BAYLOR-CONNECTICUT PREVIEW: Bears hit the road to face Huskies in Friday night showdown on ESPN2

by dentonramsey

BAYLOR-CONNECTICUT PREVIEW: Bears hit the road to face Huskies in Friday night showdown on ESPN2

By Denton Ramsey, NCAA Sportswriter/Big 12 Fans Baylor Correspondent

WACO, Texas – After a lackluster opening game, the Bears have been on a roll behind freshman phenom Robert Griffin – rattling of two straight blowout victories to improve to 2-1 on the young season.

Baylor aims to keep the momentum going when they face the U-Conn Huskies (3-0) on Friday night, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

“They [Connecticut] are a good football team; they went 9-4 last year, won the Big East and went to a bowl game,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “They have 19 of 22 starters back. They are 26-8 at home over the last four years and they have won the last eight or nine in a row. They are a tough team.”

Friday will mark the Bears first road trip of the season, but having an entire week to prepare for the Huskies – despite the reason being Hurricane Ike – has been quite a blessing for Briles and company.

“Having a full week of practice after playing Friday really turned out great,” Briles said. “That was our thing going into the game last week; if we could take care of business and get a good win it would put us on the equal week. It was a good fortune for us without a doubt because we were able to start on Connecticut last Saturday.”

So, will Friday’s ESPN-coverage of the game weigh more heavily on the Bears than their prior match-ups thus far?

“Every game is important and they are all big games,” Briles said. “It doesn’t matter when you’re playing, who you’re playing or whether it is on television or not. Every time you step on the field you have a chance to prove yourself as a player, a team and a program and that is what we want to do.

“We are in the process of doing it. When people talk about Baylor football, we want them to talk about it with respect and the only way we are going to get that is if we do things the proper way. We are going to take full advantage of these chances we have in the upcoming weeks.”

Work In Progress

Baylor’s Bears have, no doubt, improved upon Briles taking over the green and gold pigskin program.

However, there’s still a lot of work ahead if Baylor hopes to remain competitive come Big 12 time – a time quickly approaching.

“I think we are still a work in progress,” Briles said. “I think as we get to know each other a little better and understand our personnel, we may be able to hang our hat on something. Right now we are still searching what fits everyone on the field best.

“The thing that helps us from an offensive and defensive standpoint is that we are really playing well up front on both sides of the ball. If we continue to do that, we can find a niche offensively and we will keep great turnovers from the defensive standpoint. It all starts up front.”

Despite the rough road ahead for the Bears, Briles – as well as Baylor fans across the nation – have begun to see improvement.

“The thing I am most proud of is that we are learning to play fast, and that is what we are really stressing and taking a hold of,” Briles said. “We want to be known as a fast, physical football team with discipline and intelligence. We look for effort and speed, and when you play with great effort and speed you have a chance to have a good football player.”

Running the Offense

A key ingredient to the Bears’ early season success has been their ability to run the football – something the coaching staff aims to continue as Baylor moves on through the season with first-year coach Briles at the helm.

“The running game all starts up front,” Briles said. “We were able to dominate up front [last week]. We played physical, fast and intense and we had good tempo. When you have those things working in your favor, you have a chance to rush the ball up and down the field.”

According to Briles, the upperclassmen on the squad have also helped to be an inspiration to their younger Baylor football teammates.

“They all have to work well together and those guys that have had good experience have done a good job for us as far as leading and practicing hard,” Briles said. “Every time we recruit a player, I find out how he practices. You practice more than you play and if you practice hard you play well.

“The older guys have really practiced hard and are really teaching the younger guys how to practice hard and prepare, and then it turns into performance on game day. We don’t feel that we have arrived, we have a long way to go, but the encouraging part is that we’re climbing and that is what you have to keep doing.”

Another key to Baylor’s 2-1 start lies in the hands and arms of one of the newest players on the team – a guy by the name of Robert Griffin, who will be making his first road start of the season against U-Conn on Friday.

“We are working on a silent count on offense and we will have some crowd noise in practice today, tomorrow and Thursday,” Briles said. “Other than that we just have to be us. We have to be Baylor and we have to take care of ourselves.

“We are going to play our game and we are not going to change what we do. We have to do what we do and do it really well. We are going to go up there and expect to come home with a win.”

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at