Nick Florence

Sophomore safety Josh Turner made the most of his first start, making his first career interception, a play that set up a go-ahead Texas touchdown and proved to be a turning point in the Longhorns’ 56-50 victory over Baylor this past Saturday.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Ever since Jordan Hicks went down in the first half of the Longhorns’ win over Ole Miss more than a month ago, the Longhorn defense has been searching for a spark. The search ended with Josh Turner.

Texas had surrendered 28 points to Baylor in the game’s first 20 minutes. The Bears were threatening to take the lead when Turner, a sophomore defensive back, chased down a scrambling Nick Florence, laying out to catch him from behind.

Turner made his first career interception on the next play. Florence overthrew his intended target and Turner, with his airborne body parallel to the ground, picked him off. Johnathan Gray’s 25-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive gave the Longhorns a 35-28 lead they would not give up.

“We were in thirds,” Turner recalled. “I was in the right third, and I was just reading the quarterback. I saw that he kind of overthrew the receiver, and I was just trying to make a play on the ball.”

Adrian Phillips was supposed to be the solid safety opposite senior Kenny Vaccaro that solidified Texas’ secondary. His struggles led to sophomore Mykkele Thompson cracking the starting lineup, but Thompson has missed numerous tackles since. It’s time for Turner, who made his first career start during Saturday’s 56-50 win over Baylor, to become a mainstay in the first-team defense.

“He did an excellent job of making plays in the time that he was in, especially geting the turnover that was very crucial to the game and I think it did spark a lot of momentum,” junior cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “That’s what we expect and what he expects of himself. They know when their opportunity comes, they have to take advantage of it and I think he did an excellent job of it this weekend.”

On Baylor’s last possession of the first half, with Texas holding a 42-28 lead, Florence lofted a pass to his favorite receiver, Terrance Williams. The senior wideout leads the country with 1,013 yards ­— more yards than seven FBS teams have passed for this season.

Williams caught the pass in the corner of the end zone but Byndom kept him from catching it in bounds while Turner ranged over to jar the ball loose and ensure he wouldn’t make the catch. Baylor settled for a field goal on the next play as the Longhorns trotted into the locker room with an 11-point lead at halftime.

“The play he makes down there in the end zone is a great play,” head coach Mack Brown said. “That’s a perfect throw and catch. Carrington Byndom’s got him covered up but Josh knocks him out of bounds.”

Phillips and Vaccaro are listed as Texas’ starting safeties for its game against Kansas this weekend. Thompson and Turner are listed as backups. But if the way he played against Baylor last Saturday was any indication of what we can expect from him, Turner needs to be on the field more than Phillips and Thompson.

“We’re excited about the plays that he made,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “That’s how we know our persistence is working, but there’s some things that we have to continue to correct. We’re all in it together. We can’t be too excited about anything.”

Diaz is right. He shouldn’t dwell on the efforts of individuals too long — as good as they may be — as long as his unit is on pace to go down as, statistically, the worst defense in school history. But starting Turner would go a long way toward turning things around.

Printed on Thursday, October 25, 2012 as: Turner the spark Texas' secondary needs

It was not a pretty win for the Longhorns. But thanks to the well-rounded offense, Texas defeated Baylor for the first time in three years.

With 10 different players catching passes and the 251 rushing yards the Longhorns accumulated, the offense made it very difficult for the Baylor defense to keep track of players and keep up.

“This is the offense we want,” head coach Mack Brown said. It’s who we want to be — very balanced. It’s who we were the first
two games.”

David Ash picked apart the struggling Baylor defense and went 19-for-31 for 274 yards while Joe Bergeron had five rushing touchdowns.

First quarter — It was clear it was going to be a shootout very early on. Daje Johnson ran for an 84-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.  A botched snap by Kyle Ashby on fourth down gave Baylor the ball on the Texas 8-yard line and Nick Florence ran the ball in for an easy touchdown. Bergeron had his first touchdown of the game to give Texas back the lead.  Baylor scored on 2-yard rush from Glasco Martin and then went up 21-14 when Terrance Williams scored on an 80-yard pass from Florence. 

Second quarter — Bergeron scored three touchdowns in the quarter. Baylor’s Lanear Sampson had a seven-yard touchdown reception and freshman Johnathan Gray finally scored his first touchdown as a Longhorn. The Bears hit a field goal at the end of the half to make the score 42-31, in favor of Texas.

Third quarter — The second half was much quieter than the first.  The Texas defense forced a fumble, but Baylor tight end Jordan Najvar fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Bergeron finished his high-scoring night with his fifth touchdown and the score was 49-43 heading into the fourth quarter.

Fourth quarter — Mike Davis scored on a 15-yard pass from Ash. Florence kept things interesting by scoring a touchdown with 1:57 left in the game.
255 — Number of rushing yards given up to the Bears, a team known for its passing game.

BY THE NUMBERS
100 — Baylor’s scoring percentage in the red zone as they went

7-for-7.
 
7 ­— the number of rushing touchdowns Texas scored, five of them came from Bergeron.

607 — Number of total offensive yards the Bears accumulated. This is the second consecutive week the Longhorns have given up more than 600-yards.

STOCK UP, STOCK DOWN
Stock up — David Ash.  He is continuing to improve and managed to spread the ball around. He went 19-for-31 for 274 yards and threw the ball downfield 67-yards to Davis. His left wrist injury did not seem to affect him at all and he took advantage of Baylor’s struggling defense. 

Stock down — Rush defense. It seems repetitive to declare the rush defense as the weakest aspect of the Longhorns. But giving up 255 rushing yards to pass happy Baylor shows how much the defense is struggling. Tackling is still a problem, but is improving.

WHAT’S NEXT
The Longhorns will have easier competition Saturday. They will be facing Kansas, the only team with a worse Big 12 record than Baylor. Though the game is in Lawrence, Kan., the Longhorns should not have a problem handling Charlie Weis’ struggling squad. Kansas is 1-6 on the season and 0-4 in Big 12 play. Kansas’ last game ended in a loss to Oklahoma State, 52-7.

Printed on Monday, October 22, 2012 as: Texas does what it takes to win

Longhorns defeat Bears 56-50

The Longhorns ended a two year losing streak by defeating Baylor 56-50 on Saturday night.

The second half scoring began when the Longhorns forced a fumble from Nick Florence, but tight end Jordan Najvar fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.  The Bears two-point conversion attempt failed.

Later in the quarter, a 42-yard field goal from Baylor’s Aaron Jones made the sore 42-40.

The Longhorns quickly responded.  Mike Davis caught a 67-yard pass from David Ash.  This led to an 8-yard touchdown by Joe Bergeron.  This was Bergeron’s fifth touchdown of the game, a career high.

Though the Longhorns’ defense gave up 607 yards, they stopped the Bears and only allowed a field goal.

Mykkele Thompson had a fumble recovery at the end of the third quarter, giving the Longhorns the ball and the momentum at the Baylor 46-yard line.  The Longhorns took advantage of this possession and Mike Davis scored with a 15-yard touchdown reception, making the score 56-43.

Florence cut it close with five minutes left with a one-yard touchdown run.

Though both defenses struggled, the Longhorns won the offensive battle and pulled out the win, 56-50.

Texas offense Joe Bergeron attempts to score a touchdown.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

It was clear that this match up was going to be high scoring from the start.

Texas freshman Daje Johnson ran the ball 84-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game.

The Bears tied the game after a gift from the Longhorns.  Kyle Ashby’s snap went over the head of Alex king and gave Nick Florence and the Bears the ball at the Texas eight-yard line.  Florence ran it in for a touchdown.

The Texas offense pounded the Baylor defense in its third possession and a 15-yard touchdown run by Joe Bergeron gave the Longhorns the lead.

Penalties by Quandre Diggs and Kendall Thompson helped the Bears along in their game tying drive.  Glasco Martin made it 14-all with a 2-yard touchdown run.

Terrance Williams beat Diggs and he took full advantage of it.  He scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Florence, making the score 21-14 and giving the Bears their first lead of the game.

Bergeron scored his second touchdown to tie the game with a 2-yard run.

Florence found Lanear Sampson for a 7-yard touchdown to give the Bears the lead.  D.J. took the kickoff return 70-yards.  With the help of advantageous field position, Bergeron scored a 9-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

An interception by Texas’ Josh Turner gave the Longhorns the ball at their own 37.  On third and seven, Mike Davis made up for a dropped pass in the first quarter and caught a 35-yard pass.

Johnathan Gray finally scored his first touchdown as a Longhorn on the drive.  His 25-yard run gave the Longhorns a 35-28 lead.  Bergeron’s four-yard touchdown at the end of the half gave the Longhorns a two-touchdown lead.

The Bears finished off scoring in the half with a 29-yard field goal to make the score 42-31 in favor of Texas at the half.

Texas leading Baylor at half

Texas offense Joe Bergeron attempts to score a touchdown.
Texas offense Joe Bergeron attempts to score a touchdown.

It was clear that this match up was going to be high scoring from the start.

Texas freshman Daje Johnson ran the ball 84-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game.

The Bears tied the game after a gift from the Longhorns.  Kyle Ashby’s snap went over the head of Alex king and gave Nick Florence and the Bears the ball at the Texas eight-yard line.  Florence ran it in for a touchdown.

The Texas offense pounded the Baylor defense in its third possession and a 15-yard touchdown run by Joe Bergeron gave the Longhorns the lead.

Penalties by Quandre Diggs and Kendall Thompson helped the Bears along in their game tying drive.  Glasco Martin made it 14-all with a 2-yard touchdown run.

Terrance Williams beat Diggs and he took full advantage of it.  He scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Florence, making the score 21-14 and giving the Bears their first lead of the game.

Bergeron scored his second touchdown to tie the game with a 2-yard run.

Florence found Lanear Sampson for a 7-yard touchdown to give the Bears the lead.  D.J. took the kickoff return 70-yards.  With the help of advantageous field position, Bergeron scored a 9-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

An interception by Texas’ Josh Turner gave the Longhorns the ball at their own 37.  On third and seven, Mike Davis made up for a dropped pass in the first quarter and caught a 35-yard pass.

Johnathan Gray finally scored his first touchdown as a Longhorn on the drive.  His 25-yard run gave the Longhorns a 35-28 lead.  Bergeron’s four-yard touchdown at the end of the half gave the Longhorns a two-touchdown lead.

The Bears finished off scoring in the half with a 29-yard field goal to make the score 42-31 in favor of Texas at the half.

Players to Watch

Terrance Williams - Baylor Senior Receiver

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Nick Florence
Florence entered this season with possibly the toughest job of any other player in the nation; replacing Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III. He isn’t the game changer RG3 was and doesn’t propel the Bears to that level, but the senior has put together a solid year. Florence has completed 63 percent of his passes this season, with 1,874 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. Florence is a smaller quarterback standing at 6-foot-1, but his arm strength and accuracy are second to none in the Big 12 thus far in the season. Although the Bears are 0-2 in the conference at this point, Florence’s arm and poise have kept them in both contests. Against West Virginia, Florence had a career game passing for 581 yards and five touchdowns despite being overshadowed by Geno Smith. The Texas defense has proven vulnerable to solid passing attacks this season, so Florence should be a player to watch when the Bears takes on the Longhorns this week.

Terrance Williams
Every quarterback needs at least one reliable receiver to throw the ball to when the game is on the line. Williams fits that bill perfectly. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Williams possesses impressive quickness and the ability to pick up yards after the catch. in five games he has amassed 37 catches for 830 yards and eight touchdowns. It should be noted that 314 of these yards came in the shootout against West Virginia, but Williams has proven to be a man of consistency, compiling at least 100 yards and two touchdown catches in all but one game this season. Williams is a receiver that pads his stats with speed. He is currently averaging 22 yards per catch, and has recorded a reception for at least 45 yards in every game this season. The Longhorns have had a hard time tackling speedy receivers so the coverage should be tight with Williams. Fans should expect Terrence Williams to make a big impact in this game.

Bryce Hager
Hager currently leads the Bears in total tackles this season with 61 and is third nationally with 12.2 per game. Hager is a stocky defender who causes the most trouble in stopping the run game. Hager has also forced two fumbles. Two other factors that will boost Hager’s play are location and history. The sophomore defender is an Austin Westlake product and will probably look to step up his game in his hometown and his father, Britt Hager (1986-88), is Texas’ career tackles leader. A strong and compact run stopper, Hager should be a player for Texas to keep in their sights as he returns to Austin for a matchup against the rival Longhorns.

Baylor wide receivers Tevin Reese (16) and Terrance Williams (2) celebrate in the end zone following Williams' touchdown reception in the first half of the game against TCU Saturday, Oct. 13 in Waco, Texas.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

After former TCU quarterback Casey Pachall withdrew from the University last week, Baylor fans were already putting a check in the win column for the Bears.

But four interceptions and a pair of fumbles later, it was obvious things weren’t going as planned.

A win looked promising after a long touchdown pass from senior quarterback Nick Florence to senior wide receiver Terrance Williams 26 seconds into the game, but a lack of rhythm offensively and a need for defensive stops allowed TCU to carry the game away.

After the game junior nickelback Ahmad Dixon was asked what the defense was going to do in practice to prepare for Saturday’s matchup against Texas.

“We’re just going to go back to the basics,” said Dixon.

His response was met by a firm question from the media, “Wasn’t that what you did on the bye week?”

True, that’s what we had heard the team was doing but it didn’t turn out quite right.

With Baylor’s conference slate well underway, a loss like that was enough to set a spark under the Bears toward a better outcome at Texas.

This matchup has been a toss-up ever since the beginning of the season: both teams have things to prove offensively and teams to stop defensively.

While Texas wins the defensive battle on paper, Baylor wins on the offensive side.

Even after an uncharacteristic four interceptions last weekend, Florence leads the nation in total offense with 404.4 yards per game and ranks No. 2 nationally in passing yards per game (374.8) and quarterback rating (176.6).

“The thing we have to remember about Nick [Florence] is that he really hasn’t played that many football games,” Briles said. “We look at him like he is a really experienced quarterback, but his actual game-time experience is not that much.”

Surrounding him are four talented wide receivers: seniors Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson, Darryl Stonum and junior Tevin Reese.

Williams leads the nation with 166 receiving yards per game.

The ground game for Baylor features senior running back Jarred Salubi, who could put up big numbers while facing a Texas defense that has struggled to defend the run. Texas has allowed 209.17 rushing yards per game, 103rd in the nation in that category.

Junior Glasco Martin and sophomore transfer Lache Seastrunk, from Oregon, could also see playing time and add diversity to the Bears’ running game.

One prominent statistic to Baylor’s wins and losses so far this season is the turnover margin.

During the team’s three-game win streak to open the season, Baylor’s defense forced 10 takeaways and lost only four turnovers, a plus-1.5 per-game margin.

However, during the past two games the Bears haven’t forced any takeaways and have lost seven turnovers, a negative-3.5 per-game margin.

Defensively, Baylor is dead last in the NCAA FBS, allowing 558.8 yards per game.

In order for the Bears to win this ball game, they must win the turnover battle.

When that happens, Florence and the offense find a rhythm that puts points on the board and keeps the defense on the sideline for a little while longer.

Printed on Friday, October 19, 2012 as: Offensive prowess gives Bears slight advantage

Quarterbacks:
This game features a pair of quarterbacks coming off of their toughest weeks of the season. David Ash threw for a season-low 113 yards Saturday against Oklahoma and was intercepted twice, but that was the first dent in an otherwise impressive season. On the year, Ash has completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 1,389 yards and has thrown 11 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. Baylor’s Nick Florence is also having a nice year, compiling 1,874 yards through the air along with 18 touchdowns, but he has been plagued by turnovers, throwing nine picks in five games and four in his last contest. He is also completing nearly eight percent fewer of his passes than Ash. This inefficiency has held the Bears back at times against top-flight defenses.

Advantage: Texas

Running backs:
The Longhorns struggled to run the ball against Oklahoma, but overall the strength of this Texas team is its ability to move the ball on the ground. Three Texas runners have rushed for at least 245 yards through six games, with Joe Bergeron leading the way with 301 yards and nine scores on the ground. The Bears are also capable of running the ball, but Baylor relies far more heavily on the pass. Only one Baylor back has accumulated more than 200 yards rushing thus far and as a team the Bears only average 4.3 yards per carry. This pales in comparison to the Longhorns, who average 4.8 yards per rush attempt.

Advantage: Texas

Wide Receivers:
Much of the reason Nick Florence has been able to step in and shoulder the load for the Bears is the effectiveness of the Baylor wide receivers. A trio of Bears’ receivers have hauled in at least 23 passes, and they have scored a combined 19 times through the air. The Baylor receiving corps is led by senior Terrence Williams, who leads the team with 37 catches, 830 yards and eight touchdowns. While the Texas wideouts have done a nice job this year, Mike Davis’ team-leading 24 catches and 352 yards would rank no better than third for the Bears.

Advantage: Baylor

Offensive Line:
Although it is coming off of its worst performance of the year, the Texas offensive line has been a solid unit for most of the season. Through five games the Longhorns had one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, and this was due to its balance in running and passing the ball. Even after its woeful offensive performance against Oklahoma, Texas is averaging 4.8 yards per rush, and David Ash is averaging 8.32 yards per pass. The veteran offensive line has done a nice job of opening holes for the Longhorns’ stable of running backs as well as setting up screens for receivers for Ash to pass to. Baylor has put up gaudy offensive statistics in several games this year, but it has completed a lower percentage of passes and rushed for a lower average than have the Longhorns.

Advantage: Texas

Defensive Line:
One week after its most explosive game of the season against West Virginia, the Texas defensive line did not make much of an impact Saturday against Oklahoma. That said, Alex Okafor is still among the best defensive ends in the Big 12 and rounds out a talented Texas defensive line. The loss of Jackson Jeffcoat hurts Texas, but younger players like Reggie Wilson, Cedric Reed and Toshiro Davis will be called on to fill the void. The Bears have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks all season, as they allow more than 370 yards passing per game. Overall, Texas’ 14 sacks trumps Baylor’s eight sacks, but the ability to affect the passing game even without bringing down the quarterback is what gives the Longhorns the edge.

Advantage: Texas

Linebackers:
Every week a new running back seems to torch the Longhorns’ defense. Texas has been unable to stop the run all season, allowing 209.2 rushing yards per game. This is a direct result of poor tackling  as opposing runners have made a living on big gains once they get past the Texas defensive line. Texas’ linebackers have been a large part of the defense’s inability to stop the run and it has been evident that the unit misses Jordan Hicks dearly. Baylor middle linebacker Bryce Hager is third nationally with 12.2 tackles per game.

Advantage: Baylor

Defensive Backs:
Even after allowing strong performances by opposing quarterbacks in three straight games, the Longhorns enter this game in better shape than Baylor as far as stopping the pass. Texas has limited opponents to 240.5 passing yards per game and 11 touchdowns through six games, while the Bears have given up an average of 372.4 passing yards and 18 touchdowns through the air in five games. Moreover, the Longhorns’ secondary has intercepted eight passes compared to six picks by Baylor. The fact that Baylor had to convert offensive players to fill holes in its defensive backfield should be proof positive the Bears’ secondary is reeling.

Advantage: Texas

Special Teams:
The Longhorns have been able to create better field position than has Baylor, as they have been more explosive on both kick and punt returns. Texas has returned kickoffs for an average of 24.9 yards and punts for 16.2 yards, while Baylor has averaged totals of 19.8 yards and 11.9 yards, respectively. Both teams have had their share of struggles on field goal attempts, with Texas kickers going 4-of-9 with a pair of missed extra points and Baylor going 5-for-9 in field goal tries. That said, Texas punter Alex King’s ability to provide the offense with manageable field position makes their special teams unit just a bit stronger than the Bears’.

Advantage: Texas

Baylor quarterback Nick Florence (11) passes as offensive tackle Cyril Richardson (68) blocks Southern Methodist linebacker Cameron Rogers (50) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Heisman winner Robert Griffin III’s departure from Baylor left a huge hole in Baylor’s offense. But based on senior Nick Florence’s performance against SMU Sunday, it looks like the Bears are still in good hands.

Florence threw four touchdowns in Baylor’s 59-24 rout of SMU. He played in eight games in 2009 while Griffin III was recovering from an injury.

“He’s an intelligent, passionate, driven player that places himself second,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “Those are all very good qualities to have at that position. He’s going to continue improving."

Kendall Wright, Baylor’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, was also a key part in last year’s offense.

But touchdowns by Lanear Sampson, Tevin Reese, Darryl Stonum and Jordan Najvar showed the Bears’ wide receivers have potential. The offense seemed to barely miss a step.

Sooners avoid upset

No. 4 Oklahoma led UTEP 10-7 in the fourth quarter. A late surge aided by two touchdown passes from Landry Jones to Damien Williams gave the Sooners a 24-7 win.

“We just weren’t in synch,” Jones, who threw for 222 yards on 21-of-36 passing, said. “It was one of those things where we would have flashes of greatness, but it wouldn’t be all as a team.”

The Sooners were unable to create much of a running game and dropped a spot in the rankings and now sit at No. 5.

The team was ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls last year only to be defeated by Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Sooners were once again ranked among the top five teams in the nation before this season began, but a narrow win over the Miners was not how Oklahoma wanted to kick this year off.

Big 12 teams putting up big numbers

Reigning Big 12 champion Oklahoma State and conference newcomer West Virginia both blew out their opponents last weekend.

The Cowboys stomped on Savannah State 84-0 as freshman quarterback Wes Lunt completed all 11 of his passes before being taken out by the end of the first quarter. Running backs Desmond Roland and Jeremy Smith both ran for three touchdowns.

With the highest scoring opener in the school’s history, the Mountaineers defeated Marshall 69-34. Quarterback Geno Smith threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He was dominant and finished 32-for-36. Though the Mountaineers had success in the air, the team also compiled 331 yards on the ground.

Every Big 12 team that played this weekend has a 1-0 record.

Running backs dominating week 1

Though the Big 12 teams were facing off against easier competition than each other, most teams ran all over their opponents.

Ten running backs in the conference had more than 100 yards. Two of these were Texas’ Malcolm Brown (105 yards) and Joe Bergeron (110).

Iowa State’s Shontrelle Johnson (120 yards) and West Virginia’s Shawne Alston (123 yards) both set career highs in rushing yards.

With the help of a 95-yard run, Kansas State’s John Hubert had 12 carries for 152 yards.

Baylor head coach Art Briles addresses media members at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas. Briles and the Bears are looking to improve on a 10-3 record from a year ago.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The Baylor Bears may have lost their top three offensive threats from a year ago to the NFL Draft, but head coach Art Briles doesn’t see that being an issue as his team prepares for the start of a new season.

“We’ve got some holes to fill. We understand that,” Briles said. “In general I think our brand is probably as good as it’s ever been on a national level. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that’s where my inspiration, passion and drive is going to come from.”

The Bears are coming out of their best season in more than 30 years after a 10-3 finish in 2011, which included the team’s first bowl victory since 1992. But the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III as well as leading wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway have many wondering if the Bears can duplicate their success from a season ago.

“We have to fill in the gaps because Robert created a lot of gaps,” Briles said. “We have to fill that in with a variety of different methods, schematically and personnel-wise, that will give us an opportunity to stay at the level we finished at last year.”

One of the players who will attempt to fill the massive hole left by Griffin III and others is senior quarterback Nick Florence. Florence would have two remaining years of eligibility, but he was forced to relinquish his redshirt late last season after Griffin III suffered a concussion against Texas Tech. In that game, Florence threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score, eventually leading the Bears to a 66-42 win over the Red Raiders.

It was then that Briles knew Florence would do anything to see the Bears win.

“That’s where his drive is — being a good football player that contributes to Baylor being successful,” Briles said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the passion, energy and fearlessness he’s going to bring to the table.”

Briles isn’t the only one confident in Florence’s ability to lead the Bears. Senior center Ivory Wade feels the Bears are right where they left off at the end of last season.

“We’re going to be the same offense we were last year,” Wade said. “Very explosive and hopefully rack up a lot of yards.”

Those yards will have to come from somewhere, and that’s precisely where fifth-year senior wide receiver Terrance Williams comes in.

Williams played in all 13 games last season, including 11 at receiver on his way to 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His receiving totals were second on the team, trailing only Wright, who is now a Tennessee Titan. At 6-foot-2, Williams provides a big target for Florence and should emerge as this year’s most reliable downfield threat.

“He’s going to blow up this year,” Wade said.

The Bears also return Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson and Levi Norwood at receiver in addition to recent Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum. The loss of Wright hurts, but there are several players who are capable of working as a unit in order to replicate Wright’s receiving totals from last year.

With all the attention paid to Griffin III and Wright a year ago, it’s easy to forget that the Bears also had a 1,500 yard rusher, Ganaway, who is now a member of the New York Jets.

Ganaway found the endzone 21 times on the ground in 2011, and his production will be greatly missed as well.

At the moment, senior Jarred Salubi is listed as the Bears’ No. 1 running back. He’s played in 38 career games, tied for the most on the team.

“Jarred is an outstanding back. He’s able to make guys miss in space and he’s big and strong enough to be powerful inside,” Briles said.

Someone will have to step up in order to replace Ganaway, and that someone could be Lache Seastrunk. A graduate of nearby Temple High School and former Oregon Duck, Seastrunk joined the Bears in 2011 but was forced to sit out the entire season per NCAA transfer regulations.

“Lache is a very dynamic player that has three years left and we’re anxious to see what he can do when there’s people in the stands hollering, because he’s got ability and that’s something that’s hard to hide,” Briles said. “We’re going to have him open up the jacket and let it show.”

It won’t be an easy task replacing the drafted players on the offensive side of the ball, but the pieces are there.

“Perceptions change and there’s still people who are going to write us off, and that’s the way it’s always going to be,” Florence said. “We want to earn some respect. We’ve won a bowl game and got to 10 wins, so now we want to win a Big 12 Championship.”

 The Baylor Bears may have lost their top three offensive threats from a year ago to the NFL Draft, but head coach Art Briles doesn’t see that being an issue as his team prepares for the start of a new season.

“We’ve got some holes to fill. We understand that,” Briles said. “In general I think our brand is probably as good as it’s ever been on a national level. What we have to do now is maintain it, and that’s where my inspiration, passion and drive is going to come from.”

The Bears are coming out of their best season in more than 30 years after a 10-3 finish in 2011, which included the team’s first bowl victory since 1992. But the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III as well as leading wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway have many wondering if the Bears can duplicate their success from a season ago.

“We have to fill in the gaps because Robert created a lot of gaps,” Briles said. “We have to fill that in with a variety of different methods, schematically and personnel-wise, that will give us an opportunity to stay at the level we finished at last year.”

One of the players who will attempt to fill the massive hole left by Griffin III and others is senior quarterback Nick Florence. Florence would have two remaining years of eligibility, but he was forced to relinquish his redshirt late last season after Griffin III suffered a concussion against Texas Tech. In that game, Florence threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score, eventually leading the Bears to a 66-42 win over the Red Raiders.

It was then that Briles knew Florence would do anything to see the Bears win.

“That’s where his drive is — being a good football player that contributes to Baylor being successful,” Briles said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the passion, energy and fearlessness he’s going to bring to the table.”

Briles isn’t the only one confident in Florence’s ability to lead the Bears. Senior center Ivory Wade feels the Bears are right where they left off at the end of last season.

“We’re going to be the same offense we were last year,” Wade said. “Very explosive and hopefully rack up a lot of yards.”

Those yards will have to come from somewhere, and that’s precisely where fifth-year senior wide receiver Terrance Williams comes in.

Williams played in all 13 games last season, including 11 at receiver on his way to 957 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His receiving totals were second on the team, trailing only Wright, who is now a Tennessee Titan. At 6-foot-2, Williams provides a big target for Florence and should emerge as this year’s most reliable downfield threat.

“He’s going to blow up this year,” Wade said.

The Bears also return Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson and Levi Norwood at receiver in addition to recent Michigan transfer Darryl Stonum. The loss of Wright hurts, but there are several players who are capable of working as a unit in order to replicate Wright’s receiving totals from last year.

With all the attention paid to Griffin III and Wright a year ago, it’s easy to forget that the Bears also had a 1,500 yard rusher, Ganaway, who is now a member of the New York Jets.

Ganaway found the endzone 21 times on the ground in 2011, and his production will be greatly missed as well.

At the moment, senior Jarred Salubi is listed as the Bears’ No. 1 running back. He’s played in 38 career games, tied for the most on the team.

“Jarred is an outstanding back. He’s able to make guys miss in space and he’s big and strong enough to be powerful inside,” Briles said.

Someone will have to step up in order to replace Ganaway, and that someone could be Lache Seastrunk. A graduate of nearby Temple High School and former Oregon Duck, Seastrunk joined the Bears in 2011 but was forced to sit out the entire season per NCAA transfer regulations.

“Lache is a very dynamic player that has three years left and we’re anxious to see what he can do when there’s people in the stands hollering, because he’s got ability and that’s something that’s hard to hide,” Briles said. “We’re going to have him open up the jacket and let it show.”

It won’t be an easy task replacing the drafted players on the offensive side of the ball, but the pieces are there.

“Perceptions change and there’s still people who are going to write us off, and that’s the way it’s always going to be,” Florence said. “We want to earn some respect. We’ve won a bowl game and got to 10 wins, so now we want to win a Big 12 Championship.”