By Daniel Hill
After three weeks of breezing to blowout victories against nonconference opponents, the No. 15 Baylor Bears 4-0 (1-0) were sick of hearing how they have not played anyone yet. The Bears answered the critics emphatically by winning their first Big 12 Conference game over the West Virginia Mountaineers 73-42 on Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.
The Bears have yet to play a game on the road this season after four consecutive games in the friendly confines of Floyd Casey Stadium. This week that will change, as the Bears hit the road for the first time to take on the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan.
“It’s totally different,” senior safety Ahmad Dixon said. “Everyone’s against you except for the guys that are wearing the same uniform as you. That’s something that we are trying to get the younger guys to understand. We just have to go out there and focus and play Baylor football.”
Last season, the Bears upset BCS-ranked No. 1 Kansas State in resounding style with a 52-24 win at Floyd Casey. The last time the Bears played at Kansas State in 2011, Robert Griffin III was the quarterback and the Bears lost a close one 36-35.
“Kansas State is a great team,” junior quarterback Bryce Petty said. “Coach (Bill) Snyder has done a great job with those guys year in and year out. It’ll be a good test because Kansas State is a tough place to play. We remember 2011 because we let them have one. I don’t want to say that it is a revenge game, but it kind of is. We got them back last year, but it’s time to go there and take care of business.”
The beginning of this Baylor football season has been nearly perfect. The 73 points scored by Baylor against West Virginia marks the most points ever scored by a team in Big 12 Conference play.
The Bears started the game guns blazing on offense by scoring four offensive touchdowns in the first quarter.
Forty seconds into the game, Petty found junior receiver Antwan Goodley for 61-yard touchdown strike. Goodley is fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game with 135.0. Goodley has also reeled in five touchdowns this season.
With the game knotted at 7, the Bears offense reached full throttle by ripping off four consecutive touchdowns.
First, the Bears offense engineered a methodical 12-play, 75-yard drive capped off by Petty’s 2-yard rushing touchdown.
With the contest still a one possession game at 14-7, the Baylor defense mounted a ferocious stand by blitzing on three straight plays and stopping the Mountaineers in bold fashion on fourth down when senior linebacker Eddie Lackey chased down junior Dreamius Smith for a loss of two yards.
Lackey thinks the play was a statement from Baylor’s defense.
“Yeah, I think it was,” Lackey said. “We needed to come out here and show that we can make a stop first series and that was the big thing. It really just shows how fast our defense is. We fly around and make plays.”
On the next play after Lackey’s sensational fourth down stop, the Baylor offense went for the jugular when Petty fired a 47-yard touchdown to senior receiver Tevin Reese, who caught the ball while juggling it and stumbled into the end zone.
Junior running back Lache Seastrunk rocketed around the right side of the field on a sweep and torched the WVU defense for an 80-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a convincing 28-7 lead after the first quarter.
“It just parted like the Red Sea,” Seastrunk said. “My linemen did what they had to do. I gave a stiff arm, turned around, AG [Goodley] gave me a block and I headed for the end zone.”
Seastrunk averages 147.3 yards per game to rank second in the nation in that category. Seastrunk has carried the ball only 53 times but averages 11.11 yards per carry for 589 yards.
Early in the second quarter senior running back Glasco Martin pounded the rock into the end zone on a 2-yard rush to give Baylor a commanding 35-7 lead with 14:40 remaining in the second quarter.
On Baylor’s next drive, Petty committed his first true mistake of the season when he was intercepted by freshman cornerback Daryl Worley.
The offense was not phased by Petty’s uncharacteristic interception and on the next drive, the offense assembled an eight-play, 77- yard scoring drive sealed off by another 2-yard rushing touchdown from Martin to boost the Bears lead to 42-7.
The Bears offense closed out the half with authority as the Bears scored touchdowns on each of the next two drives. Seastrunk and freshman utility back Shock Linwood each added one more rushing touchdown to give the Bears a 56-14 lead at half.
The Bears racked up 369 yards of offense in the first quarter and 617 yards in the first half. Both of those marks account for more than any team in any single quarter or half in the last 10 years.
Petty passed for 347 yards and two touchdowns in virtually a single half of play. Petty was accurate with 17 completions on 25 attempts.
Petty has thrown for 1,348 yards this season this season with 10 touchdowns. Petty is sixth in the nation with a completion percentage of 72.8. Petty leads the nation in passing efficiency with a 229.6 rating. Petty also leads the nation with 20.12 yards per completion average.
In the second half, the Bears had a letdown as the starters were pulled and the game was well in hand with a 42-point lead.
WVU outscored the Bears 28-17 in the second half with mostly second and third string players on the field for Baylor.
“Unfortunately, we let the game, stat wise, be closer than it should be,” Petty said.
The Bears average margin of victory through four games is over 54 points (54.25). Not since 1991 have the Bears started the season 4-0. Baylor has also won seven straight home games and eight consecutive games regardless of location dating back to last season.
This season the Bears have already broken the school record for total yards in a game twice, and they did so a third time on Saturday with 864 yards of total offense.
The Bears lead the nation in total offense with 779.5 yards per game. The next closest team is the No. 2 Oregon Ducks with 630.4 yards per game.
The Bears are second nationally in third down conversion percentage at 62 percent.
“This is without a doubt the best offense I’ve been a part of,” senior running back Glasco Martin said. “I think we’re just hitting on all cylinders. We’ve got the right scheme. We’ve got the right players. Everything is just working for us. It’d be hard to beat this offense.”
The Bears defensive statistics took a hit against WVU with the Mountaineers scoring 28 second half points against Baylor’s backup defensive players.
The Bears rank 14th in scoring defense at 16.3 points allowed per game. The defense has conceded nine touchdowns in four games, and four of those scores came in the second half versus WVU.
Turnover margin is an area for Baylor to look to improve. Baylor ranks 37th in the nation with 10 takeaways and seven turnovers.
“I think we have an explosive nature to us from an offensive standpoint,” Briles said. “I think defensively, we have some guys that play with a lot of intensity and toughness. We’re a tough football team and that’s something that we pride ourselves on.”
With a road test awaiting them, the Bears know staying mentally sharp is the key to victory against Kansas State.
“You just have to treat it the same as if it were a home game,” senior linebacker Eddie Lackey said. “You know you are going to get the different elements such as the crowd yelling. It’s just another one of those things where you have to be emotionally flexible. When we go out there, we just have to keep playing the same way that we have been.”
The Bears take on Kansas State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on FOX.