Tigers hope to polish off a Texas 2-step in Waco

Saturday, November 5, 2011

— Baylor and Missouri fans are doing the same math.

Each team has four wins. It takes six to be eligible for a bowl game, so that means they need two more.

Both schools have a game against woeful Kansas looming. Fans chalk that up as a W.

That leaves them in search of one more. And the next most likely candidate for each comes tonight in Waco.

The Tigers (4-4, 2-3 Big 12) like their chances because they are coming off a second-half rally that pulled out an upset victory over Texas A&M in College Station. They look forward to polishing off a Texas two-step of sorts by returning to another stretch of the Brazos River and knocking off the Bears (4-3, 1-3).

Baylor could seem ready to play the patsy after giving up 55 and 59 points in its last two games, both lopsided losses, and after losing three of the last four.

But the Bears still have Robert Griffin III, the second-most accurate quarterback in the nation, and they are 4-0 at home this season. While it helps to have had Stephen F. Austin and Rice on the schedule, Baylor also has hosted TCU and Iowa State.

The Bears are generating a home-field advantage. Fans are rallying around the program because of their electrifying quarterback and the way coach Art Briles has this program on the upswing. Making a bowl game last year was a good start. Getting back would be even better. First, they’ve got to snap out of the funk induced by Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.

“We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Briles said. “We’re playing hard, we’re a good football team and we’re going to keep fighting. We’re not going to walk around with our head down, and we’re not going to act like something’s wrong because nothing’s wrong. We’re breathing, and we’ve got a chance to get better. That’s all you can do. If you’re a competitor and a fighter, then you don’t dwell on mishaps or things that don’t go your way. If you do, you have no chance. We’re going to give ourselves a chance, and that is going to be with our attitude and our effort.”

While Briles is trying to keep his guys looking up, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has to keep his club from strutting too much after turning an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit into an overtime victory over the Aggies. It was the second-biggest fourth-quarter comeback in school history.

The Tigers did it by allowing only one field goal in the second half. They pried loose three turnovers and ran for 284 yards against a Texas A&M defense that had been allowing less than 80.

Missouri quarterback James Franklin threw two TDs and ran for two more last week, rebounding from the worst game of his short career. The sophomore grew up two hours north of Waco, in Corinth, Texas, but the star of the team is tailback Henry Josey. Just a sophomore, he leads the conference in rushing and is fourth in the country at 127.1 yards per game. He’s cracked 100 yards in three straight games and at 1,017 he has a chance of breaking the school record of 1,578 yards set by Devin West in 1998.

“He can get five yards pretty fast,” Pinkel said. “Some people, it takes them awhile to get going, his burst right off the bat is why you see him get to the secondary so fast or you see him get six or seven yards when it looks like there is nothing in there. He’s also a north-south player. Very rarely do you see him go sideways. He’s a vertical runner. He’ll pick his moments to all of a sudden make a decision and he’ll get three of four more yards like that.”

This is a homecoming game for Baylor, which is significant because of the school’s history with the welcoming-home concept. Baylor was the southernmost of five universities that inaugurated the tradition in 1909. The others: Illinois, Northern Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

The Bears are 36-39-4 in such games, including 4-11 in the Big 12 era. Missouri won both times it was the homecoming foe.