BYU Football: Why The Baylor Showdown Is So Important To Cougars’ Future

WACO, Texas – It should be little more than the seventh game of the season, fourth fight against a Power Five opponent, and a fun little reunion with a few of the coaches who helped BYU make it 11-1 against you last year poor schedule during a pandemic-altered season.

But the MDT showdown on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against 5: 1 and the criminally unrated Baylor here at McLane Stadium on the banks of the Brazos River has become much more meaningful than just the chance to meet with former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and former offensive line measure coach Eric Mateos for No. 19 and 5-1 BYU.

Of course, the matchup is kind of a dress rehearsal for BYU’s admission to the Big 12 Conference in 2023. The Cougars who will host the Big 12’s Bears next year on September 10th will get a good idea of ​​what life will be like like in a P5 league against one of their better teams.

But there are more storylines to this third meeting between the Bears and Cougars, which Baylor won 40:36 at Waco in 1983 and BYU 47:13 at Provo in 1984 en route to his national championship run.

After last week’s somewhat surprising 26-17 loss to Boise State, this is suddenly a crossroads for BYU. If the Cougars lose, they could easily be staring at a four-game slip and season derailment stretch, with P5 opponents Washington State and Virginia next.

Win and a special season is back on the table, even if the Cougars have not been dominant in any of their five wins. For BYU, Baylor and Big 12 fans who want a good look at the programming that will be featured alongside Cincinnati, UCF and Houston, this TV program is a must see.

ESPN will broadcast the show with Mark Jones in play-by-play and former Baylor QB Robert Griffin III as an analyst on Baylor’s homecoming game. After an impressive 45:20 home win over West Virginia and a win over then No. 14 Iowa State in the back pocket, Baylor is close to a touchdown favorite.

“It’s going to be a big challenge to take to the streets and play against a really, really good team. It will be fun to be in the Big 12 in the years to come; we look forward to it. But right now we have to figure out how to get that victory. ”- BYU Offensive Coordinator Aaron Roderick

Will the Cougars be up to the challenge? They seem to play better against better opponents, having risen as underdogs in wins against Utah and Arizona State. The second afternoon game in a row marks the first time BYU has left the state of Utah for a game since beating Arizona 24-16 in Las Vegas.

Last year, BYU’s November 6th game in Boise state was named one of the most important of the Independence Era. The Cougars ranked 9th on the matter – which they won 51-17 to stay on the national radar.

He feels close to this, although the pressure of “auditioning” for admission to Power Five is no longer there.

The Cougars largely confirmed themselves last season by beating three power five opponents and an upgraded Utah State team in Logan in 2021, but this one could seal that deal.

Enter Waco and win? That would make it a wrap.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge to take to the streets and play against a really, really good team,” said Aaron Roderick, BYU’s offensive coordinator, the man who replaced Grimes and kept the Cougars offensive going. “It will be fun to be one of the Big 12 in the years to come; we look forward to it. But right now we have to find out how we can achieve this victory. “

Jeff Grimes speaks during the press conference and will introduce him as the new offensive coordinator for the BYU soccer program in Provo South on Saturday, December 16, 2017. Grimes is now on offensive in Waco, Texas, where the cougars meet the bears Saturday.Adam Fondren, Deseret News

BYU’s dream of playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl was hit hard with the loss to the unrated BSU. Another setback will doom the Cougars to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana against a Conference USA opponent, though they could exercise an option to play at the Guaranteed Rate Bowl (formerly known as the Cheez-It Bowl) in Arizona if the Big Ten and / or Big 12 cannot fill his place there.

“It’s a huge game,” confirmed BYU recipient Keanu Hill, a Bedford native who played at Trinity High in Euless, Texas. “We expect them to be really aggressive and not give us a warm welcome at all.”

Obviously, the first meeting in nearly 40 years is more familiar than typical, and not just because Grimes and Mateos (and quality control analyst Matt Mitchell) were at BYU last year. Baylor head coach Dave Aranda has played four times in the past 10 years as defensive coordinator in Hawaii, Utah State, Wisconsin and LSU against BYU and went 2-2.

“Of what is in front of our windshield, (BYU) is a team that wants to prove something and brings an intensity that we have to surpass,” said Aranda.

Baylor Nose Tackle Siaka Ika signed up to play for East High’s BYU in Salt Lake City but changed his mind and joined LSU before joining Waco.

“We have become really close friends and brothers with Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos, and we take care of them,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “I know our (other) coaches and players too. So it will be different, but we want to win. “

Roderick said BYU had been planning this game since Grimes and Mateos, largely because those coaches know so much about the Cougars’ offensive terminology, schemes, and signals.

“We have to completely change our function as an offensive,” said Roderick. “In the truest sense of the word, our entire operation has to be different this week because they know everything we are doing. … It’s not as if we were surprised. We have been planning it for almost a year now. We’re ready to go on Saturday. “

The main changes will come in the way BYU signals in games to expected quarterback Jaren Hall, who, according to Roderick, will be “perfectly healthy” and ready to go on Wednesday. A big key will be whether Hall can run football effectively, something he couldn’t against Boise State due to the ongoing effects of bruised ribs.

Baylor’s defense has 10 starters back from a unit that allowed only 203.0 yards per game last season and only 175.0 yards in six games this season.

The five start DBs of the Bears have a total of 105 starts in their luggage.

Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon on duty during a game against Oklahoma State on Saturday, October 2, 2021, in Stillwater, Oklahoma Bohanon completed 66% of his passes for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns without interceptions Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

“I would say what stands out is how square they are. You don’t make mistakes. There are no gimme throws against them, ”said Roderick. “You deserve every inch you get in the running game and the passing game. It’s a physical team flying around, 11 guys per snapshot flying around. We are facing a great challenge. It’s going to be a tough, tough defense to get the ball moving. “

Offensively, the Bears have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Gerry Bohanon, who completed 66% of his passes for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns without interceptions. Leading rusher Abram Smith averages 7.7 yards per carry.

Lead receiver Tyquan Thornton averaged 77.2 yards per game and caught five TD passes.

BYU Defense Coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said Baylor’s offensive in terms of scheme is “very similar to what we have right now,” with Grimes’ obvious influence.

“We get a lot of crossover with our offense to prepare for and we know they are being trained well,” said Tuiaki. “I have a lot of respect for Coach Grimes and what he does. His guys will be ready and play hard so it will be a good fight. “

One that seems far more important than it was two months ago.

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