Circumstances set up rare Baylor-Houston showdown
It only took about 24 hours to finalize the first game in 25 years between Baylor and Houston.
After COVID-19 forced the schools to call a last-minute audible, a long-standing friendship between first-year Baylor coach Dave Aranda and second-year Houston coach Dana Holgorsen helped to clear the way for the Bears to host the Cougars on Saturday afternoon in Waco, Texas.
Former Southwest Conference rivals Baylor and Houston are meeting for the first time since 1995 because the previously scheduled season-opening opponents for both teams — Louisiana Tech and Memphis, respectively — had to cancel due to coronavirus outbreaks.
“I’m really happy for our players,” Aranda said when the game was formally announced over the weekend. “I’ve known Holgorsen for a long time and I know several coaches on his staff. I know they will be ready. I am grateful for our players to have this chance to compete and we look forward to facing a good Houston team.
Aranda was the defensive coordinator at LSU last season during the Tigers’ undefeated run to the national championship. He was hired in January to replace Matt Rhule, now the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
Aranda and Holgorsen have known each other since 2000, when both were members of Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech. Aranda was a defensive graduate assistant and Holgorsen was the Red Raiders’ receivers coach.
“I’ve followed him and watched him,” Holgorsen said. “His success is not surprising based on how intelligent we thought he was. He’s had an incredible amount of success as a defensive coordinator over the last 20 years.”
Holgorsen, who was 4-8 (2-6 American Athletic Conference) in his first season with the Cougars in 2019, is also familiar with Baylor. During his time in the Big 12 as the head coach at West Virginia (2011-18), his Mountaineers were 5-2 against the Bears.
Last season’s Week 1 starter for Houston at quarterback, D’Eriq King, transferred to the Miami Hurricanes for his final season. Taking the snaps this fall will be junior Clayton Tune, who passed for 1,533 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven games last season. His backup is sophomore Logan Holgorsen, the coach’s son.
Senior linebacker Grant Stuard returns after leading Houston with 97 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss last season.
Baylor finished 11-3 (8-1 Big 12) last season under Rhule, including a 26-14 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
The Bears are led by senior quarterback Charlie Brewer, who has a chance to become the first player in school history to lead Baylor in passing yards in four straight years. He completed 64.5 percent of his throws for 3,161 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.
Baylor junior linebacker Terrel Bernard is on the Butkus Award watch list after leading the team with 112 tackles to go along with 4.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception in 2019.
Baylor has a 14-13-1 lead in the all-time series and won four of the last five meetings from 1991-95.
–Field Level Media