By Daniel Hill
No. 23 Baylor started the season in superb fashion by decimating FCS opponent Wofford 69-3 on Saturday night at Floyd Casey Stadium.
With all the questions surrounding Baylor football heading into the season with a new quarterback, a revamped offensive line and returning the 113th ranked scoring defense, the Bears resoundingly answered those lingering questions by dominating Wofford in every facet of the game.
The Bears won in such demonstrative fashion that a majority of the home-opening record 44,989 fans at Floyd Casey left before the fourth quarter even began.
It was only a handful of years ago that Baylor fans routinely left Floyd Casey early to avoid watching the Bears lose yet another game at home. After three straight bowl appearances and two straight bowl victories, winning is a part of the culture now with Baylor football thanks to head coach Art Briles.
The depth at every position has improved substantially and the Bears are striving to win the Big 12 Conference title as their next team goal.
“It’s dramatic over what it’s been four years ago, three years ago,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “There is not a dropoff and it’s not that there’s not a dropoff on six out of 11 positions, there’s not a dropoff on 11 out of 11. That’s really encouraging on both sides of the ball and even on specialists, so to speak. We have a backup snapper who did a great job. [Kyle] Peterson came in there and hit a kickoff, hit a field goal, things like that add up later down the road. Our guys out on the field played well. They were dominating.”
Following Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence at quarterback, junior Bryce Petty resoundingly displayed he is more than ready to be the next great Baylor quarterback by completing nearly 80 percent of his passes against Wofford in a 19-of-24 effort for 312 yards and two touchdowns.
Aside from a fumble and a pass dropped by Wofford that should have been an interception, Petty gave Baylor fans numerous reasons to smile by orchestrating the offense to near perfection.
“I loved it, and honestly I kind of had my own goals that I wrote down,” Petty said. “What I put down was to be 28-0 in the first quarter and that’s what we did. It was good to finally get out there and get that game under my belt. I will just become more and more confident as we go out there. It was definitely fun to be the guy, to be the starter. I haven’t had that in a while, so it was a big breath of fresh air.”
A common misconception about Baylor’s offense is that they are a pass-first offense. Even though the Bears put up gaudy statistics through the air, the reality is that Baylor is predominantly a running team that utilizes the ground game to tee up the vertical passing attack.
Loaded with two of the Big 12’s best running backs in junior Lache Seastrunk and senior Glasco Martin, the Bears are set to ground and pound opponents at the line of scrimmage. With legitimate NFL talent at left tackle in sophomore Spencer Drango and senior left guard Cyril Richardson, Seastrunk and Martin could each realistically run for 1,000 yards this season.
If Baylor’s play-calling against Wofford is any indication of the game plan for the rest of the season, then the Bears will set the tone offensively with the running game.
Petty attempted 24 passes and backup quarterback Seth Russell completed all four of his pass attempts to give Baylor 28 total passing attempts for 411 yards. In the ground game, eight players recorded rushes for 44 total attempts and 302 total yards.
This means that Baylor rushed the ball over 61 percent of the time and passed only 39 percent of the time. The high-flying passes garner attention-grabbing highlights on ESPN, but the reality is the running game is truly what sets the tone for the Bears.
“We have some good running backs and a great quarterback in Bryce Petty,” Martin said. “I think Lache [Seastrunk] really opened it up with the running game, which allowed us to pass well. We have some playmakers out there, receivers that did what they do all the time.”
The defense also came out with a vengeance against Wofford. Perhaps the sting of hearing about having the 113th ranked scoring defense last season helped add fuel to the offseason fire for the returning starters on defense like senior safety Ahmad Dixon.
“This is the season we’re due for,” Dixon said. “Just because it was Wofford don’t think we won’t be like that every week. And that is how were going to be week in and week out. I don’t care if it’s against UT, I don’t care if it’s against TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. We’re going to be like that against everybody we play. That’s our mindset and we aren’t going to change for anybody.”
Defensively, the Bears only allowed 173 rushing yards and 60 passing yards on the way to holding Wofford to three points for the game.
Sophomore defensive end Jamal Palmer and senior nickel back Prince Kent each forced a Wofford fumble and Palmer recovered both fumbles. Senior defensive end Chris McAllister had a 25-yard touchdown return off of an interception when he batted a Wofford pass into the air and raced to the end zone after catching his own deflection.
Forcing three turnovers is a trend the Bears hope to continue when they face a more talented and challenging Buffalo team at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.