Baylor fading into final home game unranked and hurting
WACO, Texas (AP) This is not how Baylor seniors wanted to be preparing for their final home game on the banks of the Brazos River.
There is the three-game losing streak that has the Bears unranked for the first time in three years. Starting quarterback Seth Russell will soon have surgery after a gruesome left ankle injury. And there is no longer the chance of a third Big 12 title in four years.
''I'm going to go out to practice tomorrow like my hair is on fire,'' senior cornerback Ryan Reid said Monday. ''We have to get this team going. We have to get this win. We have to.''
As freshman receiver and now part-time running back Blake Lynch put it: ''Mindset? Get back on the right track. Win.''
The Bears (6-3, 3-3 Big 12), who have gone a month since their last victory that got them to 6-0 and bowl eligible, play their home finale Saturday against Kansas State (5-4, 3-3).
Before Russell got hurt in the third quarter of a 45-24 loss at Big 12-leading Oklahoma on Saturday, the Bears had consecutive losses that followed off-field distractions before the game.
Acting head coach Jim Grobe said it's been difficult all season ''trying to keep it together. ... We did a pretty good job of it up until the Friday before Texas, and that's when the Wall Street Journal (article) came out, and that stirred up the coaches. And of course if the coaches get stirred up, then the players get stirred up.''
Baylor's 62-22 loss to TCU, the Bears' worst home loss since 2005, came a day after assistant coaches and several staff members issued a statement on Twitter expressing their support for former coach Art Briles, who was fired in May. They were disputing claims by school regents that Briles knew of an alleged gang rape. There were also T-shirts sold and was even a banner flying with (hash)CAB, which stands for ''Coach Art Briles.''
That was a week after a 35-34 loss at Texas, after the Wall Street Journal article when a group of Baylor regents first provided some details about some of the allegations.
Now the Bears are trying to regroup for the closing stretch. After Kansas State, they play Texas Tech in the Dallas Cowboys' NFL stadium and close the season at No. 10 West Virginia.
''I think our football team right now is just kind of focused on playing football. I think that's the mindset we ought to be in,'' Grobe said. ''At the start of the season, everyone wants to be Big 12 champs. That's your goal, that's what you talk about all the time. And now we're in a position where we need to just talk about playing good football. I thought we played hard last week, but we didn't play real good.''
Senior running back Shock Linwood, the school's career rushing leader, will be back to face K-State after being suspended for the Oklahoma game for what Grobe had described as attitude issues.
Grobe said Monday there are times to give kids a reminder that their behavior is more important than their ability on the football field.
''Once we've done that, we'll see where we can go from here, but I'm expecting we're going to get a guy that comes back and does all the things we want him to do,'' Grobe said of Linwood, who holds Baylor career marks with 4,056 yards rushing and 36 touchdowns on the ground.
True freshman Zach Smith will take over as the starting quarterback. After replacing Russell against Oklahoma, the sixth game he's played in this season, Smith was 6-of-15 passing for 144 yards and a touchdown.
''It was really heartbreaking what happened to Seth,'' Smith said. ''But I've just got to honor him and go in there and do what I know I can.''