By Jeffrey Swindoll
Senior quarterback Bryce Petty came into the season with a Big 12 conference championship and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award. After recovering from an early season injury scare, Bryce Petty is back in the saddle for No. 7 Baylor football, and playing better than ever.
Petty produced tremendous numbers in passing yards and touchdowns last season. Nearly every game in 2013 was a blowout. Petty only threw three interceptions in over 400 pass attempts. Petty also had 32 touchdown passes and 4,200 yards in 2013. Until Baylor’s loss to Oklahoma State, Petty was a Heisman contender.
In fact, many pundits thought Petty was ready to enter the NFL Draft after that season, but Petty chose to stay at Baylor for his senior season. Petty said one of the main reasons he stayed another season was his drive to be the best.
“I want to be the best quarterback to come through Baylor, the Big 12 and on top of that the nation,” Petty said. “Play in and play out, I want to be the best at what I do. Whether that means making a successful hand-off or making a 50-yard throw, I want to be the best at it at that time.”
When asked about how much Petty challenges himself even more on and off the field this season, head coach Art Briles paused before answering.
“There are so many ways; that’s what I love about the guy,” Briles said. “If he’s got a sock on crooked, he corrects it. Everything is perfect and he wants to be great at everything he does. And that’s what you’ve got to have there. That’s what gives us a chance to win every game we play. We’ve got a stud at QB. People that have studs at QB have really good football teams, and we’ve got, in my opinion, the best guy in America.”
In his first game back from injury, Petty got right back on pace for leading one of the nation’s best offenses for a second straight season. Against Buffalo, he was his usual self, wasting no time to tear up the opposing defense, throwing the big touchdown passes to his speedy receivers and racking up hundreds of yards. Not much has changed when comparing how he played in the first three games of 2013 and 2014.
Players said they don’t expect a second-season slump being a factor for Petty in 2014, especially after showing the things he was capable of doing last season. In fact, Briles said Petty was the best he’s ever been in the Buffalo game.
“I thought it was the best half that I’ve seen him play, without question, because of some of the things he did mentally on the field, what he saw on the field,” Briles said. “He’s ready to go; very determined young man.”
The approach to each game has changed for Petty this season. In terms of focus and attitude, Petty, along with the entire Bears returning roster, the expectations within the team have been set even higher than last season. His goal to be the best resonates in the whole team in each of its own respective ways though, Petty said.
“If I want my goals to line up with my production, there are things I have to take into account earlier in the week in practice,” Petty said. “It’s more than me. The whole team has that persona as well. Defense does a great job of preparing us to be the best because they want to be the best. When you have a bunch of guys that want to be the best, it’s easy for everyone to do that.”
Petty’s longtime teammates, senior offensive tackle Troy Baker and junior tackle Spencer Drango, noted improvements specifically in Petty’s leadership and mental edge this season.
“Last year [Petty] did it. He went through , experienced it all and now he’s got the experience,” Baker said. “So, now he knows how to push guys. He has a better feel of the team as a whole, where we’re at and what we need to do. Leadership as a whole, he’s just taken to the next level.”
The 2013 season was unforgettable for the Bears. Petty led the team to its first Big 12 conference championship and first BCS Bowl appearance. Knowing your quarterback has achieved accomplishments like those or the simple fact that Petty played a season in the Big 12 through gives off a sense of confidence to the team that can even be contagious, Drango said.
Petty has the trust and belief from his teammates and coaches. The journey begins on Saturday when the Bears open Big 12 play at Iowa State on Saturday. Petty has a chance to begin the final chapter of his Baylor career with an exclamation point.
No. 7 Baylor travels to Ames, Iowa on Saturday to face the Iowa State Cyclones. The game will be broadcast live on FOX.
In the last matchup between these two teams, Baylor ran past the Cyclones 71-7 on homecoming in Waco.