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Baylor Football

The Player's Point of View: We're All We Got, We're All We Need

October 26, 2022
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Out in the West Texas town of Lubbock, the Bears and Red Raiders will clash on Saturday for pride, bragging rights, and so much more. 

This game isn't about the Bears' record of 40-39-1 vs. the Red Raiders, nor the fact the last three contests have been decided by four points or less. It's not about the numerous personnel crossovers — the Joey McGuire chapter alone — or the Big 12 standings. And it's certainly not about bowl games or recruiting classes. 

Seriously, it's not. For the Bears, this Saturday night in Lubbock is all about them. That's the focus, and that was the talk as WR Gavin Holmes and safety Devin Neal spoke to the media this week. 


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Wide Receiver Gavin Holmes 

Inevitably, certain storylines have made their way to Bears players, but they seem aware of the rat poison, as Nick Saban likes to call such things. Nevertheless, the night game sell-out will be a blackout, also featuring the induction of former Tech star Patrick Mahomes into the program's ring of honor and school's athletics hall of fame during the Chiefs' bye week. 

Crowd gimmicks, NFL stars, and color coordination have affected many college football results based on the unrest it can set off and buzz in the air. However, less has impacted this team this season. Crazy things happen in this sport, especially when there's a buildup. And so much familiarity. 

"Yeah, I got friends that go there. They've been talking smack to me already. Of course, I've got friends on that team, coaches on that team who I respect, who I had great relationships with while they were here," Holmes said this week.  

"We know it's going to be a crazy atmosphere. Like, we know, blackout, Pat Mahomes is going to be there, all that stuff. But those are just distractions to us, essentially. So, we're just going to go out there and play our game." 

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365

Seeing flying tortillas on film is one thing. Potentially, ducking them will be another. Playing loud music at practice is one thing; playing under the duress of ear-ringing noise and vibrations is quite another challenge. 

No matter how well you prepare for the atmosphere, there's nothing to mimic the sensory overload that awaits. But you plan as best you can, and most of all, fall back on your training and experience. 

"Obviously, we can't turn off the crowd. But like I said, we've been in atmospheres before like BYU or Iowa State. But we've just got to go out there and trust our training," Holmes said. "We're bringing energy out here at practice and we know when we go out there, it's only going to be us. Everybody else is going to be wanting to take our heads off. So we're just preparing for that." 

The last month has been a rollercoaster. First, Holmes had some key miscues in the loss to Oklahoma State, followed by a career-best day hauling in seven receptions for 210 yards and one touchdown in the loss to WVU. Then, last week, he had two catches for seven yards with plenty of meat left on the bone, but the Bears managed a win, which is what mattered most to the Justin Northwest alum. 

To ensure more happy outcomes, this team knows it must find the proper middle ground on offense. Complementary football is the goal for all three phases, but offensively, finding the right pairing between the passing game vs. WVU and the run game last week vs. Kansas is paramount to their chances for success against Texas Tech and beyond. 

"So we've just been preaching, putting that together, that run-pass balance, and I think we can be an extremely dangerous offense. So that's the goal for this week, to just put it all together and go out there and perform."

 As a player and teammate, the sixth-year senior has seen a lot of trials and tribulations in that time. He's also seen many coaches come and go at the wide receiver position alone. While the chemistry and on-field impact remains a work in progress for the WR room, the strides off the field have impacted the group, particularly for Holmes. 

"That's my dawg. I love Coach Baker so much, man. He's been like a father figure to me out here. To all of us," the Justin Northwest alum explained. 

"I've been here six years, I've had four different receiver coaches, and so this is by far the closest room I've been a part of, and I think it's just a testament to him."


Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365

Safety Devin Neal 

Watching the film of Texas Tech, safety Devin Neal thought Red Raiders' faithful were throwing paper plates around. Cut the Kentucky native some slack, as tortilla throwing doesn't seem commonplace in the Bluegrass State or its football landscape. 

Nevertheless, flying food is another potential distraction in a place filled with a myriad of them. Tech is rolling out the red carpet for their Super Bowl-winning alum and a national TV audience. For those reasons and others listed earlier, this will be a raucous scene on Saturday. Neal and the Bears have stayed busy preparing to combat an enormously hostile crowd this weekend. 

"Well, we talked about the atmosphere first thing, just everybody getting their heads right. Making sure we all came, brought our energy, because we're all we got. Like, everybody's coming from Waco, there's nobody else," Neal said. "There's just going to be nothing but just people from Texas Tech at the game and us. So, we got to bring our own energy and just get fired up and stay focused and keep our heads down."

It sounds simple enough and is undoubtedly the winning formula, but the execution is easier said than done. And for a team that has struggled heavily at times in pass defense, particularly on the backend, 100 plays per game for Texas Tech under these conditions is a potential nightmare if roles aren't understood and executed.

"Everybody's going to be rowdy, hyped up, and we just got to stay locked in, stay focused. Everybody has to execute," Neal relayed mid-week, discussing defensive focal points. "We've just got to make sure we don't let them get any momentum. We've got to keep it down, don't let their tempo go. We just have to keep things under control."

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech's new offense under OC Zach Kittley is high-powered and can hit you with the quick strike while simultaneously wearing your defense down with the sheer number of plays if you don't get them off the field, given their proclivity for 4th down attempts. 

"They're a spread offense, heavy air raid team, they love to pass. They love to use No. 1 (Myles Price), that's their main guy," Neal said. 

After appearing in 22 games over the last two seasons, Neal is making his mark as a first-time starter, creating the first forced fumble of his career last week vs. the Jayhawks, along with four tackles. 

As expected, there have also been some rough patches for Neal, his running buddy Devin Lemear, and others in a growing secondary. But keep zooming out, and that also applies to the defense and the team as a whole. Circling back to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of last week's KU victory, this team isn't confused about their shortcomings. 

"As a team, we have to play a whole four-quarter game,” said Neal, “We can't just play a half, we can't play second half, because against really good teams — like the team we're about to play in this upcoming weekend — You can't just take a half off, because we saw last game, we almost got caught up to. We can't afford to have any mistakes like that."

According to Neal, that's a product of getting too comfortable once ahead. Last week, Blake Shapen got too comfortable turning the ball over, but the defense also got way too comfortable giving up drives in the second half, pulling within five after trailing 28-3 at halftime. 

"You can't really get too comfortable with any lead in any sport. No matter what it is, college, pros, you can't get too comfortable with a lead. And I feel like we just got to keep stepping on their necks and keep going."

First things first, grabbing a lead is a task easier said than done. But the Bears have done their talking, so now, it's time to do the walking to earn a win.

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The Player's Point of View: We're All We Got, We're All We Need

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