By Jeffrey Swindoll
No. 8 Baylor football opened McLane Stadium with just about everything it could have wanted out of its first two games in the stadium, but the Bears will face their first road test this season on Friday in front of a sold-out crowd at University of Buffalo.
“You know you have to win on the road. That’s just it,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “You have to go on the road, you have to win, and you’ve got to understand that now it’s a situation where it might not have been that way five years ago. They want to get us on their home floor and they want to slap us around. So either you man up, you play tougher, you bond more together, you fight harder for each other or you stay at home and don’t get on the plane.”
It has been all smiles for the Bears to open the season in the new stadium. They have put up big numbers and big plays in front of big home crowds. With an injury-stricken roster and its first away game of the season, Baylor’s younger players will face possibly an even greater challenge at Buffalo than their last two games.
“It’s always good to win on the road,” junior receiver Jay Lee said. “So if we can go out there and pick up this win [against Buffalo] before the bye week, we have to come ready.”
The University of Buffalo is hyping this game as their marquee game of the season. In fact, the school is spreading word to its fans, who plan to “black out” the stadium, similar to what Baylor did against Oklahoma in 2013.
“I don’t know how many [“blackout” games] they have had, probably one. To me that is good,” Briles said. “It challenges us to some extent, and I like that part of it because we are not going to be in any comfort zone. We are going to have to go out there and depend on the guys we look around and see. That part of it is kind of inspiring to me.”
The youth on the team have performed exceptionally well in the first two games, especially Baylor’s backup receivers with senior starters Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller out of the lineup. However, junior offensive tackle Spencer Drango said there are some things that talent and skill may not prepare a player for playing in front a hostile crowd at the college level.
“It’s good having [an away game] early, to get our young guys accustomed to it because I’m expecting it to be what most Big 12 atmospheres are like,” Drango said. “It’ll definitely be good experience for the young guys.”
The jump in crowd size from high school to college can be a substantial difference. There are few high-school venues that come even close to the size of stadiums and crowds the Bears will play this year.
Drango said it is not really something one can extensively prepare for; rather it is just an experience that players have to go through with open eyes and focused minds.