Baylor's domination began up front
WACO, Texas - West Virginia was beaten in record-smashing fashion Saturday night, there is no question about it.
A 73-42 loss to No. 17 Baylor was a nightmare in almost every regard, not the least of which is that for the second time in three games the Mountaineers were flat out embarrassed.
There is, however, at least one consideration that makes this defeat just slightly more palatable than a 37-0 loss to Maryland two weeks ago. Unlike the Terps - who would go on to lose 63-0 to Florida State - Baylor seems like the real deal.
"We got beat by a great team,'' nose tackle Shaq Rowell said. "I think Baylor's going to win the Big 12 this year.''
Well, that remains to be seen. The Bears, after all, have eight more league games, WVU being their conference opener. But Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) certainly has all the parts to make life similarly miserable for a lot of teams.
"There's probably a lot of things we had to do - coaches and players and all involved - that we didn't do. We didn't put our best foot forward,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "With that said, I would recommend giving Baylor some credit. I've never seen a team establish the line of scrimmage like they did.''
Indeed, for all of the Bears' high-flying, quick-striking acrobatics on offense and lockdown defense on the back end, where Baylor might be most impressive is up front on both sides of the ball. Add to that all those skill players and maybe the best team speed in the game, and it's a deadly mix.
"We've been pretty proud of the way we've been playing defense around here for the last five games, but you can't play defense when the line of scrimmage is five yards backwards every time they ran the ball," Holgorsen said.
Ditto the flip side. When West Virginia tried to run the ball, the line of scrimmage was moved five yards too, but in the other direction. As a result, Baylor ran 62 times, gained 468 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per rush. WVU ran 34 times and gained just 118 yards, averaging 3.5 yards.
"They're running the ball better,'' Holgorsen said of the difference between Baylor 2012 and 2013. "Last year Baylor hit some big plays on us [in a 70-63 WVU win]. This year they ran the ball right at us. They're better than they were last year on all three sides of the ball.''
It seems like a good bet that Clint Trickett will become the first three-game starter at quarterback when West Virginia resumes its schedule a week from Saturday against Texas Tech.
Trickett had an awful night passing - 9-for-28 for 161 yards - was replaced a couple of times in the first quarter and then for good in the fourth by Paul Millard, had even more communication problems with Holgorsen and was battered by the Baylor defense all night.
But he still seems to be WVU's best option.
"It's Clint,'' offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said when asked if he still had a starting quarterback. "Clint gave us a spark.''
That was last week, though, in a 30-21 win over Oklahoma State. West Virginia's offense had no spark against Baylor. But Millard did no better than Trickett. He was 8-for-13 passing for 115 yards and two touchdowns, but that was all after the game was in hand and Baylor was playing its reserves.
As for Trickett's health, he seems battered but more sore than anything else. He was the same after being tossed around by Oklahoma State. And with two weeks to recover Trickett will likely be fine.
Twice West Virginia players were flagged for targeting and ejected from the game under college football's new rules.
One of the ejections, of safety Darwin Cook, was overturned upon video review. The other, a rare offensive targeting call on lineman Adam Pankey, was upheld and Pankey will miss the first half of the Texas Tech game.
Pankey's indiscretion was a crack-back block late in the game. Not only is that illegal, his hit was helmet-to-helmet.
Cook was whistled for a helmet-to-helmet tackle in the first half, but replay decided there was no targeting involved.
The rule is that a targeting ejection in the first half results in disqualification from the rest of that game. A call in the second half means ejection from the remainder of the game and the first half of the next one.
Pankey had just returned from offseason knee surgery and had quickly worked himself into the line rotation.
Texas Tech seems likely to be the fourth unbeaten team West Virginia will face in a five-game stretch. The Red Raiders are 5-0 after trouncing Kansas 54-16, and play this week at home against 1-3 Iowa State.
Including the opener against William & Mary, five of WVU's six opponents have been unbeaten when they played the Mountaineers and four - Oklahoma, Maryland, Oklahoma State and Baylor - were nationally ranked either at the time or shortly thereafter. Texas Tech would be the fifth.