MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Inside a curtained-off section of the West Virginia weight room, Bryce Petty leaned against a portable podium and sought to explain how Baylor lost its groove. Those curtains didn’t block out the happy hollering from the home team nearby.
“Losing sucks,” Petty said.
And losing really sucks when a team takes a 73-point roundhouse to the mouth, as West Virginia infamously absorbed in Waco last year. The scar tissue from that game remained quite prominent this week leading up the Mountaineers taking their payback, 41-27, on Saturday.
“All I heard all week from some of you (media) guys and the TV people was that it’s going to be a track meet,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who must’ve preferred we ask about Brad Pitt breakdancing with Fallon. “I took it personal and our coaches took it personal.”
And Gibson personally took a message about Baylor’s intentions to his defense.
As senior cornerback Icky Banks recounted: “Coach Gibby told us ‘They don’t respect y’all. They know what they did last year and they’re going to try to come in here and put up 70 points.’”
While Gibson suspected his players were emotionally lathered, he wondered if they could function on the mechanical side. All those flubbed tackles against Texas Tech didn’t signal a readiness to contain Baylor’s squadron of homerun hitters. Gibson joked that he couldn’t eat or sleep during the 48 hours of pregame, but imagine the last 48 had he been forewarned that he’d have to beat Baylor without his top two cornerbacks.
Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut, two dudes deemed rather essential to the game plan, were out-of-action by the midpoint of the second quarter. That meant West Virginia’s defensive strategy—and Gibson’s nerve—hung in the balance. Remain aggressive in single coverage or switch to cushion-and-contain?
Gibson opted to stay full-throttle, tuning up blitzes he admitted were far more reckless than what he tried at Texas Tech. Baylor, on a good day, would’ve have targeted the vulnerable spots. This was far from a good day for Baylor.
“I lose my two best corners and I’m still calling zero and one (blitzes),” Gibson said. “But I was scared, I’m not going to lie to you.”
It was Petty who should have been scared. He was sacked three times by Shaq Riddick and a fourth by Brandon Golson. With WVU’s various pressures disrupting the pass-game timing, Petty showed all the accuracy of Trevor Knight.
On nine possessions after West Virginia’s corners were injured, the Bears produced one touchdown, seven punts and a failed fourth-down try. America’s best offense took a U-turn toward ordinary.
“They forced our hand a little bit,” said Baylor coach Art Briles. “They said you’re going to have to throw over the top to beat us and we weren’t connecting as well as we would have liked. They kind of rolled the dice and did well.”
The 315 yards was Baylor’s lowest output in 55 games stretching back to 2010. That’s the same season a freshman named Icky Banks redshirted in Morgantown and watched his older teammates dominate on the nation’s fourth-rated defense.
“I was here in 2010, so I’ve seen it,” Banks said. “I know what it looks like and I know what it takes. And we’ve got all those pieces to get where we’re trying to go.”
They showed that much Saturday, even with some crucial pieces missing.