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‘Physical’ Baylor stands between football and a shot at bowl eligibility

TCU School of Journalism
LJ Collier has been one of the best defensive lineman in the Big 12 this season. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

TCU Football has qualified for a bowl trip in 15 of 17 seasons under head coach Gary Patterson.

That streak will be on the line Saturday as the Horned Frogs travel to Waco with the team needing to win their final two games to earn bowl eligibility. The Baylor Bears, at 5-5, are fighting for the crucial sixth win as well.

We’re going to attack this game like any other game,” said senior tight end Cole Novak. “It is a must-win because we want to make a bowl game, that is the end goal. We’re going to do everything that we can to make that happen.”

Coming off a 47-10 loss to West Virginia, the nation’s No. 3 team in the nation in passing efficiency, TCU will transition to facing a run-based team in Baylor.

Collier sacks Kansas State’s Delton in TCU’s 14-13 win over the Wildcats. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

“We should have executed more than we have,” said sophomore linebacker Garret Wallow. “It’s something to work on throughout the week, executing our calls. We have a lot of great players we have to keep forward and working. We have high expectations for ourselves.”

The Bears average 224 rushing yards per game in their five home games, second in the Big 12.

Baylor’s dynamic running backs have also recorded 52 receptions in 10 games, just shy of last season’s 58-catch mark. Running back JaMycal Hasty ranks second among all Big 12 rushers with 26 receptions.

Baylor running back JaMycal Hasty (6) runs past the grasp of Texas defensive back P.J. Locke III (11) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The offense isn’t limited to the running game. Wide receiver Jalen Hurd ranks fifth in the nation with 47 plays of more than 10 yards and has recorded 46 first-down receptions, good for fourth among all Power 5 conference teams.

Head coach Gary Patterson expects a lot of experimentation in Baylor’s play calls Saturday.

“It could be the empty five wideouts and have two backs,” Patterson said. “At the end of the year, you’ll see a lot of formations and they’re moving people around and doing things. You need to prepare for them all.”

Baylor is averaging 430.1 yards per game and has out-gained its opponents offensively in six of their 10 games.

They very good receivers and a very good quarterback,” said Wallow. “I haven’t really gotten much into the game plan yet, but I know Coach has something good planned for us like he does every week. I can’t wait to see what he has planned for us.”

Baylor’s offense plays with a different edge at McLane Stadium. The Bears average 36 points per game at home compared to 23 on the road. They have also averaged 231.6 rushing yards per game in their last three home conference games.

They’re a very physical football team,” said Patterson. “Good skill set. We have a lot of work to do.”

TCU’s defense will prove to be a tough challenge for the high-flying Bears offensive attack. TCU ranks first in the conference in passing defense and third in total defense. The Horned Frogs allow an average of 208.7 passing yards and 355 total yards per game this season.

“We want to finish off the season with three wins,” said Novak. “The only thing we can focus on right now is going to Baylor and beating Baylor. It’s just the next game, everyone has to do their job, do their one-eleventh, take it play-by-play and push through until the end.”

Kickoff from Waco is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.

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