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Baylor, Bearing Down in Bid for Recognition, Is Host to USC Today

September 20, 1986|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

WACO, Tex. — Baylor Coach Grant Teaff concedes that his school has an identity problem on the national college football scene when compared to such schools as USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Texas.

"We've had an image problem for a long time, and that's something that probably won't go away," Teaff said. "Our school isn't one that conjures up moments of past glories like some other schools.

"Baylor has never won a national championship, and we've never had any Heisman Trophy winners. It just goes with being a small, church-related school. We don't have the facilities like Texas and Texas A&M, but that still doesn't mean we can't compete."

USC knows about Baylor's ability to compete. The Trojans were upset by the Bears last year at the Coliseum, 20-13, and that could be an incentive factor in today's nationally televised game (Channel 7, 12:30 p.m. PDT) at Baylor Stadium.

If Baylor wins again today, it won't be an upset. The Bears are ranked ninth in the nation.

USC Coach Ted Tollner says he'll know more about his team after today's game. The Trojans opened the season last Saturday by beating Illinois, 31-16, surviving four turnovers in the first half. They probably won't be able to get away with something like that against a veteran Baylor team that had a 9-3 record in 1985 and beat LSU in the Liberty Bowl, 21-7.

Tollner relied on his defense to hold off Illinois before the offense contributed some touchdown plays.

Are the Trojans changing their personality offensively? Are they now trying to dazzle teams instead of pounding them as they once did in the past?

Tollner says, in effect, that he wants the best of both worlds.

"We want our opponents to be concerned that we can do more than one thing," he said.

Much of that depends on how quarterback Rodney Peete performs. He got off to a shaky start against Illinois, completing only 1 of his first 6 passes. But he settled down and completed 9 of his next 18 for 197 yards and a touchdown, then put Illinois away with a 32-yard scoring run on a broken play.

According to Tollner, the mobile Peete has the ability to throw from the pocket as well as on rollouts. But he suspects that future opponents will try to contain Peete in the pocket, forcing him to beat them with his arm, not his feet.

It remains to seen whether Peete can excel as a drop-back passer.

"The first thing we want is for opponents to try and stop our running game," Tollner said. "We would also want people to be worried about containing Rodney. If we get them to respect what he can do outside, the inside running lanes for the backs should open up. As you get good at more things, it hopefully helps other things."

If Peete is a key, so are his wide receivers, who passed their first test. Ken Henry, Randy Tanner and John Jackson accounted for 9 of USC's 11 receptions against Illinois.

The first priority is to throw medium-range passes, Tollner said. If those are taken away, Peete will be obliged to dump off to his tailbacks, Ryan Knight and Aaron Emanuel.

USC out-gained Baylor last year, 388 to 287 total yards, but the Southwest Conference team consistently converted on third-down, short yardage plays.

Teaff has an experienced quarterback, Cody Carlson, who directs a varied option offense. He was regarded as more of a passing quarterback while previously alternating with Tom Muecke.

"That's a mistake a lot of people make," Teaff said. "In our first game against Wyoming, he had 244 yards passing and another 72 yards by running. He weighs 205 pounds and runs a 4.7 40. And he executes the option as good as any quarterback we've ever had."

Trojan Notes Today's game is expected to attract a crowd of 40,000 in a 48,500-seat stadium. . . . Grant Teaff, now in his 15th year as Baylor's coach, is one of the most respected men in his profession in the country. Although he says he doesn't get as many blue-chip athletes as Texas or Texas A&M, he has a commendable record, including Southwest Conference championships in 1974 and 1980, and five bowl appearances. He has been named Southwest Conference coach of the year six times. If Baylor wins today, he will become the winningest coach in the school's history. He is tied at 83 wins with Morley Jennings, who coached from 1926-1940. . . . Teaff said he is a good friend of Ted Tollner's and reportedly told the USC coach that this could be the best team he has ever had at Baylor. "The thing I'm really concerned about now is our kicking game," Teaff said. "We're a little bit weak in that area."

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