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Big screen still draws: Eager Bears ready for AT&T Stadium trip

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The Baylor football team gathers in a huddle before last year’s game against Texas Tech in Arlington.

For the fifth time in six seasons, Baylor will make the short trip to Arlington to face Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium.

Even for the veterans on the Baylor squad, a game at the Dallas Cowboys’ billion-dollar palace hasn’t grown old. They still enjoy playing under the world’s largest football video screen in the plush indoor stadium.

“You love the emotion and the setting and looking up and seeing yourself on a screen as big as this building,” Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty said. “It’s always cool to play in that place because of what it brings and because of the guys who play there on Sundays. That’s where we all want to be.”

The No. 5 Bears have won their last three games over the Red Raiders heading into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Averaging 60.3 points in those wins, Baylor has provided plenty of highlights for the bigger-than-life video screen.

Fighting to defend its Big 12 title, Baylor hopes it can deliver another tremendous offensive performance. Now 9-1 overall, the Bears are tied for the Big 12 lead with Kansas State and TCU with a 6-1 record heading into the last two games of the season.

Though the Dec. 6 game against Kansas State at McLane Stadium could be for the Big 12 title, the Bears say they won’t overlook a Texas Tech squad that’s out of bowl contention with a 4-7 overall record. Baylor coach Art Briles expects the Red Raiders to play their best in their final game of a disappointing season.

“This year we’re used to getting everybody’s best shot,” Briles said. “We’re used to people coming out swinging at us, not with punches but haymakers. If you don’t take care of this week, next week’s not going to exist.”

Baylor’s dynamic offense against a shaky Texas Tech defense looks like a mismatch. The Bears lead the nation with 584.5 yards and 50 points per game while the Red Raiders’ defense ranks 122nd by allowing 509.5 yards per game and 123rd by a giving up 40.6 points per game.

After a 41-27 loss to West Virginia on Oct. 18 in Morgantown, the Bears have averaged 52.3 points in Big 12 wins over Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Petty said the Bears’ veteran leaders met with Briles after the loss to the Mountaineers in an effort to get their focus back. To the Baylor players, that loss felt much like last season’s 52-42 loss to Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

“We were happy going into West Virginia, we thought we had done something,” Petty said. “We thought we learned from the bowl game. But I guess we let that emotion creep back in. We had a meeting and we said we’re not going to be happy about anything ever again. You hate having those wakeup calls. but sometimes they help.”

While Texas Tech’s defense has struggled, the Red Raiders’ offense can still be dangerous. The Red Raiders are averaging 485.2 yards and 29.1 points per game.

New quarterback

Davis Webb went down with an ankle injury after passing for a league-high 24 touchdowns in eight games. But freshman Patrick Mahomes has passed for 949 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, including a 328-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 34-31 win over Iowa State last weekend in Ames.

“We always have a tremendous amount of respect for Texas Tech,” Briles said. “They’ve had some unfortunate things happen with injuries. But getting a big win in Ames is a huge positive because it’s a tough place to win a game. Until the last couple of years, they’ve been a thorn in our side. We know we have to be at our utmost best to have a chance to win.”

Baylor’s defense should get a boost with cornerback Ryan Reid expected to return to action after missing Saturday’s 49-28 win over Oklahoma State with a muscle strain. Sophomore Tion Wright replaced Reid last weekend in the starting lineup.

BEAR FACTS: Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was named Big 12 defensive player of the week after collecting two sacks, recording six tackles and forcing a fumble against Oklahoma State . . . Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, running back Shock Linwood and receiver Corey Coleman are among 16 semifinalists for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award which recognizes the top offensive player in Division I football. Players must be born in Texas or attended a Texas high school, junior college or Division I college.


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