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Nov. 13, 1997

Writer for The Baylor Lariat

As the Baylor Bears enter their final two games of the 1997 season, most students and fans are already thinking about next season, and what the team must do to improve on this year's 2­7 record. And with the amount of young talent already starting on this year's club, expectations for the 1998 season could be much greater.

But for senior running back Jerod Douglas, winning the next two games is the top priority.

Douglas, a three-year starter for the Bears, entered the season as the No. 3 rusher in Baylor history with 2,254 yards, and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. He was expected by many, including Head Coach Dave Roberts, to lead the Baylor offense this season.

Early in the season, he did just that. He ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' first win over Fresno State. In that game, he moved ahead of Alfred Anderson to secure the No. 2 spot in career rushing at Baylor. His breakaway speed provided a spark to the Baylor offense which struggled otherwise early on. He scored on a 66-yard reception against Texas Tech, and received the AT&T Long Distance Award for his 80-yard touchdown run against Nebraska on Oct. 11.

Just as the Bears began to see improvements in the offense, an injury put the Bears' leading rusher on the sidelines. In the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma game, Douglas hyperextended his left knee, forcing him to miss the Iowa State game, and he has not been 100 percent since then.

'It's disappointing, of course,' Douglas said. 'I came in with great ex-pectations. The offense didn't really kick in until three of four weeks into the season.'

In Douglas' absence, a group of young backs led by redshirt-freshman Darrell Bush stepped up to lead the Bears. In the three games since Douglas' injury, Bush has rushed for 336 yards, and averages 7.2 yards per carry on the season. With the help of Douglas, Bush has become the leading rusher for the Bears, and is close to the Baylor record of 7.5 yards per carry in a season, set by Douglas during his freshman year.

'He helps me out a lot in practice,' Bush said. 'This is my first year on the field, so he tells me what to look for.'

Sophomore Elijah Burkins and true freshman fullback Derek Lagway have also added to the running back pool. Burkins added 132 yards rushing in two of those games before missing the Texas A&M game with a sore knee, and Lagway added 70 yards receiving in that time.

'They are great backs,' Douglas said. 'I give them credit anytime somebody asks me.'

This depth at running back has been a welcome relief for Roberts, who has faced a lack of depth at most other positions. The competition among this trio of Baylor runners pushes each one to work harder, according to Douglas.

'It's a good competition,' Douglas said. 'We're all friends on and off the field. (But) you have to play good or someone's going to take your spot. And they will.'

According to Roberts, if Douglas is healthy in the next two games, he will get the opportunity to lead the Baylor offense again. If he is healthy, he will not only see more time at running back, but he will also be used again on kick returns.

'He deserves it,' Roberts said. 'We would like to see him have two good games to end his career ... because he's done a lot for Baylor.'

As far as the injury is concerned, Douglas feels he should be able to play more on Saturday. He still feels pain when the knee bends a certain way, but he said it will not keep him out of the final two games.

'Like Coach was saying,' Douglas said, 'by this point in time, if you're not playing with aches and pains, you're probably not playing too much.'

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