By Jeffrey Swindoll
McLane Stadium will host its second straight sellout Saturday night as the No. 10 Baylor Bears take on the Northwestern State Demons. After opening the stadium with an overwhelming turnout from the Baylor Nation on Sunday, the Bears are riding a massive wave of support and anticipation for what is to come this season.
Saturday’s game against Northwestern State is the second of three non-conference games the Bears will play before defending their title in Big 12 Conference play.
The biggest concern coming out of the first game for Baylor was senior quarterback Bryce Petty’s condition after he was seen grimacing and holding his back in pain after taking a few shots from the SMU defensive line in the first half on Sunday.
After the game, tests revealed that Petty cracked two transverse processes in his back.
“It’s certainly tested our depth without question,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “It’s a good thing that we are able to be semi-productive at this time, so we are getting a lot of valuable experience early in the season, which will hopefully benefit us later on. It’s invaluable experience. It’s something you have to have.”
Petty said in a mid-week press conference that he has felt better since the injury occurred on Sunday, and that he is doing everything he can to be back on the field for Saturday’s game against Northwestern State.
“I’m going to be smart with it, but at the same time you take a risk every time you get out there on the field,” Petty said. “To me we have one game and that game is on Saturday. I will not be able to live with myself if come Sunday I rested Saturday for a more, quote unquote, important game. This is important to me, I didn’t come back to sit on the sidelines and watch. Every game is important and Northwestern State is important to me.”
If Petty does sit this game out, his replacement will be sophomore quarterback Seth Russell. Russell threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 147 and three scores as redshirt freshman in 2013.
“That’s the great thing about Seth, he has a lot of experience for a backup QB,” Briles said. “I don’t know how many snaps he has played, but if I was going to guess I would guess 200 and that might be on the low end, which is a lot of snaps in the college atmosphere. That’s something that really helps.”
Defense, the area that arguably absorbed the most criticism for Baylor over the years, was perhaps the best phase of the game for the Bears on Sunday. The defensive line was outstanding against SMU, allowing less than 70 total offensive yards and finishing with eight sacks in the game.
“It was big time for our defense, especially knowing that people say we don’t have a good defense,” sophomore safety Orion Stewart said. “With us having a statement game like that, I think people can kind of see that we’re trying to be the best defense in the country.”
Baylor and Northwestern State meet for the fourth time ever on Saturday, all of which were played Waco. The Bears have won all meetings by double-digit margins. The most recent meeting between the two ended in a 68-13 Baylor win in 2009.
The Demons lost their first game against Missouri State, a non-conference opponent at home 27-34. Northwestern State is part of the Southland Conference including familiar Texas teams like Sam Houston State, Abilene Christian University and Stephen F. Austin.
Petty is expected to be out with his back, senior receivers Levi Norwood (wrist), Clay Fuller (clavicle) and Antwan Goodley (quad), sophomore receiver Corey Coleman (hamstring) and sophomore running back Devin Chafin (high ankle sprain) are all likely to miss the game with various injuries.
The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest Plus at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.