<
>

Baylor's Art Briles bests Texas' Charlie Strong in first chess match

AUSTIN, Texas -- The chess match of Art Briles vs. Charlie Strong did not disappoint.

The first meeting went to Baylor, by a decisive 28-7 margin. But the future bouts between college football's best offensive mind and one of its best defensive gurus promise to be fascinating.

Briles brought the No. 1 offense in the nation into Strong's new home on Saturday afternoon and was met with great resistance. The king on Briles' board, without question, is Bryce Petty. He'll tell anyone who asks that Petty is the best quarterback in America. Against Texas, the senior had perhaps the worst performance of his 17-start career.

"I was, for lack of a better word, terrible today," Petty said.

He jokingly guessed his final stat line was 5-for-45. Petty wasn't too far off: 7-for-22 passing, 111 yards, two touchdowns, three sacks. Texas stifled and stumped him in ways he never saw coming. The Longhorns defense made all the right moves in the first half.

"I've gotta be honest with you: My head is spinning still just trying to think," Petty said. "They threw so many looks at us, coverage-wise. Man, I couldn't tell you what they did on consecutive plays."

The Longhorns' blend of coverages and blitzes repeatedly put Baylor in third-and-long. Petty wasn't crisp, even when he did have sound protection. And he didn't get many chances, either: Baylor had just four real offensive drives in the first half and finished with 129 yards.

"We held the ball, and we kept them off the field, which we wanted to do," Strong said.

But Texas never capitalized. Baylor, a team that prides itself on its 20-point first quarters, rarely leaves the window open that wide for that long. And Texas coaches made the wrong strategic move in the first quarter when they asked an inconsistent kicker, Nick Rose, to try a 52-yard field goal that was easily blocked and returned for a TD.

When the Longhorns stopped Baylor on back-to-back plays at the goal line, then drove 98 yards to score right before halftime, a botched snap on a quarterback sneak -- "the most basic play in football," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson called it -- wiped out their best scoring chance.

"When you know you're in a game like this, with as good a team as Baylor has, you have to get the points," Strong said.

The better team won the second half, that much is certain. Baylor's special teams savvy came through again. Petty breathed a sigh of relief, got help from an increasingly impactful run game and found the end zone.

And Texas' offense kept stumbling, punted on six consecutive possessions and booted the game away in the process. Strong doesn't have many pieces on offense, and a few, such as newly reinstated receiver Daje Johnson, went wasted or unused.

For Briles and Baylor, checkmate was swift: A fourth-quarter drive that ended with nine straight runs, all of them up the middle, for 61 yards and a 21-0 lead.

"At the end of the day," Briles said, "I thought our guys just came in with an attitude and a hunger that we always have."

No team has slowed Briles' high-flying offense quite like these Longhorns in their past two meetings. Just like the past season, the Bears didn't surpass 30 points or 400 yards. Still, Baylor has four wins over Texas in the past five years and plenty of well-earned pride about that.

Texas, meanwhile, had its worst start since 1993, and its offense currently can't produce more than a couple scoring drives against quality competition. Strong already has most of what he needs on defense, but this first season will probably get worse before it gets better.

"In Year 1, with our hand that's been dealt us, we've got to keep working," Watson said. "We've got a lot of youth out there."

More than that, Strong doesn't yet seem to have the talent and personnel he needs to go toe-to-toe with Briles' bunch and succeed in all three phases. He'll continue to collect the pieces he needs -- an elite junior receiver, Manvel's Reggie Hemphill, committed right before kickoff -- but he know Texas needs to fine-tune its tactics and find some endurance.

"We just have to learn how to win," Strong said. "We don't know how to win yet. We don't know how to finish."

Spoken like a true chess player -- and a frustrated one. Round 1 went to Briles. The real shame is having to wait a year for Round 2.