By Jeffrey Swindoll
No. 7 Baylor football continued making progress on the brink of conference-play with another blowout performance against Buffalo on Friday, this time on the road. The Bears passed their first test away from home, leaving much promise for their upcoming two-week stretch of road games at Iowa State and Texas.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of maturity,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “We have a team that has won on the road some and I think it showed up. I thought Buffalo did a great job of building a game up with their fans being here in black and their team was excited. I feel like we played an international game. We could throw a ball and be in Canada. It’s a completely different deal for us and I was proud of our guys for holding it together and getting a big win.”
The Bears smashed Buffalo 63-21 on a primetime national television slot in front of a rowdy blackout crowd. It will not be the last time this season the Bears will play in front of tens of thousands of fans in a hostile away stadium with hundreds of thousands of viewers on national television.
The maturity playing in enemy territory that Briles mentioned will be called upon more than once this season. Baylor’s offense, which has been the engine for the Bears through the past few years, started fast. It did not take long for the Bears to find their tempo. It started from the first offensive series for the Bears.
In his first game back from cracking two bones in his back against SMU, senior quarterback Bryce Petty led Baylor’s offense to four touchdowns in its first four possessions. This set up the Bears’ 35-0 halftime, putting the game virtually out of reach for the Bulls in just one half.
Most teams usually play more conservative on the road, but the Bears showed they are willing to take the shots they always take, at home or away.
“I thought Bryce Petty was exceptional to be honest with you and that’s the Bryce that we are used to knowing,” Briles said. “He got us to the line of scrimmage, threw the ball around and protected himself. When you have an experienced quarterback like that, you ought to convert third downs and that’s how we look at it.”
All of this offensive domination came without four of the regular starting receivers for the Bears in the lineup. Seniors Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood, Clay Fuller and sophomore Corey Coleman were all unavailable for the Buffalo game. Even without those players, the Bears had no problem moving the ball and cutting through the defense before they had chance to settle into the game.
Baylor’s defense had another shutdown first half, allowing no touchdowns and a minimal number of big plays. Though there was one play that leaves lingering questions to be answered by the defense. The game could have easily been 7-7 at one point in the first half; Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata found his receiver Marcus McGill with acres of space on the right sideline. Licata’s pass was perfect, but McGill botched the easy catch.
Outside of the opportunity, Baylor’s first team defense disallowed Buffalo from any real effect on the score in the first half. The second half’s defensive lineup consisted mainly of second and third-stringers, which was when Buffalo’s first team offense scored all the points they scored in the entire game.
“Having the young guys [at Buffalo] experience that is good because there are a lot of distractions heading into a big game,” junior offensive tackle Spencer Drango said. “You have to learn to kind of manage those games. When I was in high school, we had a lot of fans, sometimes up to 16,000 fans, but comparing that to the 45 to 50,000 that you usually see in the Big 12, and even at Texas up in the 80 to 90,000 range, it is a lot different having to make that adjustment from high school to college.”
The maturity of the younger players as well as the depth of the roster was tested in another unique challenge that was convincingly overcome by this Bears team on a three-game winning streak. Baylor will need that experience as it moves forward into Big 12 play.
The Bears put their undefeated record on the line at Iowa State to open conference play at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 in Ames, Iowa. The game will be broadcast nationally on FOX.