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Bears make ready for air war with Texas Tech

Nov. 5, 2004

By MATT RICHARDS, sports writer

The Baylor Bears will hope to end two more streaks this weekend as they travel to Lubbock to face the Texas Tech University Red Raiders. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Jones SBC Stadium.

The game will be the 62nd meeting between these two teams, with the Bears holding a 32-29-1 advantage in the series.

However, the Red Raiders have won each of the last eight meetings. In the last three games, Tech has scorched the Bears by an average score of 62-15. They've averaged 629 total yards of offense, including a 428-yard and seven-touchdown performance by quarterback B.J. Symons last season.

After claiming to have not slept after defeating Texas A&M University, defensive coordinator Bill Bradley said he hasn't slept all week after watching Tech's high-powered offense.

"This will be the biggest challenge of our defensive lives," Bradley said. "It's like the greatest show on turf."

Fifth-year senior quarterback Sonny Cumbie leads the Red Raider offense. Having sat the bench for four years behind Kliff Kingsbury and Symons, Cumbie is making the best of his opportunity.

He comes into the weekend averaging a national-best 406.2 yards passing with 19 touchdowns in eight games.

This isn't the first time Baylor head Coach Guy Morriss has seen Tech's spread offensive attack.

He ran the spread with Red Raider head Coach Mike Leach on Hal Mumme's staff at the University of Kentucky in 1997-1998. Morriss wasn't flattering in his assessment of the Red Raider offense but acknowledged its success.

"It's really a very simple offense," Morriss said. "I know when I was involved, we had maybe two protections. We had about three runs. It was like, 'see that little patch of grass over there, get over there in it.' If its' zone, find the hole. If it's man, keep running. It's almost like organized street ball, but it works."

The best defense against the "street ball" of Tech may be for the Baylor offense to stay on the field. The strategy was effective against Texas A&M.

The Bears had the ball for the same amount of plays as the Aggies --- 74 apiece -- and for almost the same amount of time. The difference was in turnovers. Texas A&M had three, while Baylor had no offensive turnovers.

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease knows his offense has morphed into a ball-and-clock control attack.

The objective has changed from making big plays for lots of scores to controlling the ball and not allowing turnovers.

"Regardless whether we're running or passing, I think you could call us a ball-control team," Pease said. "It's key for us to create as many touches for us as possible."

Last week, the Bears ended a 19-year drought against the Aggies by scoring a huge upset over the No. 16 team in the nation.

In eight years of Big 12 competition, Baylor has never won a conference road game or consecutive games against conference opponents. The team will get an opportunity to end both streaks this weekend.

There's little ambiguity in Baylor's defensive strategy according to junior linebacker Colin Allred. Priority No. 1 will be getting to Cumbie.

"If you give them the same look every time, they'll eat you alive," Allred said. "You've got to blitz them at times. It will leave more receivers than you can cover, but you've got to try it.

"We've tried sitting back and covering the pass, and that just doesn't work," he said.

Coming off the biggest win of his career, sophomore quarterback Shawn Bell will hope to work his magic once again.

With Bell at the helm, it's likely that Pease will mix a variety of packages with several different player groupings to confuse the Tech defense.

"We're becoming flexible enough in our formations and our personnel packages, that they can't key in on one guy," Pease said. "It's loosening up the defenses for us."