By Jeffrey Swindoll
No. 8 Baylor football dominated its opposition with a combined score of 115-3 in the first two games at McLane Stadium, but questions still loom about the Bears’ offense and mental fortitude for their first away game of the season at 7 p.m. today against the University of Buffalo (1-1).
“I like the way we have approached each game,” sophomore safety Orion Stewart said. “We have to go up to Buffalo and be ready to do the same thing. Offensively people said that we struggled in game one, but in game two they really showed what our offense is really about. I think we still have stuff to prove, but I think people are really realizing who we are.”
UB Stadium officially seats 29,013, roughly 10,000 seats less than McLane Stadium. Though it may be smaller than McLane Stadium, Buffalo fans will be in full force tonight as part of University of Buffalo’s social media campaign #BlackoutUBStadium to hype the Buffalo fan base as well as intimidate the Bears. Baylor will be the highest-ranked opponent to ever play at UB Stadium.
“You can’t go in there with the mindset of ‘We are Baylor so we are just going to win.’ We can’t wake up thinking we are going to win. We have to go in there knowing they are going to give us their all and they are at home,” Stewart said. “We have to go in there ready to play.”
A hostile crowd is something Baylor football is mentally preparing to experience at Buffalo and that experience will serve the Bears well in future for big away games later in the season, including Texas and Oklahoma, junior offensive tackle Spencer Drango said.
“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.”
Senior quarterback Bryce Petty will be back for the first time after missing the second half of the SMU game and the entire Northwestern State game due to back injury.
Briles said that sophomore wide receiver Corey Coleman, senior wide receivers Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller would likely be out. He added that sophomore tight end Tre’Von Armstead should return.
The Bears are first in the Big 12 in yards per game. Baylor also leads the conference in scoring offense, passing offense, and rushing offense. However, Baylor head coach Art Briles said he is dissatisfied with the offensive line’s performance in the first two games.
“We still feel like we’ve got a long way to go. We really do,” Briles said. “That’s the great thing about the offensive linemen. They love to be challenged, and we’ve challenged them. We’re leading the Big 12 in rushing right now and we feel like we haven’t done anything. That’s a good thing. Because we haven’t run the football to the level that we need to and that we’re going to, so that part of it is encouraging.”
Baylor’s defense, on the other hand, has been exceptional against its first two opponents this season. In all, 10 members of Baylor’s defense have recorded at least half a sack in 2014.
“I think they just like what they do, and that’s being very disruptive to the opponents’ [offense],” Briles said. “That’s the thing that’s been so good about our football team so far overall. When you get guys with talent that are big and powerful and strong and have an aggressive nature to them playing very hard, very physical, very tenacious, then you have a chance to be very disruptive from the defensive standpoint.”
Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata was named MAC conference player of the week on Monday after throwing 35-50, totaling 401 passing yards against Army. Licata started for the Bulls last season and broke a school record throwing 497 passing yards at Toledo. The Bulls are 1-1 in 2014, winning their first game 38-28 against Duquesne and losing 47-39 at Army.
Tonight will be Baylor’s last game before starting conference competition with two straight away games at Iowa State on Sept. 27 and Texas on Oct. 7.
No. 8 Baylor will play Buffalo in New York at 7 p.m. tonight at University of Buffalo Stadium. The game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN.