WACO, Texas (AP) — Dave Aranda's off-and-on wait for his debut as Baylor coach may finally be over.
To say nothing of what his players have been through with the COVID-19-related cancellations of two non-conference games, forcing the Big 12 opener against Kansas on Saturday to be the first game of any kind with their first-time head coach.
“It was somber,” Aranda said of the meeting last week when he told players their hastily arranged game against Houston wasn't going to happen. “We had talked about, though, how last week’s cancellation or postponement does not affect the Big 12 championship, does not affect our prospects for this season and what’s ahead of us.”
The Jayhawks (0-1) did get their only non-league game in, but ended up being one of three Big 12 teams to lose to Sun Belt Conference opponents on the same weekend. Coastal Carolina won 38-23 two weeks ago, beating Kansas for the second consecutive year.
“We did not start fast,” coach Les Miles said. “We need to come out of the blocks in a position to play hard and play our best. We turned the ball over early and we can’t execute like that and expect to win.”
Charlie Brewer is set for his 31st start and has a chance to join JJ Joe (1990-93) as the only Baylor quarterbacks to lead the team in passing four straight years.
Kansas' Miles Kendrick threw a touchdown pass in relief of Thomas MacVittie, who appeared to leave with a shoulder injury against Coastal Carolina, leaving the Jayhawks with a question of who will be under center.
Baylor is unranked despite coming off an 11-win season under Matt Rhule, who is now coach of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. The Bears lost to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
“We’re trailblazing a little bit in not playing a game,” said Aranda, the defensive coordinator for LSU's 15-0 national championship team last season. “Myself included, we’re just really looking forward to taking the field.”
Miles hired Aranda at LSU in 2016, and that's where Aranda was when he got the offer to take over at Baylor.
“He knew exactly how to attack an offense, very confident in the things that he did,” Miles said. “The time that we spent together was very fruitful.”
NOT SO LONG AGO?
Miles had a little trouble remembering his first game as a head coach at Oklahoma State in 2001. The opponent went from Louisiana Tech to Mississippi State to, finally, the right answer — Southern Miss. The Cowboys lost 19-7 to start a 4-7 season. To his credit, Louisiana Tech was the second game, a 30-23 victory.
Aranda said early in the week he was confident the Kansas game would happen. Issues for Louisiana Tech scrubbed the first game, then Baylor had a shortage at an unspecified position group before the Houston game. Kansas had nearly 40 players that didn't dress for undisclosed reasons against Coastal Carolina, but Miles said the “numbers are coming back.”
The Jayhawks have a 49-game losing streak in Big 12 road games. Their last such win was Oct. 4, 2008, at Iowa State. Kansas also has lost 10 consecutive games to Baylor. The Bears are 9-0 at home against the Jayhawks.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Sept. 26 is the latest opener for the Bears since a 35-14 loss at Washington on the same date in 1964. Baylor played 10 games that year and is currently scheduled for nine this season.