How Baylor used bye week as ‘stepping stone’ back to winning ways ahead of West Virginia

Never mind the X’s and O’s or even the new-age analytics that football coaches have come to embrace.

Baylor coach Dave Aranda took advantage of a bye week to do a deep dive into why the defending Big 12 champions currently sit 3-2 and 1-1 in the Big 12 ahead of a Thursday meeting at West Virginia (2-3, 0-2).

No one was immune of the critique, not the upperclassmen who played key parts last season nor the young players who have taken on larger roles. At one point during a media availability, Aranda mentioned a mindset of having arrived without the accomplishments to back that up.

“Underneath all the schemes and techniques, I think there is a level of immaturity or just youth that we’re really working on growing,” Aranda said. “With the vets, there’s some complacency that we’re working on getting rid of and waking up from. So I think the week was good in those respects and getting everybody on the same page in terms of where we’re at and what it takes to go where we want to go.”

In case you were wondering, immaturity and complacency are a bad combination for a would-be Big 12 contender.

If Aranda’s pointed commentary is a surprise, it shouldn’t be. For all his Zen speak and outside-the-box approach, Aranda is fully capable of taking the hard line when necessary.

It might be necessary for Baylor, heading to West Virginia, where the Bears have dropped five straight without a victory since WVU joined the Big 12.

The numbers show areas of concern beyond Aranda’s analysis. Baylor has gone from the top rushing team in the Big 12 in 2021 to fifth this season. Defensively, while the Bears are actually allowing fewer yards per game, they’ve gone from 3.14 sacks per game to 2.0 this season. And in maybe the biggest change, Baylor is dead-even in turnover margin after being plus-12 last season, second in the conference.

The hallmarks that contributed to a 12-2 record are no longer constants, as Baylor discovered in its last game, a 36-25 loss to unbeaten Oklahoma State in a rematch of the 2021 Big 12 title game.

“The difference between a good team and a bad team is probably five to 10 plays,” offensive tackle Jacob Gall said, “and that was kind of the difference for us.”

Yes, it’s early but not that early, something that players seemed to realize given a chance to reflect.

“We want to use this week and these past couple of weeks as a stepping stone for us to take,” said linebacker Bryson Jackson, a sixth-year senior and a Mansfield Lake Ridge graduate. “We definitely needed that from the start, and I think just kind of refining ourselves and getting back to who we really are, are pretty much our main focus for this game coming up.”

For the record, Aranda included himself in the team breakdown as part of a self-evaluation. He acknowledged that “blind spots” can be real.

“For me, the complacency part is hard,” Aranda said. “I think, despite all the best efforts of all of it, and I think bigger picture we need to find better efforts, but I think talking about what’s real is way important. And I think there’s an element of kind of a waking up.”

Michael Haag in Waco contributed to this report.

Twitter: @ChuckCarltonDMN

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