COLLEGE STATION (AP) — Baylor and Texas A&M are both off to 3-1 starts, but neither is thrilled about how it’s happened.
The Bears have their first three-game winning streak since 2005 as they head into their Big 12 opener against the Aggies at Kyle Field on Saturday.
Baylor sophomore quarterback Blake Szymanski has shined so far, with 14 touchdown throws and two 400-yard passing games. The defense has done its part, too, with 12 sacks and nine forced turnovers. But coach Guy Morriss says his team has been too inconsistent and warns the Bears’ habit of keeping opponents close will eventually cost them.
“We’ve kind of been just doing enough to keep just enough of a lead to win a ballgame,” he said. “I’d like to see us learn how to put the knife in somebody and give it a good twist.”
The Aggies, meanwhile, have been getting roasted on radio call-in shows and Internet message boards since losing 34-17 in Miami last week. The Hurricanes manhandled A&M in every phase, forcing turnovers on kickoffs, shutting down the running game and shredding the Aggies’ defense.
The poor performance renewed calls from the irritable fans for coach Dennis Franchione’s job, though athletics director Bill Byrne said no change is imminent.
In the meantime, the Aggies are pushing forward, trying to fix their apparently long list of deficiencies.
“Everything you go through kind of builds your character and kind of defines your team,” said senior defensive end Chris Harrington. “This is a defining moment for us, to see how we kind of bounce back from it. How we respond will say what kind of team we’ve got.”
There may be only so much the Aggies can do.
A&M is allowing 243 passing yards per game and the young secondary has given up six TD passes. High-scoring Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, who combined for 890 passing yards in a 49-45 Cowboys win last week, are the next two teams on A&M’s schedule.
“We’re going to need to improve quick here in the next three weeks,” Franchione said. “Certainly, we’re going to need to play better to kind of keep the game in control a little bit with our defense, and I think we can. We haven’t played as good as I think we can play, and I think our guys feel that way.”
The Bears showed more offensive balance than usual in a 34-21 win over Buffalo last week, passing for 172 yards and rushing for 229. Szymanski ran for a career-high 91 yards and freshman running back Jay Finley ran for 80 yards in his first career start.
“It helps our confidence in them as coaches to keep dialing the run,” Morriss said. “We’ve got to keep working on it and keep repping it. It’s going to be a little harder this week than last week because we’re playing some better folks.”
A&M’s offense, meanwhile, has been an ongoing source of angst for Franchione and his players. Three weeks ago, quarterback Stephen McGee snapped at a reporter who asked why the Aggies seemed to abandon the pass in a triple-overtime win over Fresno State.
McGee threw for 237 yards and a touchdown the next week against Louisiana-Monroe, but Miami's speedy defense stifled the Aggies’ aerial attack again. McGee threw for only 109 yards and was sacked three times against the Hurricanes.
More surprisingly, the running game didn’t work either. Jorvorskie Lane got only two carries and speedster Mike Goodson mustered only 28. A&M’s coaches said Miami defensive ends Calais Campbell and Eric Moncur neutralized Lane by plugging the holes he usually runs through.
Other teams have tried the same strategy, Lane said, but A&M can usually overcome it.
“We just chose to play bad on the wrong day,” Lane said.
The Aggies have won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Baylor, but the last three have gone down to the wire. The Bears beat A&M 35-34 in overtime in Waco three years ago and the Aggies rallied for a 16-13 overtime win in Kyle Field in 2005.
Szymanski expects another nail-biter Saturday.
“It’s going to be a dogfight out on that field,” he said. “It’s their place, but as the visiting team we kind of feed of the energy. It’s going to be a good experience for this team as a whole.”
BIG 12 FOOTBALL, Baylor Bears (3-1, 0-0), at Texas A&M Aggies (3-1, 0-0), 11:30 a.m. (VERSUS) — Kyle Field