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Baylor Beats Oklahoma. Culture Matters.

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NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Pound the Rock

College football and coaching is full of “coach-isms,” stuff like “trust the process” or “1% better everyday” that might make you roll your eyes the first time but, for players who adopt it, really does becoming meaningful. For Baylor in 2021, their aphorism of choice is “Pound the Rock.”

“Pound the Rock” is great for multiple reasons, in part because Baylor is a run-centric offense and people already refer to running the ball as pounding the rock or toting the rock. But for Baylor, it means more than that. Aranda uses it as a metaphor for the slow but methodical and effective method of pounding on a big rock to split it. At first, you don’t see any results, but you have to trust that your effort will be worthwhile and eventually that rock will break. Your task will be accomplished, and your trust will be rewarded.

“Pound the Rock” demonstrated itself against OU yesterday. Baylor did not come out and just whip OU from the outset. It was a slow burn of a game, both teams trading blows in fits and spurts but both teams struggled to put together full drives. But Baylor had a gameplan, trusted in their offense, and continued to believe and execute play after play.

All of that belief was rewarded as the game wore on. As Baylor’s defense continued to stifle the OU offense, Baylor’s offense continued to lean into their gameplan. Holes that weren’t there early in the game started to show themselves as OU’s defense wore down. Baylor started running some plays that they held in their back pocket for later in the game when they knew the moment was big. OU was loading the box late in the game, but it didn’t matter, Baylor was gonna run it down their throats.

RVO

Another of Baylor’s themes this year is “RVO,” the self-titled acronym for Baylor’s offense under Jeff Grimes, what they call “Reliably Violent Offense.” The coaching staff and players started bandying out “RVO” at any available opportunity this Spring—it was clear that this was THE new identity of the team.

It’s become so ingrained in the offense that even wide receivers, who ostensibly are more concerned with catching the ball and beating defensive backs deep than having a violent offense, have been all on “RVO.” In some games this year, like the OU game yesterday, the offense hasn’t needed to attack downfield much because they’ve been successful in the run game. The WRs have remained fully bought in—their blocking on the perimeter for those QB runs was critical to Baylor’s offensive success in the second half.

Like “Pound the Rock,” “RVO” showed that it goes beyond just a saying and was integral to Baylor winning the game. Towards the end of the game, when Baylor was driving down OU’s throat despite OU loading the box to stop the run, the players on the sideline began chanting “RVO! RVO! RVO!” I cannot imagine a better demonstration of the cultural buy-in and togetherness of a team than that. The coaches had to be proud.

Culture Is Everything

Football is a very unique game in how it is won as an organization. No one player wins a game. The coach doesn’t win. The athletic director doesn’t win. It’s the team as a whole, the organization that supports it, and—even to a small respect—the fans from the stands. Take a look around college football on any given week and you’ll see that having superior talent, or smarter coaches, or more money for your facilities doesn’t guarantee you beat inferior teams. You have to build a resilient and cohesive culture to enact your goals.

The difference in culture couldn’t have been more apparent towards the end of the game. While OU was floundering offensively, they benched Caleb Williams at QB and brought back in Spencer Rattler, only to reinsert Williams again a few drives later. OU is a rhythm-based offense, and when they couldn’t find their rhythm they couldn’t get anything going. Baylor had struggled in many respects offensively all day, but they doubled-down on their identity and imposed their will on Oklahoma.

As a final cherry on top, the difference could not have been more apparent in watching the demeanor of the head coaches. While Riley went ballistic at officials for minutes on end, Aranda remained his calm, collected, stoic self while his team remained composed and enacted their vision.

Baylor has their culture in place—they’ve translated the coach-isms into that culture. Their players have bought in. The vision is in place, and it seems that everything within the organization is moving in lockstep in furtherance of that vision.

Does this guarantee Baylor will win out, or not have any substandard performances? Absolutely not. But in college football you have to lay the foundation. Aranda jackhammered his initial laying after 2020, but it appears that the 2021 edition can be set in stone. Success is earned day in and day out, but Baylor has the culture, identity, and organizational buy-in needed to continue to be successful.