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Daily Bears Report 12/27 - 2016 Cactus Bowl Edition

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John Morris and Jerry Hill preview tonight’s Cactus Bowl. Coach Grobe and Coach Harsin Press Conferences. Hype videos and links galore. Sic ‘em Bears!

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-West Virginia vs Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s Event

  • Football, vs. Boise State, The Cactus Bowl @ 9:15 p.m. CT, Live on ESPN

Football

Baylor Takes on Boise State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, Hype Video Courtesy of Big XII Digital Network
Baylor freshman QB Zach Smith on Boise State and his move to starter
  • Zach Smith’s career at Baylor didn’t start out as planned, but despite a number of issues beyond his control which greatly impacted the Bears’ football program, the former Grandview record-setting quarterback took everything in stride. From Cleburne Times Review dot com.

“It’s definitely been a roller coaster of emotions,” Smith said. “I think it’s been a pretty successful year, all things considered. I’ve learned a ton from where I was when I came out of high school. When I came to Baylor, I figured I’d be the third guy and redshirt probably, but things worked out different. I think everything happens for a reason.

“I’d say God giving me strength and wisdom along with support from my family helped me through it all. My family and friends back home all support me so much. They give me poise and relaxation to go through anything.”

Smith showed great poise stepping in for Russell in front of a raucous crowd in Norman. He followed that up with solid outings against Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia, where he threw for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns in each game.

Being the starting quarterback for Baylor was a lifelong dream for Smith, who verbally committed to the Bears after his sophomore year in Grandview.

“That first time out was awesome,” Smith said. “It was everything you ever dream about. It’s been my goal forever, to play DI football and do what I love. It was a dream come true.”

“They pass a lot – that’s the first thing I thought about,” Moxey said. “We have to be conditioned and ready to run. They have a lot of track guys and guys that are really fast, so we have to be ready for that.

“The tempo they play with, we have to get in shape.”

“They can go really fast,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “So fast that the referees that are spotting the ball are struggling to get out of the way before they snap the ball.”

“The chains aren’t set, people are hurrying and running around,” linebacker Ben Weaver said. “You can see on film, there’s a lot of teams they go against that aren’t ready and aren’t set. When you’re not ready to go and don’t know your assignment or your alignment, it causes big plays to happen.

“They are very good at what they do.”

Said defensive lineman Elliot Hoyte: “You do see quite often some teams aren’t ready to get down and the defensive line is standing around waiting for the call, so it’s been a big focus for us to make sure we’re set and ready to go no matter how fast they go.

“There’s not many teams that can run plays that fast. ... You have to play with technique and trust what we’re putting in the game plan.”

But Baylor doesn’t just run a lot of plays. They run a lot of plays for a lot of yards. The Bears are No. 5 in the country with an average of 523.3 yards of offense per game. Baylor led the nation in total yards in each of the previous three seasons.

The Bears are averaging 34.9 points per game in 2016, which is No. 35 in the country. But they are averaging 45.7 points per game since 2011, which is the most in the FBS.

“They have a lot of speed and they are very athletic,” Weaver said. “It will be a good challenge for us.”

Baylor has the most 50-point games in the FBS the past four seasons with 18, and also leads the nation with 57 games of at least 500 yards of offense since 2011. The Bears have reached 500 yards of offense in 57 of 77 games (71 percent) the past six seasons.

One could make a strong argument that Baylor has the nation’s best offense since 2011.

Broncos Mottos
  • Every year, the Boise State football team mottos change, though the goals remain the same. Often, they come out of what the team feels is necessary to get there. From Idaho Statesman.

This season, “All In” and “No Days Off” have been mantras for the Broncos, stemming from a subpar 9-4 season last year that included two home losses.

Names have not been mentioned, but there was a feeling that all players weren’t on the same page.

With a 10-2 mark and an opportunity to knock off a third Power Five conference team in the Cactus Bowl, the Broncos have been a more united team.

“For us as a team, we’re a selfless team,” Junior Tight End Jake Roh said. “We’re not worrying about who is getting the ball and who is not. We are about winning games.”

John Morris and Jerry Hill preview tonight’s Cactus Bowl.

Broncos Points Average
  • The Broncos have averaged over 35 points per game, with do-it-all playmaker Jeremy McNichols leading the way. From FanSided.

McNichols piled up 327 touches and totaled 2,113 yards from scrimmage, the second-highest mark in the nation, with 27 touchdowns.

Baylor had high hopes in mid-October with a 6-0 mark that included a win over a good Oklahoma State team. Since then, the Bears have lost six straight, becoming only the second team in FBS history to go 6-6 after starting a season at 6-0.

Given Baylor’s recent form, it’s not surprising to see it as a touchdown underdog on Tuesday.

Coach Jim Grobe Press Conference - Coach Bryan Harsin Press Conference

For Coach Jim Grobe, it will be his final game coaching, as he will head back into retirement. He said his focus is sending out his seniors with a win and building a positive foundation for the underclassmen who return for coach Rhule.

Since the Bears’ 24-21 loss at West Virginia on Dec. 3, Baylor hired former Temple head coach Matt Rhule to replace acting head coach Jim Grobe after the season. Rhule has been active in completing his staff and attempting to bring in the next class of Baylor football. On Dec. 20, senior running back Shock Linwood announced that he was skipping the bowl game to focus on preparing for the NFL’s April draft.

Grobe said all of that is now in the rearview mirror. The only focus now is on beating Boise State.

“It would be fun to go out with a win no question. The thing for me it’s going to be sad because I’ve kind of fallen in love with these players. We have so many great kids. I’m going to miss these guys, especially these underclassmen,” Grobe said. “We’ve got a lot of good kids that are going to be around for a while that are going to do some great things for Matt and his staff. So as much as I would like to win personally, I would much rather win for the players and see these guys go away with a win.”

Baylor Head Coach Matt Rhule said he hopes to have coaching staff completed by Jan. 2.
  • Matt Rhule still has plenty of pieces to fill in a coaching staff puzzle that includes the four staffers he’s already brought with him from Temple University and the three Texas high school head coaches he’s hired since taking over the reins on Dec. 7. Story by Baylor Bear Foundation’s Jerry Hill.

But, the Baylor head coach made it clear that his top priorities are recruiting new players and trying to retain the ones that will finish out the 2016 season with a matchup against Boise State (10-2) in Tuesday’s Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz.

“As important as recruiting has been, my No. 1 priority has been the current players on the Baylor team,” said Rhule, who posted back-to-back 10-win seasons at Temple before being named the Bears’ head coach. “Not trying to convince them to stay, just getting to know them and making sure they understand exactly what we’re doing. I want them to be excited to be here and I want them excited about the future.”

“The unique thing is that kids from outside the state of Texas are clamoring to come to Baylor,” said Rhule, who reached out to make scholarship offers within hours of being hired. “There’s kids from California, kids from Arkansas, there’s kids from Florida. That’s the thing I want Baylor Nation to know is that coming and playing football at Baylor and getting an education at Baylor is so unbelievably attractive to kids across the country.

“Now, we’re going to focus our recruiting efforts here in Texas. We’re not coming here to go out and recruit kids all across the country. I just want to make sure everybody understands just how excited kids all across the country are when they see Baylor. But, there are a lot of great football players here in Texas that we’re going to get a chance to recruit.”

“In the old days, when I was playing, you got recruited off your senior year,” he said. “A lot of kids develop late. So, we’re having a tremendous opportunity to go out there right now and watch kids in their senior year and evaluate them. We’re going to offer kids who have 100 offers, and we’re going to offer kids that have no other offers, but they have the talent and also the character to come be a Baylor Bear.”

Ryan Reid

Ryan Reid probably isn’t on Mel Kiper’s “Big Board.” He hasn’t been invited to any of the postseason all-star games, and he might not even get drafted. Story by Jerry Hill from Baylor Bears dot com.

But, it doesn’t keep him from dreaming.

“It’s still a dream, still a goal,” said the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Reid, a fifth-year senior cornerback who ranks third on Baylor’s team with 34 career starts. “Like I told my mom the other day, I don’t even care if I get drafted or not. I just want the opportunity to show somebody that I can play football at the next level, show somebody the type of player I am. I don’t even care where I play. Just me out there, and I’ll do my best to make your roster.”

That’s the way he was at Sherman High School. Coach Gary Joe Kinne, a former Baylor linebacker (1986-89), never found anything that Reid couldn’t do in his two years at the school.

Not only did he play both cornerback and safety on defense, he was a receiver and wildcat quarterback on offense, returned kicks and even kicked extra points.

CACTUS BOWL NOTES

The Bears went through their third bowl-site practice on Christmas Day, working out at Arizona State’s indoor facility in Tempe. Sophomore running back Terence Williams donned the Superman costume with red cape that he wore on Thursday’s flight to Phoenix. . . . With fifth-year senior Shock Linwood opting to skip the bowl game to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft, redshirt freshman Tony Nicholson will back up Williams and redshirt freshman JaMycal Hasty at running back. “With (Williams) banged up and JaMyc banged up for a little while, we moved Tony I’m going to say with maybe three weeks to go to running back and we’ve kept him there,” interim head coach Jim Grobe said. “So, that gives us a little bit of depth.” . . . Redshirt freshman receiver Blake Lynch has also taken some snaps at running back, rushing for 80 yards on 12 carries, but he will miss Tuesday’s game with a broken finger on his right hand. “We had hoped to have Blake Lynch back. In fact, (trainer) Mike Sims thought that would be the case. But, the finger hasn’t healed well enough. And being a receiver, you better be able to go catch the football. I think if we were playing him at about any other position, he’d be OK, because we would just cast him up and let him play,”

Cactus Bowl Story Lines

Baylor is appearing in its 7th-straight bowl game for the first time in school history. BU is 11-11 in 22 previous bowl trips, including 3-3 in the last 6. BU looks to win back-to-back bowl games for the 4th-time in program history and first since 2011-12. Baylor is 1 of only 10 FBS programs to win at least 3 games in 5 bowl appearances since 2011. Baylor opened the season 6-0 for the fourth-straight season, the only FBS team to do so. Baylor has won 56 games over the past 5-plus years (best in Big 12), as well as 2 Big 12 titles and 3 bowl games.

WacoTrib’s BearsExtra 2016 Cactus Bowl Stories

More Stories From Idaho Statesman

Big XII Basketball

  • After losing arguably the best senior class in Big 12 history, it made sense that things would most likely drop off around the conference. From Red Raiders dot com.

But, as Kansas has continually reloaded instead of rebuilding for more than a decade, the rest of the Big 12 followed the lead of the most dominant reigning conference champion in the country.

“The thing that’s happened is the depth of this league is maybe even better,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said on the Big 12 teleconference. “Scott (Drew) said it at media day that Kansas is the clear favorite but after that, No. 2 through No. 10 could be anybody.”

As Kansas’ dominance is expected, Baylor’s undefeated start has taken people by surprise, especially after losing a point guard and two big men that were vital to the Bears’ system.

But then came a win over No. 4 Oregon at home. And then wins over VCU and Michigan State before coming back from a 20-point deficit to top Louisville in the Bahamas. And then add a win over Xavier.

“The league is off to a great start,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Obviously Baylor is probably a team that’s got most people’s attention in terms of doing a really, really great job. … There are a lot of teams getting good results. The league is going to be very good again.”

Player of the Year: Johnathan Motley (Baylor). This one is a toss-up between Motley and Mason. However, Motley earned the nod as arguably the best big in a league going smaller and smaller. There are plenty of guards to match-up with and try to contain Mason. It’ll be interesting to see how Big 12 teams plan on defending Motley.

Baylor History?

  • SBNation’s One Bronco Nation Under God has put together a 10 point parody of Baylor Nation’s history and titled it Know Your Enemy: Baylor Edition. While historically kinda accurate, it’s also petty funny. Here’s point No. 10:

10) Waco, Texas, the home of Baylor University, was originally inhabited by the Wichita Native American tribe known as the Huaco (read: "Waco") that lived along the Brazos river...and had for what Billy Joel would describe as for the longest time.

Things changed for the Waco tribe in 1824, when the area was explored by Thomas M. Duke and they began to draw the interest of the white man—because of his love of booze. After Duke scoped out the area, he reported back to "father of Texas" Stephen F. Austin that the Waco village sat next to a spring that ran so cold that it would be perfect for making "Ice Toddy". Austin was like, "hell yeah" and he made a treaty with the Waco tribe the following year...but the tribe eventually moved to the Fort Worth area because Austin and his cronies wouldn't quit dumping brandy in their creek. Despite the activity, Waco didn't really become official until 1849, when the first home was built at the settlement by a guy named Shapley Ross. The town of Waco was off and running...barely. The early inhabitants almost named it "Lamartine".

More on Matt Rhule

What he and his wife, Julie, ordered that Monday night he cannot recall. He'll remember only the two phones in his hands that didn't stop ringing.

Two schools needed an answer. Rhule had interviewed with Baylor in Philadelphia that morning. He says he met with "some other folks" -- widely reported to be Oregon -- later that day in New York. It was time to decide.

Ultimately, he went with his gut, and he trusted first-year Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades.

Rhoades felt Rhule was the man he needed to hire in the first 30 minutes of their interview. They shared an instant connection. Rhule liked the way Rhoades operates. They had traded texts and chatted at conference meetings in the past, but Rhoades really won Rhule over a year ago, when Rhoades, then the AD at Missouri, visited the Rhules' home to interview Matt for that job.

"I think from a professional perspective, we have the same mentality. Our thought processes are the same," Rhule said. "He'd ask cool questions -- everything from what sets are you going to run to recruiting to, 'Do you know the names of the custodians in your building?' Those are the things that are important to me. When he asks me that, I understand, 'Hey, this guy gets it.'"

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