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Bears backed into corner taking on Oklahoma State

Nov. 10, 2006

File Photo
Head Coach Guy Morriss looks on Oct. 28 as his Bears drop a 31-21 game to the Aggies. Baylor looks to pick up its fifth win of the season Saturday in Stillwater, Okla.

Sports writer

The Bears have backed their way into a position they have been trying to avoid all season.

After starting 1-3 and winning three of its next four games, the Baylor football team is now just one defeat away from losing its bowl eligibility for the 12th consecutive season.

The Bears (4-6, 3-3) will take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-4, 2-3) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. Winning has now become mandatory for the Bears to salvage what's left of the season.

"For the most part, we concentrate only on the (game) this week," said head Coach Guy Morriss, who has coached the Bears to three Big 12 wins, a feat Baylor had never before accomplished. "We need to win it. Play it one play at a time. Don't worry about the big picture right now. We've got a one-game season to play this week, and then we'll worry about the next one when we get there."

Baylor and Oklahoma State occupy the bottom two spots in the Big 12 South respectively, and the winner will stave off a trip to the division cellar, at least for now.

After losing their season finale to the Bears and finishing last in the Big 12 South last season, the Cowboys have surged forward this season, due in large part to sophomore quarterback Bobby Reid.

Reid leads the Big 12's second-ranked rushing and scoring offense, which could mean bad things for a Baylor defense that recently has given up yards in bundles. After starting the season strong, the Bears' defense has given up 1,186 rushing yards in its last five games. That total includes the 292 rushing yards yielded to the option-minded Texas A&M Aggies, who run an offense similar to that of Oklahoma State.

"(Reid) has really gotten a lot better, a lot more comfortable," defensive coordinator Bill Bradley said. "He's an edge player; they are going to try to get him out on the edge whether it's dashing or bootlegging, or they're going to run the ball. They run the ball inside and outside."

On offense all eyes will be on Blake Szymanski, Baylor's redshirt freshman quarterback, who will make his second career start Saturday. Szymanski performed admirably last week, running the Bears' complicated offense and accounting for three touchdowns, two on the ground and one in the air.

"He played really great," said receiver Trent Shelton, who caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Szymanski in the first quarter against Texas Tech. "He did not get the protection he needed, and we had some miscues on routes, but he did a great job. To me, Blake is the quarterback of the future here at Baylor."

Motivation should come easy for Szymanski and the Bears this weekend, who are now closer to the edge than they ever wanted to be.

"Our kids have done a good job, usually, of playing at high levels," Morriss said. "And when we don't see it, we get disappointed from that standpoint. But we'll get them charged back up again this week; we've got to.

"They've got to."