By JOHN RABY, AP Sports Writer
Forget for a second that Baylor is scoring an eye-popping 70 points per game. The Bears — and some other teams in the high-scoring Big 12 — are doing solid work on the other side of the ball, too.
No. 15 Baylor is holding opponents to 16 points and 321 yards per game, both in the top 20 in those respective categories.
The Bears forced four turnovers last week in a 73-42 win over West Virginia. The Mountaineers scored twice on defense and got many of their 28 second-half points after Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett pulled his starters.
Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) has another test in its first road game Saturday at Kansas State (2-3, 0-2).
Much of the credit for Baylor’s eight-game winning streak that started last season against the Wildcats can be given to the defense.
“Those guys are flying around,” Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday. “Phil’s done a great job with them. They have a lot of confidence, and it’s confidence that they earned through the ending of last season and it’s carried on through this year
For all the Bears have done to get into the end zone, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said Baylor’s defense has improved since helping to end the Wildcats’ national championship dreams last November in Waco, Texas.
“I think what gets unnoticed probably a great deal is the fact that all the attention is focused on their offense, and yet they’re playing quite well defensively,” Snyder said. “I thought at the end of the year last year they played so well against us. They have continued that throughout.”
Six Big 12 teams rank in the top 50 nationally in total and scoring defense, led by No. 12 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0).
The Sooners are sixth nationally in scoring defense (13.0) and ninth in the fewest yards allowed (281.6) entering Saturday’s Red River Rivalry game with Texas (3-2, 2-0) in Dallas.
Texas Tech and Baylor also are in the top 15 nationally in scoring defense. Baylor is 17th nationally in yards allowed, while Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State are giving up less than 400 yards per game.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops likes his defense’s speed, discipline and abilities to put pressure on the quarterback and stop the run.
“We’ll need to do all those things the same way here playing Texas this week,” Stoops said.
The Sooners will be without linebacker Corey Nelson, who will have surgery for a torn pectoral muscle this week and will likely miss the rest of the season. Nelson was injured in Saturday’s 20-17 win over TCU. He was second on the team with 27 total tackles this season.
Stoops called the loss of Nelson “significant.”
“Corey’s a captain and a guy right there in the heart of the defense,” Stoops said. “It’s hard to minimize that. He was having a great, great year and it’s unfortunate for him. You hate to see that happen to a guy in his senior year.”
Texas quarterback David Ash will sit out the game with concussion-like symptoms, and coach Mack Brown is counting on Case McCoy to help the Longhorns try to break Oklahoma’s recent domination in the series.
Texas hasn’t surpassed 21 points in each of the past three tries against Oklahoma, all losses.
“This is one of the faster defenses I’ve seen them have,” Brown said. “I think for a Big 12 defense right now, they’re exactly what you want. They can all run. They can fly. They’re physical but they get to the ball.”
No. 20 Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0) will try to keep pace with the Oklahoma-Texas winner behind a defense that gave up 10 first-quarter points to Kansas, then held the Jayhawks to one touchdown the rest of the game in the 54-16 win.
“They’ve really stepped up and made a bunch of plays,” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. “That’s what we’ve harped on all year, in that red zone, you’ve got to tighten down and they’ve done that.”
The status of Texas Tech freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield, who hurt his right knee last week, isn’t known for Saturday’s game against Iowa State (1-3, 0-1).
Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads is trying to find a way for his team to break through against a Texas Tech defense that allows only 14 points per game.
“Stingy is a great way to describe them,” Rhoads said. “They move around extremely well with all 11 players and are causing a lot of people a lot of fits. We’re trying to figure out the answers right now.”
The other conference matchup on Saturday is Kansas (2-2, 0-1) at TCU (2-3, 0-2).
West Virginia (3-3, 1-2) and No. 22 Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1) are idle.