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2019 West Virginia Football Preview: Gettin’ To Know The Baylor Bears

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Matt Rhule has changed the tide in Baylor and now sets his sights on a Big 12 Title

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl - Baylor v Vanderbilt Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

During West Virginia’s early years in the Big 12, Baylor was a team slowly on the rise. The Mountaineers hadn’t known the Baylor who was the doormat of the league. The first couple of years, Baylor was a team with a wide-open, dangerous offense but not a dangerous team. Then 2014-2015, the Bears put it together and looked to be the class of the league. Following a sexual assault scandal that involved the head coach knowingly covering up admissions of guilt, the Bears plummeted. Matt Rhule has taken a team that looked to be dead in the water to back to contention.

GET TO KNOW THE ENEMY

Where are they from?: Waco, TX

#BRAND Slogan: #SicEm

Recommended Blog: Our Daily Bears

Famous Alumni: Angela Kinsey (The Office), Jeff Dunham, Trey Wingo

Conference: Big 12

THE HEAD COACH

Liberty v Baylor Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Rhule was a linebacker at Penn State in the late ‘90s before beginning his coaching career. Rhule started as a linebackers coach at Albright before joining Buffalo, UCLA, and Western Carolina. Rhule worked his way from linebacker/special teams coach to assistant head coach. In 2006, Rhule joined Temple’s coaching group under head coach Al Golden. Rhule coached at Temple from 2006-2012 before spending a year with the New York Giants. He would become the head coach. During his three seasons with the Temple Owls, Rhule went 28-23, which is the best mark since Wayne Hardin, who coached from 1970 - 1982. He enters his third season at Baylor, following a 1-11 season then a 7-6 season last year.

SCOUTIN’ THE BEARS

2018 Synopsis

In 2017, head coach Matt Rhule needed to answer one fundamental question: who will be my future quarterback. He did that against the West Virginia Mountaineers when Charlie Brewer nearly led a come-from-behind win that was thwarted in the waning seconds of a two-point attempt.

In 2018, the Bears headed into the season with their quarterback position settled and looked to improve on a disastrous 2017 season. The Bears started the year 2-0, following their model from previous years of not scheduling difficult teams. They then lost to Duke Blue Devils. The Bears would lose to every ranked team they played (Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Iowa State, all of which were on the road) along with aforementioned Duke and their rival TCU. The Bears beat the Texas Tech Red Raiders in their final game to become bowl eligible, where they beat Vanderbilt in the Texas Bowl.

Who did they lose?

Baylor v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Jalen Hurd, the running back from Tennessee who transitioned to wide receiver. Hurd was the leading receiver for the Bears last season when he caught 69 passes for 946 yards and 4 touchdowns. Hurd didn’t completely give up his running back roots as he carried the ball 48 times for 209 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hurd was integral to the Bears last year but he’s one of the few pieces that don’t return for 2019.

Who do they return?

Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl - Baylor v Vanderbilt Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

If Brock Purdy is a rich man’s Sam Ehlinger, Charlie Brewer is Sam Ehlinger 2.0. He put up similar passing and rushing totals as Ehlinger did and he did it on a team that is recovering from a scandal that affected scholarships. Brewer, as many dual-threat quarterbacks are apt to do, is injury-prone and Rhule has to find a way to limit the hits he takes. Still, Brewer returns for his junior season after throwing for over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns to go along with his 300 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns.

Brewer will be joined by the team’s leading rusher in 2018, John Lovett, who had 573 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Brewer will also have Denzel Mims, the team’s 2nd leading receiver and a guy who caught 61 passes for 1,000 yards in 2017. Mims is certainly capable of being a #1 guy.

Defensively, the Bears will be tough as they return nearly everyone. Leading tackler Clay Johnston will anchor the defense after recording 99 tackles last year. He will have Raleigh Texada in the secondary, who led the team in interceptions last year.

Why should West Virginia be worried?

Waco has been a house of horrors for West Virginia and they will be playing the Bears on Halloween, as they finish up their murderous October schedule. The last time the Mountaineers had a #Deathtober and they traveled to Waco, Baylor was ranked #2 and blasted the Mountaineers 62-38. If the Bears can get past Iowa State in their Big 12 opener, the Bears should be 6-1 or 7-0 heading into this game.

Why should West Virginia not be worried?

Sometimes a young team with expectations can quickly unravel when the going gets tough. If the Cyclones catch the Bears in the opener and then the Bears drop games to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, the Halloween game doesn’t look as intimidating. The game will feature a bye for both teams so each coach will have time to regroup.