By Daniel Hill
After defeating Wofford 69-3 in the season opener, the Bears were expecting a tougher challenge against Buffalo on Saturday afternoon at Floyd Casey Stadium.
For the second time in two weeks, Baylor shattered the school record of most points scored in the modern era with 70 points scored in a 70-13 shellacking of Buffalo.
To open the season, the Buffalo Bulls lost at No. 4 Ohio State 40-20. Considering the previous week’s competitive game Buffalo played against a highly ranked Buckeyes team, Baylor entered the matchup believing Buffalo would pose a threat on the gridiron.
After getting thumped by Baylor, Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn said the Bears belonged in an elite class of college football programs.
“We learned a lot these last two weeks,” Quinn said. “I felt good about last week’s game against Ohio State, but this week, we weren’t even close to the way I felt we would hold up against Baylor. They are deserving to be in the top five right now in my opinion.”
The Art Briles offense is rewriting the Baylor record books.
Baylor has scored 40 or more points in 16 of its last 19 games and 30 or more points in 20 of the last 22 games.
The Bears accumulated 781 yards of total offense setting a new program record. The 452 total passing yards from Petty and Russell marked the third-most total in program history.
The Bears have scored in one minute or less on 7-of-17 touchdowns and have scored in two minutes or less in 16-of-17 touchdown drives this year.
The Bears are now 2-0 after two impressive wins at home. Baylor’s average margin of victory this season is 61.5 points.
Buffalo started the game off in bold fashion by running a flea-flicker trick play on the first play. Buffalo running back Branden Oliver faked the run and then tossed the ball backwards to quarterback Joe Licata, who launched the ball down the field for a 54-yard completion to receiver Alex Neutz. Oliver capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead and to give the Baylor Bears their first deficit all season.
The Bears were clearly unfazed by Buffalo’s tricky theatrics because Baylor responded in the first quarter with 28 points and 301 total yards of offense. The electric Baylor offense scored seven touchdowns in the first half and the defense added a score to give the Bears a 56-13 halftime lead.
The Baylor scoring spree was jumpstarted when junior quarterback Bryce Petty found senior receiver Tevin Reese on a quick slant, and then Reese sped past the defense for a 61-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.
Petty started off the second drive by hitting Reese for a 44-yard gain. Then the Bears started to establish the running game when freshman utility back Shock Linwood rushed three yards to give Baylor a 14-7 lead.
Continuing to place an emphasis on the ground game, the Bears scored their third consecutive touchdown when the offense ignited with a seven-play, 53-yard scoring drive. Junior running back Lache Seastrunk scored on a run from eight yards out to give the Bears a 21-7 lead.
Facing a two-score deficit and feeling the pressure of needing to score on every possession, Buffalo bounced back on a Licata-to-Neutz 14-yard touchdown pass. Senior safety Ahmad Dixon blocked the extra-point attempt to make the score 21-13.
On the ensuing Baylor drive, Petty threw over the middle to junior wide receiver Antwan Goodley. At 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, Goodley showed off his pure speed by racing down the middle of the field for an 83-yard touchdown score, giving Baylor a 28-13 lead in the first quarter.
The Bears diverse, explosive offense found little resistance from the Bulls. Even when things weren’t going perfectly, they were still going right.
After mishandling the snap on first and goal from the five, Petty found his way into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown of the season to increase the Baylor lead to 35-13.
The Bears defense forced a turnover when freshman cornerback Xavien Howard intercepted Licata’s pass intended for Neutz and returned it seven yards to the Baylor 38-yard line.
The next Baylor scoring drive featured five rushes from Seastrunk for 33 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run to enhance the Baylor lead to 42-13.
The Bears completely crushed the Bulls’ hopes when senior nickel back Sam Holl sacked Licata and forced a fumble with about five minutes to play in the first half. Junior linebacker Bryce Hager scooped up the fumble and zigzagged his way 91-yards while eluding Buffalo tacklers to score a defensive touchdown. The score gave the Bears a 49-13 lead.
“On the fumble, we were running a blitz,” Hager said. “I saw Sam coming off the edge and I was trailing the quarterback because that’s my responsibility. I saw Sam make the tackle and the ball came out. My instinct was go to the ball so I got the ball in my hand, broke a couple of tackles, saw the end zone and kind of ran out of gas around the 40-yard line, but I’m glad I made it.”
Baylor head coach Art Briles said Hager’s fumble return touchdown was a statement.
“Our job, as a team, was to try to destroy their spirit early,” Briles said. “Then you fall behind 7-0 and we’re fighting uphill for a couple of possessions. I thought our guys responded extremely well. We executed offensively about as well as we have in a while. In the first quarter, we got a few stops and then I think when Bryce Hager got the fumble, that put the dagger where it needed to go and separated us.”
Buffalo resorted to desperate measures by trying to run a fake punt on fourth down, but senior linebacker Eddie Lackey sniffed out the play for a two-yard loss.
The Bears wasted no time scoring once again as Petty fired a bullet to senior tight end Jordan Najvar for 12 yards.
On the next play, Seastrunk dashed down the sideline for a 33-yard touchdown run, giving Baylor a 56-13 lead at the half.
The 56-point half marked the most ever points scored in a single half at Floyd Casey Stadium.
The Baylor defense was stifling, holding Buffalo to 83 yards rushing on 49 attempts for 1.7 yards per carry. The Bears also forced two turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown. The Bulls passed for 280 yards while the Bears threw for 452 yards. Offensively, the Bears rushed for 329 yards. The Bears passed 25 times and ran the ball 55 times continuing the trend of being a run-first offense despite the gaudy passing statistics.
To start the third quarter, Baylor relied heavily on Linwood, who ran twice for 16 yards. Then senior tight end Jerod Monk caught a pass up the seam for a 40-yard gain.
Linwood carried again for 13 yards and then scored on the next play with a six-yard rushing touchdown to give the Bears a dominant 63-13 lead.
The Bears scored eight touchdowns before ever attempting a punt.
Petty ended the day with 338 yards passing and two passing touchdowns with one rushing touchdown.
Seastrunk tallied 150 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. Linwood carried the ball 12 times for 76 yards and found pay dirt twice.
“You can’t ask for a much better outing in your first two big games, but you know leading into Big 12, 2-0 is where we want to be,” Petty said. “We’ve got ULM coming in two weeks and we’ve got to be 3-0. It was a great team win and it’s really fun to be a part of this team.”
In the fourth quarter, Russell found sophomore wide receiver Jay Lee down the sideline for a 53-yard touchdown strike to give the Bears an all-time program record of 70 points, eclipsing the record set last week in the 69-3 victory against Wofford.
Baylor has an open date this week before hosting University of Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 21.
The Bears have won six consecutive games dating back to last season.
“This bye week is good for us because we’ve got some guys who are a little banged up right now,” Hager said. “It helps a lot with Troy [Baker] coming back to our offense. I think it’s pretty good timing right now. Then we have a game after our bye week and then we have another bye week, so we have a long stretch. We are going to try to go back to the fundamentals during the bye week, recuperate and do everything we can to get ready for ULM.”