By Shehan Jeyarajah
Baylor football has established a tradition of elite offense. In the last two seasons, the Bears have finished second nationally in total offense.
With that history, Baylor came into this season with a world of expectations on the offensive. So far this season, the Bears have shattered previous offensive records with junior quarterback Bryce Petty at the helm.
Petty is third in a line of great Baylor quarterbacks leading potent offenses. Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III ranked sixth in passing yards per game in 2011, while leading an offense that finished second in total yardage. Nick Florence led the nation in passing yards last year while also leading a team that finished second in total offense.
Petty is currently fifth in the country in passing yards per game while being part of an offense that leads the nation in total offense.
Petty is fifth in the nation and first in the Big 12 in passing yards per game with 338.0 per game. Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield is second in the Big 12 with 40 yards less per game, and Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh is third with almost 100 yards less per game than Petty.
Petty is the highest-rated quarterback in the NCAA with a passer rating of 231.0. He is also one of only three quarterbacks to be in the top 10 in both passing yards per game and completion percentage; he is the only one to accomplish that while also playing in a BCS automatic qualifying conference.
“Bryce’s confidence is growing more and more,” senior running back Glasco Martin said.
Petty has thrown for 13 touchdowns and only a single interception, one of only two players in the NCAA to throw for 13 or more touchdowns and one or fewer interceptions. The other is Heisman Trophy-favorite sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
Through the first five starts of his career, Petty has thrown for 300 yards and two touchdowns in each game he has played. His worst game this season was against Wofford in a 312-yard, two-touchdown performance. Petty has also rushed for a touchdown in each of the last four games.
Coming into the season, the favorite for the Heisman Trophy was Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Through six games for Louisville and five for Baylor, Petty is outplaying Bridgewater. Petty has thrown for more yards per game, more yards per attempt, more rushing touchdowns, fewer interceptions and a higher passer rating than Bridgewater.
Bridgewater has posted a passer rating above 200 in three of his six games. Petty has been rated 200 or higher in each of his five career starts.
There is no doubt that the numbers are off the charts for Petty, but numbers cannot tell the whole story. Head football coach Art Briles has been complimentary of Petty’s intangibles.
“I like guys that are competitors, and I like guys that are fearless and that are very intelligent,” Briles said. “I also like guys that are mature.”
Briles told an anecdote about game management from Saturday’s game during his Monday press conference. Briles called Petty over to walk him through how to close out the end to the game, and Petty came over and said he would break the huddle with 10 seconds on the play clock and snap it at two seconds to run out the clock.
“I turned around and thought, ‘That’s pretty good for a guy in that scenario, first time ever’,” Briles said. “That’s reassuring to the guys around him because they feel him. You can get lost in those situations in a hurry.”
Briles knows how impressive it is to show such poise as a first-year starting quarterback.
“The thing that impresses me about Bryce is that he has waited his turn and he’s done it the right way by improving while he’s not playing- both mentally and physically,” Briles said. “I think that’s critical in his development and everybody’s story is different.”
Petty smiles whenever he is asked about his feelings about his performance this season.
“I’ve been waiting four years for this,” Petty said. “God has had his hand in this whole process. It’s now my turn to go out and play and have fun. That’s what I try to do each week.”
If Petty continues to do this each week, there may be a trip to New York City in his future.
Fans can watch Petty and Baylor football take on Iowa State at 6 p.m. Saturday during the final homecoming game at Floyd Casey Stadium.