The Times West Virginian

October 8, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Briles causing headaches for Big 12 coaches

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — This week, while Dana Holgorsen and his West Virginia Mountaineers try to clear their heads through an off-week following the onslaught Baylor delivered to them, Bill Snyder of Kansas State inherits the problem of dealing with Coach Art Briles’ offense, one that is averaging 70 points a game.

Asked on Monday’s Big 12 coaches conference call what the biggest challenge that offense presents, Snyder replied: “Keep them from scoring 100 points.”

Then asked if he had noted that they score quickly and often in the first quarter of games — against WVU scoring a touchdown in 40 seconds and scoring 28 first-quarter points — and if he had given any thought into how to put a stop to that, Snyder admitted that he had and had come up with a plan.

“We are going to take the first snap and run into the locker room and stay there until halftime,” he said.

Snyder was joking.

Or was he?

Certainly, had Briles kept his first team offense in for more than half the game they well might have pushed 100 points, having put up 56 by halftime, so taking the ball and running into the locker room  until halftime seems to be a better idea than anyone else has had this year.

Baylor’s offense is that good, punishing you on the ground with Lache Seastrunk leading the way and burying you with quick strikes through the air, be they long passes or quick screens.

Snyder, who was celebrating his 74th birthday Monday, has been around long enough to make a judgment on just how strong the Baylor offense is and when asked if he’d seen anything to match it in his time, he could think of none.

“I don’t know if there has been an offense like Baylor’s,” he said. “I’d be hard pressed to find one as productive. I’d have to look in the record book and I’m not going to do that because I don’t want to be scared.”

Most of the other Big 12 coaches felt similar feelings, although they really haven’t had a chance to study the offense because WVU’s game with the Bears was Baylor’s first Big 12 game of the year.

Holgorsen, asked if he had seen anything like Baylor’s offense, while complimentary to Briles and what he has accomplished to date, said he had.

“I saw it a few games out of us last year,” he said. “What they did to us is what we did to them (last year).”

Holgorsen was referring to last season’s 70-63 victory in the Big 12 opener in Morgantown, one in which WVU set a Big 12 record with 807 total yards that was broken by Baylor on Saturday.

But WVU had to play full out to the final seconds of that game while Baylor had its first team out after one half, having built a 42-7 lead halfway through the second quarter.

Baylor is different from WVU’s offense last year, even with three high NFL draft picks in Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey driving it.

The biggest difference is a solid running game that combines speed with power. In truth, it was the running game that devastated WVU on Saturday, and all season WVU’s greatest asset had been its ability to stop the run.

Baylor rushed for 486 yards and eight touchdowns ... and neither of those are typographical errors.

It was upfront where WVU was overpowered by an offensive line that was huge (310, 330, 295, 340 and 315 pounds) yet athletic.

“Those guys were great,” WVU nose tackle Shaq Rowell told reporters after the game in Waco. “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for anybody, including myself. I got blown off the ball a few times.”

That line, combined with their skill position players and a quarterback who is both a running and passing threat, all of it put together in a unique, uptempo system makes Baylor seem to border upon unbeatable.

Briles, of course, wants to hear no talk about such things.

In fact, when someone mentioned that the offense seemed perfect — and considering it did not punt against WVU and has not had a three and out this season, that doesn’t seem farfetched — Briles was adamant that was not so.

“I don’t ever want to use the word perfect. We’re just trying to do what we can do to give ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “We’re not trying to be faster than anybody else or score more points than anyone else.”

In fact, Briles sees a lot of room for improvement.

“It’s so early in the season for us, just four games, we’re still trying to figure out how to do things to be as effective as we can be,” he said. “I know that sounds silly with where we are, but we still think there is more out there for us to accomplish.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.