, get better and make some adjustments.

And it's time for someone else to deal with Baylor. Snyder already has a plan.

"We're going to take the first snap and run into the locker room,'' Snyder said.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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