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Baylor notebook: Bears' defense superb despite missing players

Baylor notebook: Bears' defense superb despite missing players

William Wotring/The Dominion Post

West Virginia running back Leddie Brown (4) is tackled at the goal line by Baylor safety Christian Morgan (4) in the Mountaineers’ 27-21 double-overtime win on Saturday.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After missing three starting offensive linemen in a season-opening 47-14 win over Kansas at McLane Stadium, five Baylor defensive players were unavailable for unspecified reasons against West Virginia.

The Bears were missing three starters, including defensive end TJ Franklin, cornerback Kalon Barnes and jack position player Ashton Logan.

Defensive linemen Chidi Ogbonnaya and Gabe Hall were also out.

Despite the late absences, Baylor’s defense was outstanding as it forced three turnovers and made two sacks in the Bears’ 27-21 double-overtime loss.

“I don’t think it was difficult,” said Baylor linebacker-safety Jalen Pitre. “Our coaches did a really good job all week of preparing us to step in. You’re always having that mindset of what’s next and you’re always looking forward and not dwelling on the moment. You’re not going to be sad with anything that happens around you.”

Offensive line struggles

Even with center Xavier Newman-Johnson, guard Jake Burton and tackle Blake Bedier starting on the offensive line after missing the opener, the Bears still couldn’t keep the Mountaineers off Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer.

But it’s nothing new in this rivalry.

With Saturday’s six sacks for 37 yards, the Mountaineers have amassed 25 over the last four games against the Bears. West Virginia collected six sacks for 54 yards in 2017, five for 37 yards in 2018 and eight for 50 yards in 2019.

“We are aiming to get more cohesion with that (offensive line) group,” said Baylor coach Dave Aranda. “That was not always there today. But effort-wise and try hard-wise and want-to was all there. I think at the end of the downs the ability to say I’ve blocked the guy and to be able to play that piece of it the right way is a hard lesson. I love our group and we’ll get better from this.”

Bears 0-5 in Morgantown

Following Saturday’s double-overtime loss, Baylor has now dropped all five games at West Virginia’s Milan Puskar Stadium since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 in 2012.

But West Virginia’s 58-14 blowout in 2018 was the only lopsided game.

West Virginia’s first Big 12 game in 2012 was one of the most notable offensive shootouts of all time with the Mountaineers pulling out a 70-63 win.

The 2014 game was a penalty-fest as the Mountaineers handed the Bears their only Big 12 loss that championship season with a 41-27 decision. The Mountaineers eked out a 24-21 win in 2016.

Baylor special teams don’t deliver

Following brilliant special teams play in last weekend’s win over Kansas, the Bears struggled against the Mountaineers.

In the first half, John Mayers missed field goals of 46 and 48 yards with the second one bouncing off the right upright. To close the first half, Noah Rauschenberg’s 51-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

After earning Big 12 special teams player of the week for returning kickoffs for touchdowns of 100 and 83 yards against Kansas, Trestan Ebner returned three punts for eight yards and a kickoff for 19 yards against West Virginia.

Issac Power was busy punting the ball against West Virginia, with eight for a 42.1-yard average.

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