WACO, Texas (AP)Dave Aranda will make his delayed debut as Baylor’s coach in a quickly arranged and unexpected reunion of old Southwest Conference rivals.
Baylor and Houston open their pandemic-altered seasons Saturday with their first meeting since the SWC’s final season in 1995. It comes only a week after the game was scheduled between the schools fewer than 200 miles apart that suddenly needed to replace other opponents.
”We’re fortunate to have a game, and I’m fortunate to be around great people that do whatever they can to make things work,” said Aranda, the defensive coordinator last season for LSU’s 15-0 national championship team. ”Just understanding the time that we’re in, and the circumstance and the adaptability of it is just crazy.”
Baylor was supposed to open last weekend against Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs had widespread COVID-19 positive tests. Houston was scheduled to play Friday night against Memphis, but the American Athletic Conference postponed that game a week in advance after the Tigers had numerous players test positive.
”I was worried about going into this week with no game. … We’ve had about a two-month plan getting ready to play,” second-year Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. ”It made sense to us, and made sense to Baylor.”
This is also a reunion of sorts for the coaches, who overlapped at Texas Tech in 2000 and 2001, when Aranda was a defensive graduate assistant and Holgorsen was coaching inside receivers.
Aranda is now a first-time head coach, going to Baylor right after LSU’s title run. Matt Rhule was hired by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers after taking the Bears from 1-11 in his debut in 2017 to the Big 12 championship game last season. Aranda was LSU’s defensive coordinator the past four seasons, after three at Wisconsin.
”Just have followed him and watched him,” Holgorsen said. ”His success is not surprising based on how intelligent we thought he was.”
Baylor senior quarterback Charlie Brewer got his first significant action as a true freshman in 2017 against a Holgorsen-coached West Virginia team.
”He’s a smart kid … with a lot of snaps and a lot of grit,” Holgorsen said.
Brewer entered on the final play of the third quarter with Baylor trailing the Mountaineers by 25 points. He ran 10 times for 48 yards and threw for 109 yards, with his second TD coming with only 17 seconds left before he got sacked on a tying two-point conversion attempt in a 38-36 loss.
IN TUNE AT QB
Clayton Tune became Houston’s starting quarterback last year after D’Eriq King opted not to play after the fourth game, preserving his eligibility and then leaving for Miami. Tune threw for 1,533 yards with 11 touchdowns in seven games, and is now a captain for the Cougars.
”Clayton’s in a really good spot. He’s an intelligent young man, his body feels really good, and his familiarity with the offense and the receivers is better than it’s ever been,” Holgorsen said. ”He’s running things well, and he’s got the ear of the team, and he’s got he respect of the team.”
Baylor starting receiver Gavin Holmes is listed as a fourth-year sophomore after twice dealing with ACL injuries in his left knee. He first got hurt late in his freshman season in 2017, when he started four of his nine games. He played only one game in 2018 before getting hurt again.
”I was willing to do whatever I had to do just because I knew my ability. I knew what I was doing when I was playing,” Holmes said. ”It was hard to get that taken away twice. … I just kind of put my head down and had faith in God, and just grinded and I’m back now.”
Baylor has four returning starters on the offensive line. The Bears filled the gap at right tackle with graduate transfer Jake Burton, who had started 23 of his 24 games at UCLA the past two seasons.
SINCE THE SWC
Baylor was one of four Texas schools from the SWC that joined the Big Eight to form the Big 12, which is now in its 25th season. The Bears were Big 12 champs in 2013 and 2014. Houston played in Conference USA from 1996 until joining the American Athletic Conference in 2013. The Cougars were AAC champ in 2015 with Tom Herman as their coach.
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