ANALYSIS: When two words define a program's resolve
FORT WORTH – Grayland Arnold and Terrel Bernard will be the first to tell you about the statement, “What’s Next”.
It’s hard to understand. It challenges you to compartmentalize when the now can be the worst thing to happen your team. It has to be looking ahead because the past can be gaining on you.
Baylor had to put those words into overdrive Saturday in their archrival’s building because there were countless times that No. 12 ranking and sole possession of first place was on the brink of ending.
Instead, keeping it in the now means Baylor remains perfect (9-0, 6-0), is all alone atop the Big 12 standings and now starts preparing for one of the biggest games in its history as it plays host to Oklahoma next Saturday in Waco.
Down 9-0 at the half, the Bears literally crawled all the way back, sent this game into overtime and then survived in three overtimes, 29-23, at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“I think it’s a mentality,’’ Bernard said. “It comes from Coach Rhule preaching to us all offseason, all camp, everything like that, that mindset of what’s next. Obviously, we’re worried about what’s happening right now, but once the ruling is made, it’s what’s next, go on about it and let’s play the next play.”
What’s Next went like this:
>EXHIBIT A: Baylor played a pretty rotten first half, had 22 total rushing yards, watched John Mayers duck snort a 32-yard field goal and then gave up a cheap field goal at the end when Trystan Slinker inadvertently tipped TCU’s squib kickoff and the Horned Frogs recovered.
WHAT’S NEXT: Baylor took the second half kickoff and drove down and kicked a field goal to close to within, 9-3.
>EXHIBIT B: Then it moved to the latter stages of the third quarter when Terrel Bernard intercepted a tipped ball and returned it to the TCU 8-yard line. That golden chance fizzled and Baylor had to settle for a field goal. Rather than lead, 10-9, Baylor trailed, 9-6.
WHAT’S NEXT: Baylor’s defense forced a 3 & out
>EXHIBIT C: The snowball continued on the second-to-last possession when the Bears started at their 10 and then delivered self-inflicted wounds with procedure penalties that wound up being a 4th and 30 at their 5 before punting.
WHAT’S NEXT: TCU started that drive at the Baylor 45 and could only move to the Bears’ 39 before punting setting up the game-tying possession.
>EXHIBIT D: But it keeps getting better. The Bears thought they had won the game in the first overtime when officials ruled TCU’s Te’Vailance Hunt TD was no good. He was out of bounds. Players and coaches charged the field from the east side only to be told the play was being reviewed and the call was overturned. Matt Rhule couldn’t find his headset. The game went to a second overtime.
WHAT’S NEXT: Baylor tied the game in the second extra period when Charlie Brewer found Denzel Mims on a slant rout that converted a 4th & 5.
>EXHIBIT E: The ultimate was TCU moving to the Baylor 3-yard line in the third overtime and run off six goal to go plays.
WHAT’S NEXT: Grayland Arnold has his second interception in the end zone to seal the victory.
Through it all, Baylor put everything in the past, kept play and found and still sets the pace in the Big 12.
“When we say what’s next, we really believe in that,’’ Arnold said. “That was a time that we thought we won the game, and this is a chance to see if we really believe in the process and what’s next. He’s worked that into our brains, What’s next.”
Football is such an emotional game. It’s played with passion. Momentum swings are violent. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows can occur in the span of successive plays.
It’s really how a team can deal with them that can lead to success or failure. It may turn out great. It may turn out awful. Handling all of it the right way.
“To me, I want our team to just to keep playing,’’ Rhule said. “When you start playing the scoreboard, that's when you start to panic. You just play.
“We're down 9-0, disappointed it's a field goal, now it's a one-score game. Now we get 9-6, now all we need is a field goa is a huge play. Then we take it down and Mayers kicks that field goal. So I just tell them keep playing.’’
Now, What’s Next is Oklahoma.