|Knocks Ya Down
2:25 P.M. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 30, 2009
The latest edition of Cuttin' In Line was moments away from being handed to its many editors on Monday when news broke. It was time to rewrite the entire prose.
Baylor fans know exactly what I'm talking about.
An incredible, record-breaking 68 point performance against Northwestern State Saturday night essentially evaporated when BU learned quarterback Robert Griffin III would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
Now we've been told that Griffin might forego the surgery and duke out the rest of the season, putting off rehab until early 2010.
Raise your hand if you thought the soap opera that is college football season would reach its highest point between the Northwestern State and Kent State game?
Admittedly, my stomach is in knots in thinking that the majority of RG3's sophomore season will likely be spent in street clothes and on the sideline. In just one season, Griffin had done so much for a program and a fanbase desperate to find hope and optimism amidst a painful bowl drought. Now, with nine games still remaining, it might be time to reinvent ourselves and worse yet, readjust our expectations as a team.
Or maybe not.
In true CIL fashion, there is a silver lining to this terribly ominous cloud. We still have two more weeks of practice before we begin Big 12 play. Baylor showed on Saturday what a week of "kick-in-the-pants" practice can do for a team coming off a disheartening loss the week before. Sure, Northwestern State won't be changing the landscape of FBS football anytime soon, but a 10 touchdown outing cannot be overlooked.
No Baylor team had been in the endzone that frequently since WW2.
Griffin might come back this year, he might get a medical redshirt and have three years of eligibility left, maybe the fact that he somehow played on a torn ACL will be an omen to his ability to recover. The team (and its fans) can't afford to get wrapped in this day-to-day minutia.
If senior Blake Szymanski, a perfectly capable and credentialed quarterback (27 career touchdowns), is healthy enough he may be under center Saturday night in Waco. Or it may fall to talented freshman Nick Florence. Either one is capable of guiding the Bears to a much-needed "W" against Kent State. From there, we'll see what happens.
Remember, my friends, football (like just about everything else) is week-to-week. Hopefully at this time next week the only thing we'll have to worry about is preparing for Oklahoma and the challenges the Sooners offer the Bears.
After all, Griffin, a selfless team leader, would prefer it that way.
Just One Game
4:55 P.M. SUNDAY, SEPT. 20, 2009
Is This Just One Game?
That will be the question staring us in the face as Baylor fans. The Bears started the home portion of their 2009 season with a loss that leaves us as confused and concerned as ever in the Art Briles era.
UConn, albeit a good Big East team, soundly thumped BU on their home turf yesterday essentially erasing the feel good vibe generated from a season-opening win two weeks ago.
For the first time during Briles' tenure, the Bears have taken a step back as a program and it stings.
But, it is just one game.
As the saying goes, the Bears will be judged not by what they do in September, but rather in late November. While a 4-0 start in non conference games was the much-talked-about goal of this team, any BU backer would be kidding if they said that the four week warm-up to Big 12 play was the season's most critical stage.
What is more alarming and concerning is how BU got dominated in the trenches Saturday. Giving up 235 yards on the ground to a team not necessarily known for their backfield excellence is a wake up call. Handing the ball off to Jay Finley only eight times (despite Finley rumbling to 121 yards) does not seem right. Seeing a UConn defense essentially make Robert Griffin a non-factor is humbling.
Added to that, the Bears coughed up two fumbles that were quickly converted to 14 points by the Huskies and our doom was sealed. Saturday was simply not our day. Heck, the game's biggest collision arguably took place between Bear teammates.
What lies ahead for BU is a two-week stretch that offers (at least on paper) a chance for some "remediation" as the Bears host Northwestern State and Kent State next. Some momentum, confidence and order will be restored by the time the Bears travel to OU.
You'll have to trust me on that.
This will be a critical week for the team's development. Coach Briles will need to have his team better prepared and better disciplined when they run out of the tunnel next week. With the luxury of our off date already over, we'll have to improve each and every week during practice and on Saturday or things might not look so rosy in November.
Judging by the progress made by this team so far in Briles' tenure, there's no reason to believe this isn't possible...much less likely.
If that's the case, Saturday's game will prove to be nothing more than an isolated incident.
You'll have to trust me.
BU, I Miss Thee
2:15 P.M. MONDAY, SEPT. 15, 2009
The Bears return to practice this week in preparation for their home opener Saturday. Baylor, the only Big 12 team yet to play a game in front of its faithful this season, has to be more than a little anxious to get back to work.
Just as BU was getting warmed up, they were told to chill out for a week. Now, it's time to put the pedal to the metal as Baylor will play each Saturday for the next 11 weeks.
So before we really size up BU's next opponent, CIL would like to first take a moment to size-up having an off date in the second weekend. While it may not be as effective as scheduling four directional schools to start the season, the early week off does have its advantages.
The Wake win needs to be flushed. Yes, it was big. It was also nine days ago. The team should be confident, but also grounded as it prepares to face another opponent that handed them a loss last season. Having a week off to let that win "air out" should work.
Anticipation is fun. Last year BU started the year at home in a nationally televised Thursday night game. While it was great for exposure, the air quickly went of the balloon when Wake beat Baylor by four touchdowns. This year's first home game occurs in week three. That should warrant an absolutely electric crowd at Floyd Casey whose fanbase has been salivating to see their team in person since last year's near defeat of Texas Tech.
We're still undefeated: A lame argument? Of course. But don't tell that to the pollsters who kicked us up a few spots in the AP poll this week. The polls are funny like that. If we get an even more round number in our win column these next few weeks, we'll only continue to climb (regardless of the opponent).
The off date is better served in October. We all know this. After playing the likes of Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska, we would really love to have a week off to heal. The ideal off date in my opinion is right before conference play starts so the coaches have an extra week to remind players that their season-defining games have yet to even start. I trust Briles knows what he's doing.
We're a game behind. UConn comes to Waco this week with two games under its belt, compared to only one for us. We hear coaches say all the time that the most improvement from their team comes between weeks one and two. Baylor will hope that this is the case as UConn came within a fourth quarter safety of beating North Carolina last weekend.
Regardless of the week off, I'm as excited as ever to see (OK, to "hear") us return to action this weekend. With Parents Weekend coinciding with our home opener for the first time ... possibly ever, the Bears should come out of the tunnel and be greeted by a huge crowd Saturday.
If you're reading this, you should be there too.
One Giant Leap
7:30 P.M. SUNDAY, SEPT. 6, 2009
(Cuttin' In Line's newly developed gimmick of incorporating a soundtrack to accompany its reading debuts this week with the first of likely many socially-unacceptable songs to play on your computer)
That's the win we've been waiting for.
Yep, it's one win. Eleven games remain and there's likely an entire series of ups and downs that this Baylor team will face along the way. However, let it be known, Saturday's win is absolutely enormous.
It's fitting we get to savor it for two full weeks before the Bears return to action.
Behind Robert Griffin, Jay Finley, Joe Pawalek and a bag full of tricks unleashed by Art Briles, the Bears did the nearly unthinkable Saturday by living up to unprecedented Summer-long hype and hope. Baylor took the field yesterday and in mere minutes gave our faithful something we have not grown accustomed to: a fast start.
If there was a more encouraging way to script the beginning of the 2009 season, I cannot think of it. If there was a more effective way to utilize this team's speed, I cannot imagine it. If there was a bigger road win in the 10 years I've been following this program, I can not remember it.
With the 24-21 win over Wake Forest, Baylor is officially a team to keep an eye on now. Beyond a dazzling sophomore quarterback and a group of lightning-quick players at talent positions, this squad is legitimately proving to be a well-coached and dangerous team.
Just ask Wake head coach Jim Grobe who said it himself.
Those who know this team best recognized that while a massive improvement in wins and losses wasn't achieved last season, an understated confidence was.
Simply put, the Bears got better as the season went on in 2008. The team that took the field in the season finale in Lubbock last November looked nothing like the one that opened the season against this same Wake team last August.
Saturday was a 60-minute reminder that this team is not only headed in the right direction, but also passing some good programs along the way.
Lest we forget, Wake Forest is only three years removed from an ACC championship and has gone bowling each of the past three years.
Baylor's got a lot left to prove and a load of national notoriety to earn before they accomplish any of their goals this season, but for the first time in recent memory, a bowl berth now seems like much more than merely a faint wish.
Saturday, BU won convincingly on the road after losing to the same team a year prior by four touchdowns. Next up, a UConn team that also knocked off the Bears last fall.
If yesterday was any indication of this team moving in the right direction, the Huskies are in for a long day in BU's home opener.
And Baylor fans everywhere are in for one of the most intriguing seasons in a long, long time.
2 P.M. FRIDAY, SEPT. 4, 2009
Today is national Wear Your Colors to School/Work day. It's the first Friday of September, for all intent and purposes the first Friday of Fall and it's the 11th hour as we all anxiously await Kickoff 2009.
It is a GREAT time of year.
As a new school year begins, the weather begins to chill, the days grow shorter and our sporting interests shift from baseball to football (well, except in St. Louis), each September we greet the new season with a sense of excitement and hope.
Right now this team has no losses, no season-ending injuries, nor marred expectations. Just hope.
Optimism is aplenty for this Bears team who, as I write, are boarding a flight to Winston-Salem for an absolutely pivotal season opener.
For this Baylor team, program and desperately-seeking salvation fanbase, hope is all we have.
For all of us in cubicles, on job sites and everywhere else where staring at the clock and awaiting 5:00 is the only thing your mind can handle right now, I am with you.
I can not wait for tonight to come and pass, I can not wait for College Gameday tomorrow morning and I can not wait to see us take the field and keep the positive vibe from last season going.
Tonight, it's Christmas Eve for football fans everywhere.
I'm as anxious as anyone to see what we'll find under the tree tomorrow in North Carolina.