Friday, 28 December 2012 13:05

Baylor's defense comes up big in Holiday Bowl win over UCLA

Written by Jay Beck
Baylor's offense had another strong showing Thursday night, but it was their defense that  was the talk of the night. Baylor's offense had another strong showing Thursday night, but it was their defense that was the talk of the night. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor's defense played its best game of the season when they held then number one ranked Kansas State to 362 yards and 24 points in the Bears 52-24 upset of the Wildcats.

Thursday night's performance by the Bears' defense against UCLA might not top beating the number one team in the country, but it wasn't far behind.

Baylor took advantage of the Bruins losing two starters to injuries on the offensive line early and sacked quarterback Brett Hundley six times while holding Johnathan Franklin to 34 yards rushing.  In total, they held a very good UCLA offense to 362 yards on the night, 110 yards under their season average setting the stage for another strong performance from their offense.

"They played well up front. When we're at our best is when we can run the football. We couldn't find any room to run the football tonight. Certainly not having two of our starters was a factor, but also a factor was the way they played. They played physical, they played aggressive, they played well. I would never take anything away from them, they played outstanding up front," UCLA head coach Jim Mora said during his post game press conference.

That's an understatement if there ever was one.

Franklin came in with 1,700 yards rushing on the year. He had rushed for over 200 yards in two games and ran for 150 yards in six different games this season. Baylor's front seven held the senior to his fewest yardage total of the season in both total yards (34) and average per carry (2.4).

UCLA's in ability to run the ball combined with depth issues on the offensive line opened the flood gates for a defense that came into the game with just 13 sacks on the season, the second fewest in the Big 12.  Baylor finished the game with nearly half that amount in just four quarters against the Bruins.

Just imagine if Baylor's defense had played this well the entire season. They certainly would have won a few more football games in what turned out to be another successful season for Art Briles in Waco.

If Baylor's defensive performance Thursday night becomes more of the norm rather than the exception going forward, the Big 12 will have yet another team capable of competing for conference titles in the years to come.

Even so, Briles knows there is still plenty of work ahead especially when he's forced to face the offenses in the Big 12 on a weekly basis. "You know, I really don't," Briles responded when asked if he feels the last four games were a turning point for his defense. "They made some big, big, plays but you're never where you want to be. If you are, you're in the wrong business so we will keep trying to find ways to get better."

You can argue all day whether or not it's a turning point, but whatever the case, it has to give him and his team a shot of confidence heading into the offseason.

All Baylor did on offense this season was replace college football's best player and the team hardly missed a beat in terms of production.

Combine that offense with a defense that is able to keep opposing offenses in check, and what you have is a team in the Big 12 nobody will be excited about playing in 2013 and beyond.

Baylor will lose four seniors off this year's defense including both defensive tackles, but they will return seven starters including their entire linebacking corp so there will be plenty to build on next season.

Thursday night's performance was certainly another step in th right direction for a program that was already trending up in a big way over the past three seasons.  And now they just might have a resemblence of a real defense to add to one of the country's best offenses.

Last modified on Friday, 28 December 2012 13:56
Jay Beck

Jay Beck

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