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Baylor Football

Experience and Youth: How the Bears Hope to Have Grown Ahead of Iowa State Trip

September 21, 2022
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For Baylor Football, the Big 12 grind begins this weekend in the midwest, as the 2-1 Bears tussle with 3-0 Iowa State for a pivotal first conference victory. 

On Tuesday. the media was treated to a blend of battle-tested experience and youthful nervous energy as veteran tackle Connor Galvin and sophomore linebacker Brooks Miller discussed early season storylines and this weekend's matchup with Iowa State. 


LEFT TACKLE CONNOR GALVIN 

The Bears' All-American tackle will line up across from Iowa State for the fifth time on Saturday, having won twice in Waco and lost twice in Ames. So, either history will hold, or the Bears are about to break serve with a significant victory. 

Like his head coach the day before, Galvin wasn't short on praise for the Cyclones. 

"I've played against them a lot. They're a team that plays hard, they don't beat themselves. They're tough, physical," the senior leader rattled off on Tuesday. "It's just going to be a game of who does simple better. How well we execute our base plays vs. how well they defend our base plays, stuff like that. It's just going to be a fight." 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365

The Bears struggled in their first road test against BYU two weeks ago. With a second test upcoming, Galvin said the team has emphasized remaining focused. And not just when game time rolls around, but now, during the week of preparation. 

As many a great football mind has stated, you have to love the grind, the monotonous day-to-day. It's boring, but that's the root of success and something this team has to embrace. It's a lesson many of these players have learned before, but a lesson learned harshly for this team in Provo two weeks ago. Now, the hope must be this recognition and commitment to focus, and their previous experience on the road will lend to this team fulfilling its potential. 

That includes not only play-to-play assignments and execution but overcoming unfamiliar terrain and unforgiving opposing fans. That means not destroying your chances with double-digit penalties. 

"We know it's going to be loud, we know it's going to be rowdy," Galvin said. "We know it's going to be one of those games where it's going to be down to the last play. That's just how Iowa State is, a lot of respect for them. So, it's just how we practice vs. how they practice."

They've learned their lessons, and Galvin believes they've fixed the issues, but now a large portion of Baylor's success on Saturday will boil down to how he and his teammates apply those lessons in action. And it's all about focus and preparation, as simple as that sounds. 

During his time in Waco, Galvin's blocked for some stellar running backs. JaMycal Hasty, John Lovett, Trestan Ebner, and Abram Smith. Right now, Sqwirl Williams and Richard Reese appear to be the Bears' best 1-2 punch, along with a sprinkling of Qualan Jones and QB run game. 

Galvin stood out at left tackle as the 2021 line paved the way for Smith to break the school's single-season rushing record. Fast forward to last Saturday, and Galvin was manning the same spot on the 2022 line, making room for Reese's career-best day of 19 carries for 156 yards and three scores. 

"He's fast, he's physical, he really likes to run the ball. He makes our life a little bit easier breaking some tackles," Galvin lauded. "He's going to score a lot of touchdowns here." 

Reese is a young guy that thrived at home. For the Bears to win in Ames, they'll need Reese and other younger players to shake off those "big eyes" that haunted them in Provo. But it's understandable, given their lack of experience. It's a lesson Galvin learned early on as a true freshman. 

"That's stuff you can't prepare for. It's hard to mock that in practice."

If experience is the best teacher, then Provo provided a valuable lesson that should aid their efforts in Ames this weekend. At least, that's the hope. And Galvin, for one, feels confident that will be the case. 

"I have no concerns. Those [younger] guys are going to bounce back." 


Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Brooks Miller sacks the Texas State QB

LINEBACKER BROOKS MILLER 

With Dillon Doyle's absence creating a ripple effect for the middle linebackers, the Louisiana native took advantage of the increased opportunity, notching his first career sack, five tackles, and 1.5 tackles for loss vs. Texas State. That's only two tackles from his career-best last year when he appeared in 10 games as a redshirt freshman. 

Doyle's absence registered, of course, but it didn't cause any extra pressure because the MLB group has done the work, according to him. That group consists of Miller, Tyrone Brown, Josh White, and Jaden Maronen. 

"We work really hard and we go full reps in and out. So, we're always getting reps and we're always ready," 

They'll need to be ready this weekend. But first, for Miller, part of getting prepared meant overcoming a hamstring injury early in camp. The injury was a setback, but clearly, he's made progress. Before that, the initial battle was a total position change. Matt Rhule and staff initially recruited Miller with the position change in mind. 

The West Monroe standout had never played linebacker before arriving in Waco, so there was a brand new position to learn on top of the usual early experiences, and

"In high school I was a safety, and everybody thinks I'm a coverage linebacker, but I'm trying to become more than just that." 

That switch also included, if not required, bulking up from an initial 195 lbs to his current 230 pounds. But all that weight and muscle is no good at linebacker if it doesn't come with the right mentality. That's something Miller is also embracing with full force. 

"It's a straight-up mindset. It's just, hey I'm gonna fill the a-gaps today or, hey I'm scared. You gotta pick one or the other." 

The opponent is Iowa State, but BYU comparisons have been present all week because of the road aspect and the Bears' struggles to win against prominent opponents in true away contests. 

"I think this is similar team-wise too. People always talk about BYU is a physical team," Miller said. "Well, since I've been here they say the same thing about Iowa State. So, we've just got to be more physical than they can." 

The Cyclones began the Hunter Dekkers era at quarterback this season after an eternity of Brock Purdy. So far, the sophomore has completed nearly 75% of his passes with 745 yards, 8 touchdowns, and three interceptions. 

"He's really good at getting the ball out. It's always different seeing a lefty, but he looks real good, he looks smooth," Miller said. 

He believes the defense has held up well against the run through three games, but there's room for improvement. That will come with time; it's still early in the season. That will also come with the right mindset. 

For fans and media, every game's outcome feels like life or death. But for coaches and players, while that anxiety exists to some extent, championships are ultimately won by learning, improving, and performing. Look no further than last season. It's a point Miller reiterated as a less-experienced player on a less-experienced team. 

"It's just so early. We're going to become so much better," Miller said. "Like in December, we're going to look back now and be like, wow, how were we running it that way, and now we're running it like this." 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365

To make those strides, he sees communication as the biggest key. That begins in practice, with successful reps and comms following one another, over and over, to master their craft. That also comes from leadership, a known work in progress thanks to the mass departure of vets like Jalen Pitre, Terrel Bernard, and JT Woods, among others. The good news is new voices seem to be emerging and establishing themselves. Miller cited Siaki 'Apu' Ika, TJ Franklin, and Dillon Doyle as players who are leveling up, along with a fun trio of defensive backs. 

"You got Devin in the backend, both Devin's, all three Devin's actually. We've got a lot of Devin's," Miller humorously realized, speaking of safeties Devin Lemear, Devin Neal, and Devyn Bobby.  

To improve their chances of a road win, the Bears know they can ill afford to suffer from a slow start like last week against Texas State. 

"It was an issue last year too, we used to start slow and then work our way back in the second half. But, if we want to be the team we want to be, it's got to start from the first quarter and end on the last play of the game." 

Miller says the right things like a veteran, although he's one of those young guys on this roster who will admit that "big eyes" took over in Provo for the lesser-experienced players. Count that as just another lesson learned on the sometimes bumpy road to success. 

"I think we know what to expect now, so we just gotta get out there and play ball." 

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Experience and Youth: How the Bears Hope to Have Grown Ahead of Iowa State Trip

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