By Shehan Jeyarajah
“We’re going bowling,” senior wide receive Tevin Reese yelled repeatedly while running up and down the sideline, celebrating the Bears clinching bowl eligibility for the fourth season in a row. In previous years, this would have been a big deal. Not this year.
Only after a tough overtime win against Texas Tech in the 11th game of the season did Baylor clinch a bowl berth last season.
This season, Baylor has barreled through its schedule to sit at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big 12 Conference after a 71-7 thrashing of Iowa State on homecoming Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.
For the first time in the BCS era, Baylor is ranked top 10 in the BCS Rankings at No. 8.
In both the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll, Baylor is ranked No. 5 in the country. That is the highest the Bears have been ranked in polls since 1953.
Baylor sits at the top of the Big 12 and is the highest ranked Big 12 team in the BCS standings for the first time ever at No. 8.
In-state rival Texas Tech is not far behind at No. 10. Oklahoma at No. 15 and Oklahoma State at No. 19 round out the ranked teams in the Big 12.
Junior quarterback Bryce Petty thinks Baylor should be ranked higher in the BCS.
“I know how good we are,” Petty said. “I just say that being on the team and knowing what we’re capable of. I don’t know that people see that yet. That’s fine with me. It just adds that chip on our shoulder, that’s why I say we love it. Week in week out, we want to be the best team in the nation.”
The Bears dominated the Cyclones in every aspect of the game. Baylor finished with 714 total yards of offense, the fourth time it has had 700 or more yards in a game this season.
“I thought last Saturday night was the best crowd,” head coach Art Briles said. “The most energetic, most enthusiastic, loudest without question that I’ve witnessed for a continuing basis at Floyd Casey. I appreciate that. It was really needed, especially in conference play. I thought our guys played well and got another conference win, which is what it’s all about.”
Baylor’s 71 points were the second most the Bears have scored in a game this season.
Petty led Baylor with 343 passing yards and two touchdowns. He pushed his streak of 300-yard passing games with two touchdowns to six straight games to start his career.
Junior running back Lache Seastrunk rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns, while senior running back Glasco Martin added 81 yards on the ground.
Junior wide receiver Antwan Goodley led Baylor with 182 receiving yards on 11 receptions and two touchdowns. In his first season as a starter, Goodley has five 100-yard receiving games. Reese also added 105 yards of receiving. The dynamic duo of Goodley and Reese rank third and eighth nationally in receiving yards per game.
The Bears currently lead the nation in total offense with 714.3 yards per game. The nation’s second best offense is Oregon with 643.1 yards per game. Baylor also leads the NCAA in scoring offense with 64.7 points per game. Again, Oregon ranks second with 57.6 points per game.
Perhaps even more than its offense, Baylor’s defense dominated this game. The Bears held Iowa State to only 174 total yards of offense.
The last time Baylor held an opponent to a number that low was in 2001 against Arkansas State. The Bears held the Cyclones to 2.9 yards per play, compared to Baylor’s 7.8 yards per play.
To put that into perspective, Baylor allowed FCS opponent Wofford to finish with 233 yards. Goodley finished with more yards of total offense by himself than the entire Iowa State offensive unit.
Baylor’s opportunistic defense had 10 tackles for loss to go along with five sacks. Senior nickelback Sam Holl and senior cornerback Joe Williams each snagged interceptions.
“That’s probably the best game we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Holl said. “We have worked really hard for this, and worked hard to improve. And things are finally clicking, especially for the defense, and it’s making us a much better team.”
After the game, senior linebacker Eddie Lackey was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for the third time in his career and for the first time this season.
Against Iowa State, Lackey finished with eight tackles, five solo, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.
“We’re a good team,” Petty said. “It takes a team effort to win like that. My hat’s off to the defense. I mean, holy cow, in my mind that’s a goose egg. Coach [Phil] Bennett is doing a great job with them, week in and week out. We have a complete team.”
Along with the offense and defense, the special teams contributed two explosive touchdowns in the win over the Cyclones.
In the third quarter, junior receiver Levi Norwood took a punt 52 yards for a touchdown to put Baylor up 51-0. After Baylor’s backup defense blew the shutout with less than a minute left in the game, redshirt freshman Corey Coleman took a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown for the final score of the game.
Senior kicker Aaron Jones set a career high with 15 total points behind three field goals and six extra points. Jones has made a school-record 155 consecutive PATs and is only 13 short of Art Carmody’s all-time record of 253 PATs in a college career.
Baylor will have an opportunity earn its second road win of the season against the Kansas Jayhawks at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kivisto Field at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.