Baylor, West Virginia face off in key Big 12 contest

WVU Sports

After successive losses on last-minute field goals, the West Virginia Mountaineers could use a break Saturday. But then again, they’re running into the Baylor Bears, who are also looking to turn the corner in the Big 12 after a disappointing reversal.

Both Baylor and West Virginia will be shooting for better results Saturday in Waco, Texas.

Baylor (4-1, 2-1 Big 12) is fresh off its first loss of the season, while West Virginia (2-3, 0-2) has yet to grab a win in league play despite playing Oklahoma and Texas Tech to the bitter end.

Neither team can afford another loss if they’d like to eventually factor into the Big 12 race and position themselves for a high-profile bowl opportunity.

And neither head coach is satisfied with the state of his team.

“I’m very disappointed in our competitive maturity,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said following his team’s 24-14 loss at Oklahoma State. “It’s something that I take as a heavy, heavy blow. It’s something that I’m very committed to improving. We talk about how something like this is going to cost us a game, and it just did.”

Despite the loss, Baylor has already exceeded its win total from 2020 (2-7). The Bears have the second-best scoring defense in the conference (17.4 ppg) and have an identity on offense, where they rely on a physical ground game to rush for an average of 238.2 yards a game.

Abram Smith is fifth in the Big 12 with 510 yards and has averaged 7.6 yards per carry with six touchdowns, and quarterback Gerry Bohanon has added 118 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

But after rolling up big numbers in their first four games, the Bears ran into a stiff Oklahoma State defense last week, managing just 107 yards rushing — and West Virginia’s run defense looks even stingier.

West Virginia, coming off a 23-20 home loss to Texas Tech that followed a 16-13 loss at Oklahoma, has allowed just 2.5 yards per carry (best in the Big 12).

West Virginia coach Neal Brown knows that the battle up front and general execution will influence the outcome.

“We’ve not put a whole game together. It’s frustrating,” Brown said. “We’ve got to be a more detail-oriented group.

“We’re not asking our players to go out there and execute things they can’t do… We’ve got to be able to run the ball better.”

The Mountaineers may lean on running back Leddie Brown, who has rushed for 378 yards (4.6 ypc) and six touchdowns. Quarterback Jarret Doege has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 1,207 yards and 7 touchdowns against 4 interceptions.

“Doege played his best half of football the second half (against Texas Tech),” Brown said. “I thought his numbers were good.”

Doege led the Mountaineers back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to tie the score before Texas Tech’s game-winning field goal with 18 seconds remaining.

–Field Level Media

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