By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears are 6-0 for the first time since 1980 and are also bowl eligible for a fourth straight season thanks to a dominating 71-7 victory over Iowa State on Saturday night at Floyd Casey Stadium.
“That is a big deal,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. I mean, four bowl games in a row, that’s something that really humbles you. It’s a big, big deal and I’m really happy for our players and our university. Our main goal has been six after six, and our players accomplished it.”
No. 12 Baylor’s 64-point margin of victory marks the largest in program history over a conference opponent.
“I think it was pretty evident to everyone tonight, but we knew it all along, we have a good team,” junior quarterback Bryce Petty said. “It takes a team effort to win like that. My hats off to the defense. Coach Bennett’s doing a great job with what they’re doing week in and week out. We have a complete team and we have to keep it going.”
Baylor’s offense racked up 714 total yards while the starting defense pitched a shutout against the Cyclone offense. Iowa State’s lone score happened in the last minute of the game when several backup defenders were on the field for Baylor. The Bears defense limited Iowa State to 174 total yards, meaning the Bears out gained the Cyclones by 540 yards.
To open the game, Baylor’s prolific offense was forced to punt on the opening drive of the game, which is something the 46,825 spectators at Floyd Casey Stadium have not yet seen this year from the Baylor offense at home.
Baylor’s defense forced a three and out, and then the Bears offense found its rhythm using some trickery. Junior receiver Levi Norwood threw a 41-yard pass to sophomore receiver Jay Lee on a fly sweep pass. The creative play seemed to spark the offense and Petty capped off the drive with a brilliantly placed fade throw into the back corner of the end zone to junior receiver Antwan Goodley for the first touchdown of the game with 9:28 left in the first quarter. The score marked Petty’s first touchdown pass of the season from inside the red zone.
True freshman Byron Bonds forced a key fumble on Iowa State’s second play of the following drive that was recovered by senior linebacker Eddie Lackey to give the Baylor offense prime field position.
The Bears scored in two plays as Petty connected with Reese for 26 yards through the air and junior running back Lache Seastrunk took care of the rest of the scoring drive with a nonchalant 3-yard touchdown run.
Playing with a 14-0 lead, the Baylor defense held nothing back and forced another three and out from the stale Cyclones offense.
Petty threw a dime just inside the out of bounds marker to senior receiver Tevin Reese for a 39-yard gain on the next drive. Uncharacteristically, the Baylor offense bogged down in the red zone after two short runs from senior Glasco Martin and a two-yard pass to Norwood. The Bears resorted to the school’s all-time scoring leader in senior placekicker Aaron Jones to tack on three more points with a 22-yard field goal, 17-0.
Heading into the second quarter, the Cyclones were forced to punt again. On Baylor’s ensuing drive, Petty found Reese for two consecutive 11-yard gains and then Seastrunk rushed for 24 yards on the next three carries and Martin added another three yard rush before Baylor struck with the big play.
Petty found Goodley down the seam of the sideline and Goodley out-positioned the Iowa State defensive back to make an incredible diving grab to give the Bears first and goal from the three-yard line.
Once again, the Bears normally efficient red zone offense stalled. Martin carried the ball for two yards and Petty fumbled the ball before trying to rush around the end to find the goal line but Petty was stopped for a loss of three. On third and goal from the six-yard line, Petty dropped back and fired a bullet to Goodley on a slant route, but Goodley bobbled the ball and never controlled the ball in bounds. Jones converted the 21-yard field goal to give the Bears a 20-0 lead.
With Iowa State on its own 18-yard line, senior nickel back Sam Holl annihilated Cyclone junior running back Aaron Wimberly for a five-yard loss that fired up the Baylor crowd. The play was a symbol of the Bears first half dominance and Iowa State was forced to punt once more.
“That probably is the best game we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Holl said. “We’ve waited a long time for this and we’ve worked really hard. Things are finally clicking for the defense here. I think we’re more together than we’ve ever been as a defense as a whole Everyone is just playing well. We know how to execute the game plans and we have great game plans. It’s just everybody coming together and executing and that’s why we’ve improved so much.”
One reason the defense has improved so much is because of defensive coordinator Phil Bennett’s increased emphasis on blitzing and being more of an attack-oriented defense, as opposed to a reactive defense.
“That’s definitely a big change we’ve made,” Holl said. “Our big thing is we’re going to get pressure on the quarterback and get in the backfield and wreak havoc. Us blitzing has been really good for our defense. It’s great because it gets us in the backfield, it gets us the quarterback rattled so he doesn’t make good throws.”
Petty found Norwood on a curl route and Norwood jukes his defender and found a lane on the side line for a 22-yard gain. On the next play, Seastrunk had a highlight reel run as he maneuvered his way into the open field with an array of hesitation moves and jab steps. Seastrunk cut across the grain and then bolted back out to the sideline on thrilling 48-yard run to put the ball on the two-yard line. To reward Seastrunk’s effort, the junior received the next carry and powered into the end zone to give Baylor a 27-0 lead.
After Iowa State’s fifth punt of the half, Baylor had the ball on its own 45-yard line. In a staple Baylor spread formation, Baylor ran off the receivers deep as Goodley slashed across the middle. Petty anticipated Goodley’s move and the receiver caught the ball wide open over the middle and outran the defense for a 36-yard touchdown strike.
With a commanding 34-0 lead, Baylor’s first half damage was still not done.
Iowa State punted for a sixth time and then with just seconds left in the half, Jones attempted a 51-yard field goal and drilled it through the uprights to give Baylor a 37-0 lead going into the locker room.
To start the third quarter, Iowa State’s trend of punting continued on its first drive. The Baylor offense engineered a 10-play, 84-yard drive, capped off by Petty’s QB keeper from six yards out, 44-0.
Holl intercepted Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson’s pass and returned it to the Cyclones five-yard line.
After four consecutive rushes from Martin, the Bears turned the ball over on downs as the Cyclones defense contained Baylor’s rushing attack.
Iowa State was forced to punt and Norwood returned it 52-yards for a touchdown by zig-zagging all across the field in brilliant fashion to give the Bears a 51-0 lead.
Head coach Art Briles removed most of the offensive starters, but the backups still provided the offensive juice. Freshman quarterback Seth Russell zoomed past the Iowa State defense for a 40-yard rushing touchdown to further increase the Baylor blowout, 58-0.
Freshman running back Devin Chafin scored on a 21-yard touchdown and then Iowa State scored on a 27-yard pass from freshman quarterback Grant Rohach to sophomore receiver Nealy DeVondrick.
Baylor finished off the scoring with 34 seconds to play in the fourth quarter when freshman receiver Corey Coleman electrified the crowd by displaying dazzling speed with a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown to propel Baylor to a 71-7 victory over Iowa State.
With six of the 11 teams ranked higher than Baylor losing this week, the No. 12 Bears have a strong opportunity to rise in multiple spots in the next polls. The Bears certainly do not want to be among the ranked teams upset on the gridiron.
“I think that just shows the maturity level of the team,” Petty said. “We have a lot of older leadership, from Ahmad and Tevin. Those guys keep us even keel. That’s what you have to be, because we don’t want to be part of that upset Saturday. There’s a lot of teams that went down today. We just have to focus on Baylor week in and week out. Keep proving to everybody that we are a good team. We know we are. It all goes back to being about Baylor. Four years ago, nobody worried about us. We know where we’ve been and we know where we’re going. When you haven’t had it and then you have it now, it’s just one of those things. We’re not really worried about it, but we’re going to come out hungry every week.”
Petty led the offense to the tune of 23-of-31 completions for 343 yards and two touchdowns.
Seastrunk carried the load on the ground with 18 rushes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Goodley caught 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Reese hauled in six passes for 105 yards.
“It’s very gratifying to say the least,” Briles said. “Defensively, we played unbelievably well. Special teams, any time you get two touchdowns off of special teams, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a game where that’s happened. I think it was a complete win and there was as much energy in that stadium as I’ve seen in a long time. It was very encouraging.”
The Bears have scored at least 69 points or more in all five home games this year. On the season, Baylor’s average margin of victory is 47.5 points.