By Shehan Jeyarajah
On Buffalo’s first drive of Friday’s game down 7-0, quarterback Joe Licata caught sophomore Baylor cornerback Ryan Reid with a pump fake. The fake opened up Buffalo wide receiver Marcus McGill with a wide-open lane for an equalizing touchdown.
But McGill dropped the ball, and Buffalo was forced to punt. Two plays later, senior quarterback Bryce Petty found freshman wide receiver KD Cannon for an 89-yard touchdown over the top to put Buffalo in a two-touchdown hole from which it never recovered.
“We hit a couple of big plays early and they had a missed opportunity to tie the game up 7-7, and then it kind of snowballed from there,” head coach Art Briles said.
No. 7 Baylor used several missed opportunities from Buffalo to stun the Bulls 63-21 and complete a perfect 3-0 non-conference slate.
Petty returned as the starting quarterback after missing Baylor’s game on Sept. 6 against Northwestern State with fractured transverse processes in his back. If there was any rust, it did not show up in his production.
Petty threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns in just under three quarters of work with the first-team offense. The senior completed 23 of his 34 pass attempts for a 67.6 percent completion percentage, markedly higher than what he posted in 2013. The 416 yards was also the second-highest mark of his career.
“I thought Bryce Petty was exceptional tonight,” Briles said. “That’s the Bryce we are used to knowing. This was his coming out party.”
Petty finished with four touchdown passes to three different receivers: Cannon, sophomore Lynx Hawthorne and two to junior Jay Lee. The trio each posted over 100 yards receiving, and combined for 22 receptions for 448 yards and five touchdowns.
Baylor’s stingy defense did not give up a touchdown for the first 10 quarters of the season, but Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata tossed a shovel pass to receiver Devon Hughes for the first touchdown scored against Baylor this year. Just two and a half minutes later, Buffalo running back Anthone Taylor broke a tackle from sophomore linebacker Aiavion Edwards to explode for a 41-yard touchdown.
“There’s no quit in this football team, and I can see that in their eyes and the way they played,” Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said after the loss. “Being able to put 21 points on this defense that hadn’t given up a touchdown all year shows that our kids understand what we need to do.”
After the stampede of points from Buffalo, Baylor scored 21 straight to put it away, including Lee and Hawthorne’s second touchdown catches of the day.
Buffalo’s backup quarterback Tony Daniel found receiver Malcolm Robinson for a 17-yard touchdown late in the fourth; by that point it was too late.
Four of Baylor’s five slated receivers (Antwan Goodley, Corey Coleman, Clay Fuller, Levi Norwood) once again missed the game with injuries, but the offense felt virtually no effect.
A week after playing the second most productive receiving game in Baylor history, Cannon once again looked like an All-American candidate.
The true freshman caught only six balls, but 33.6 yards per catch on the season would make even Tevin Reese jealous. After week three, Cannon leads the nation with 471 receiving yards, and is tied for second in the nation with five touchdowns. Lee is close behind at No. 21 in the nation with 291 receiving yards and tied for fifth with four touchdowns.
The defense was inconsistent to say the least. There were plays where junior defensive end Shawn Oakman looked ready to be the best defensive player in college football, but there were points where the defensive line overcommitted to the pass at the expense of the run, and Buffalo took advantage.
Baylor also struggled mightily in the special teams game. Buffalo kept the ball away from Hawthorne on kickoffs, which limited his opportunity to contribute. With normal punt returner Norwood held out with a wrist injury, junior receiver Cal Spangler struggled to make anything happen. Spangler only fielded two of eight punts, and returned those for only a single yard.
Baylor’s kicking was perhaps even more dreadful. Freshman kicker Chris Callahan missed his only field goal of the day, and even looked bad on extra point attempts. After hitting the first attempt of his career, Callahan has missed all four attempts since.
“We line up for a field goal in the middle of the field, you like to think there’s a 95 percent chance it goes in, even 100,” Briles said. “That’s definitely an area that we’ve got to be more consistent in.”
Baylor will study its film against Buffalo in its upcoming bye week in order to prepare for the beginning of Big 12 conference play. A week later, the Bears will travel to Ames, Iowa to play at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 to play Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium. The game will be nationally broadcast on FOX.