Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 12, 2018 at 9:19 am.

Undefeated Bears head into first big test

Baylor’s nonconference schedule couldn’t be designed better if the program’s intention was to gradually ramp up the level of competition.

The Bears opened versus FCS Abilene Christian and notched a 55-27 victory. Then, on Saturday, Baylor eclipsed its win total from 2017 by defeating Group of 5 opponent Texas-San Antonio, 37-20, on the road.

Now, the Bears are getting ready to play a Power 5 foe in the Duke Blue Devils, who are also 2-0 with victories over Army and Northwestern.

Last week, the bump up in competition brought out the best in Baylor sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer. Graduate transfer Jalan McClendon impressed fans with a big game versus ACU. But against UTSA, Brewer posted 328 passing yards and three TDs to lead the Bears to a win.

“I think you could see a little different look in Charlie’s eyes this week,” Baylor coach Matt Rhule said.

“As I’ve said, sometimes when you’re going through things in life and what might feel like adversity ends up being the greatest thing that ever happened to you when you look back, and I think that’s true for both guys. Where early on, you press and you’re pushing, ‘Just name me the starter so I can relax.’ I think this week you saw Charlie have a different look in his eye all week.”

McClendon attempted just six passes, completing three for 39 yards. But Baylor went with the hot hand of Brewer, whose day might have been even better if it hadn’t been for lapses by the wide receivers.

“We probably could have thrown for another 150 yards had we not had all the drops.” Rhule said. “We also had some receivers make some amazing catches.”

Duke will bring in the best defense Baylor has played so far, although the Blue Devils lost cornerback Mark Gilbert, considered to be a potential Top 100 draft pick, last week to a hip injury. It will be interesting to see which Baylor quarterback takes charge in this one.

Whether it’s Brewer or McClendon leading the way, a victory over the Blue Devils would give Baylor a clean 3-0 start in nonconference play, which would be a huge momentum boost for the Rhule era at the school.

And it would show that the Bears are getting better as the pressure gets turned up.

“I think having a Power 5 non-conference home game is awesome,” Rhule said.

“It’s good for our program. We’ve played two good football teams that gave us a good game, put us in unique situations and gave us a lot of things to prepare for, have exposed our issues and we’re working hard to fix those issues.”