West Virginia looks to bounce back after a 27-13 loss in their Big 12 Conference opener on the road to Oklahoma State in what head coach Neal Brown described “as one of the toughest losses” he and his staff suffered since arriving in Morgantown.
“Looking forward to this. Looking forward to the preparation this week. I think it's going to say a lot about our team on how we prepare. We had a good day yesterday (Monday) and workdays on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Brown.
“Glad to be getting home. Kind of sad that we’re not going to have fans. An opportunity to play on national television again. Chance of redemption on national television.”
Baylor comes into the game after winning their season opener of the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday 47-14 with Brown describing the win as “impressive” and Baylor “really dominated the game.”
Baylor hired Dave Aranda after former and, now, current Carolina head coach Matt Rhule opted to leave Waco to chase his NFL aspirations.
Aranda spent the last four seasons as the defensive coordinator at LSU and capping his tenure in Baton Rouge with an SEC championship and a national championship.
“A lot of respect for coach Aranda. I think one of the top defensive minds in all of college football over a long period of time,” said Brown. Also, adding that Aranda has “put together a great staff.”
“Defensively, Ron Roberts, their defensive coordinator - really successful head coach,” said Brown. "He was at Lafayette as well, helped Billy (Napier) get that program going. I think they’ve won 10-plus games two years in a row there, and they’re still undefeated. A really sound defensive mind. They’re aggressive played a lot of guys up front and caused some problems for Kansas.”
Roberts joined Baylor after serving under Billy Napier Louisiana-Lafayette as defensive coordinator the last two seasons. The Ragin’ Cajuns led the Sun Belt Conference and ranked 18th nationally in scoring defense in 2019, allowing only 19.7 ppg. He served as head coach at Delta State (2007-11), leading the team to the Division II finals and brought Southeastern Louisiana their first-ever Southland Conference championship in 2013, their first league title of any kind since 1961.
Brown noted linebackers Terrel Bernard and Jalen Pitre as playmakers ant that Bernard “made about every play against us last year.”
“Offensively, coordinator Larry Fedora, really successful head coach at Southern Miss and North Carolina,” said Brown.
“I think that they want to run the football. Coach Fedora’s always ran the football – play with tempo. And they’ll throw it too, but with the talent they have at running back - people try to get their best players the ball and those running backs are special. We do anticipate them coming in and establishing the run. The o-line is better, for sure. That’s the thing that stuck out to me watching the game just watching Baylor over the summer, and then watching them in their first football game is their o-line is much improved.”
Charlie Brewer took over the reins of the offense in his freshman season's final four games and has been steady for the Bears since taken over.
West Virginia defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae may have explained Brewer’s play the best.
He’s a chain mover, for the lack of better terms,” said Addae. “He doesn’t necessarily ‘wow’ you with anything specifically, but he is really sound at just everything. He can move the ball with his feet. He obviously manages the offense really well. He’s shown the ability to make all the throws. He’s multi-faceted, and so that presents the problem.”
As in most cases, the X-factor may come down to special teams, and Baylor has the early frontrunner for special teams player of the year in Trestan Ebner, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns on Saturday against Kansas.
Brown and special teams coordinator Matt Powledge spent the 2013 season together at Kentucky.
“He does a really nice job. He was at Lafayette the last two years and really helped Billy Napier turn that program around, said Brown. “They have an explosive returner in Ebner who’s their running back. He took two kickoff returns for touchdowns last week. Very seldom do you see that in one game, that’s impressive.”
“Across their coverage units, athletes that run really well. They play extremely hard on special teams - you can tell that’s part of the culture that’s ingrained there.”
Baylor became known as a physical football team under Rhule, and Aranda appears to be continuing to bring a physical nature to the game.
“I talked about this last year is, when you turn on Baylor’s tape, they’re a tough physical team that runs very well, and you can tell that they have a very good culture there, that Matt Rhule built and then, coach Aranda and his staff continue to maintain.”
West Virginia and Baylor are set to kickoff at noon inside Milan Puskar Stadium and broadcasting on ABC.
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