Baylor’s Matt Rhule Calls Grier “Triple Threat,” Says Bears Must Improve
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has experienced six different conferences and a season in the NFL. But there’s one facet that’s impressed him more in the Big 12 than any other stop.
“I’m impressed with the level of play and really significantly impressed with the quarterbacks,” said Rhule, in his first year at Baylor after consecutive 10-win seasons with Temple. “We have seen three quarterbacks in Jesse Ertz, Baker (Mayfield) and this past weekend Mason Rudolph was unbelievable. Seeing some of the best quarterbacks in the nation live and up close and seeing how efficient those guys are.”
The Bears, now 0-6 overall and losers of 12 consecutive games dating to last season, were shredded by Rudolph and No. 10 Oklahoma State 59-16 last weekend. OSU rolled up a school-record 747 yards, with Rudolph throwing for 459 yards and three touchdowns while running for another. It was the fifth time foes have scored at least 33 points against BU this season, and it showed just how far the program has fallen from when it won at least 10 games in four of the final five years under Art Briles.
But Rhule is in the early stages of a building process that has been honed during a playing career at Penn State and coaching stints at UCLA and Western Carolina before six seasons at Temple as an assistant. That was followed by a year as New York Giants offensive line coach under two-time Super Bowl winning coach Tom Coughlin before Rhule took the head coaching position at Temple, where he went from two wins to 10 in a matter of three seasons.
“I have the same confidence in what we are doing and how we are doing it,” Rhule said. “This is not a short-term fix kind of deal. We are trying to do things the right way. I don’t know that we’ve had to tweak it as much as fix things. Being through it before helps, but at the end of the day I do things like I did at Penn State and with Coach Coughlin. I didn’t come here saying ‘Let’s do this the easy way, the quick way.’ I wanted to do this the right way. The results aren’t showing on the field yet.”
Baylor is in the midst of its longest losing streak in 48 years, and that’s saying something for a program which was a perennial bottom-dweller in its first 14 seasons in the Big 12, when it won a total of 14 conference games. But the Bears are showing offensive progress in continuing to pound the run game while quarterback Zach Smith develops. The sophomore has just eight touchdowns against six interceptions, but Rhule says the coaching staff hasn’t given him enough help in easier routes and by staying ahead on downs and distances.
The other struggles have come at receiver, where Baylor has lost a slew of pass catches, and on defense, where a lack of back end ability to cover combined with a mediocre front has allowed the league’s high-powered offenses to feast. It expects be much the same this Saturday, when No. 23 West Virginia brings an offense averaging 44 points (fifth-best nationally) which also ranks in the top 10 in passing and total yardage.
“When you watch West Virginia’s offense, they are as good as any of the others,” Rhule said. “Unbelievable some of the things they are doing. Will (Grier) is one of those guys who is a triple threat. Can do it with his arm and feet and his head. Ability to make decisions. He’s a heady quarterback.”
Baylor, meanwhile, is averaging just 25 points per game with a defense ranking 121st in scoring and 117th or worse in rush, pass and total defense out of 129 FBS teams.
“We have to be honest with ourselves. In a lot of games, we were able to hang close,” Rhule said. “We weren’t able to hang close (against OSU). We have to get better, and we recognize that. I was proud of their effort in the second half, just their desire to fight. But at the end of the day, Oklahoma State was just better than us.
“Watching that game, they were out there throwing and catching it and executing, and we weren’t. And we’re really running the same plays they’re running. We’re all really running sort of the same thing. When we have thrown and caught the ball like we have, if we could mix that with this run game, we could be pretty special.”