Baylor finally set to open season at home vs. Kansas
After a few false starts, the Baylor Bears open their 2020 season on Saturday by hosting the Kansas Jayhawks in a Big 12 Conference contest in Waco, Texas.
Baylor was originally set to open its revamped schedule on Sept. 12 against Louisiana Tech, but the game was canceled on Sept. 8 due to a Louisiana Tech COVID-19 outbreak. An impromptu matchup with Houston was added that same week, set for Sept. 19, to replace Houston’s canceled game with Memphis.
But Baylor was unable to meet the Big 12 threshold of available players, announcing another cancellation a day prior to the scheduled date. The conference requires its members to have at least 53 players total, with a minimum of one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four interior defensive linemen.
Max Olson of The Athletic reported Tuesday that Baylor lacked a sufficient offensive line depth chart due to contact tracing.
“It was a hard Friday,” said Baylor coach Dave Aranda on Monday. “It was a lot of emotion in that call. It left me with a great appreciation of our guys and just the character that they show continually.”
Aranda added that despite the disappointment, seeing the “character” was important in his ongoing feeling-out process as a first-year head coach. Aranda was hired to replace Matt Rhule, now with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
“Generally, you get to know your people playing games,” Aranda said. “On the field, you can get a read of them and the type of character they have, and how they handle the good and the bad.”
Of those in McLane Stadium on Saturday, the one with whom Aranda has spent the most time on the field will be on the opposite sideline. Kansas head coach Les Miles hired Aranda as defensive coordinator at LSU in 2016.
Miles was dismissed four games into that season, and Aranda remained for four seasons, culminating with last season’s national championship.
Kansas (0-1, 0-0 Big 12) hired Miles ahead of the 2019 season aiming to turn around a staggering run of misfortune. The Jayhawks have not finished over .500 since 2008, and last won more than three games in 2009.
Year 2 of the Miles era opened inauspiciously with a 38-23 loss to Coastal Carolina on Sept. 12. The Jayhawks dug an early hole, falling behind 28-3 in the first half, and never recovered.
“Offensively, we have to start fast,” Miles said Monday. “It’s pretty simple.”
Miles also pointed to Kansas’ three turnovers, which Coastal Carolina converted into 21 points.
Kansas used three quarterbacks in the loss: Miles Kendrick, who passed for two touchdowns, Thomas MacVittie and Jalon Daniels.
“We’d like to move in the direction of one (quarterback), but we want to make sure that one is the best one,” Miles said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily an easy decision.”
The Jayhawks seek immediate offensive improvements against a Baylor defense that last season ranked No. 19 in the country in points allowed, No. 7 in sacks and second in turnovers forced.
While this Bears group features new faces playing for a new staff, Aranda’s LSU defense was similarly outstanding with 37 sacks and 22 turnovers forced.
Aranda said he anticipates Kansas will “test a 3-4 front with their run game.” Jayhawks ball-carriers Velton Gardner and Pooka Williams combined for 148 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown in Week 1.
–Field Level Media