No. 4 Bears host Lamar for 2015 home opener

Senior defensive end Shawn Oakman pumps up the crowd at McLane Stadium during the Bears’ game against Northwestern State Sept. 6, 2014. Oakman returns to the Bears’ lineup on Saturday after sitting out last week. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

Coming off 56-21 victory over the SMU Mustangs last week, the No. 4 Baylor Bears will look to collect another win against the Lamar Cardinals Saturday night.

The Bears got off to a slow start in Dallas, leading 28-21 at halftime against the same SMU team they shutout 45-0 last season.

The Bears’ offense had a disastrous second quarter, gaining just one yard.

Baylor stepped it up in the second half, though, scoring 28 points and consistently finding openings for its offensive playmakers. The Bears look to carry that second half momentum against Lamar.

“We’re excited about being home, of course and having a chance to open up McLane Stadium in 2015 on the Brazos River with our football team for our fans,” head coach Art Briles said. “So, it’ll be a good deal. A lot of energy, without question.”

The Lamar Cardinals enter the game 1-0 after securing a 66-3 victory over Bacone College last week. Although Lamar is an FCS program, junior quarterback Seth Russell believes that the Cardinals are no cupcake.

“We have to expect them to be the top team in the nation,” Russell said. “If you come in with the mindset that they’re a lower team, they can surprise you. We have to stay up and stay positive and continue to get better.”

The Bears’ offense continued to showcase speed and explosiveness against SMU, scoring four touchdowns in less than a minute each. Baylor also gained 723 yards against the Mustangs, which does not bode well for the Cardinals.

The return of senior defensive end Shawn Oakman and junior safety Orion Stewart, who both sat out against SMU, could elevate the Bears’ defense against Lamar.

“Oakman and Stewart, the thing that they bring to the table is just energy and excitement,” Briles said. “They’re great locker room guys, they’ve got a lot of energy, a lot of experience and they’re really good football players. [Bringing energy to the team] will be the biggest key for them and for us.”

Both Oakman and Stewart were All-Big 12 performers last season. Their experience and tremendous talent will undoubtedly aid a Baylor defense that gave up 275 yards to the Mustangs.

The Cardinals will bring a balanced offense to McLane Stadium Saturday, as they recorded 264 rushing yards and 261 passing yards.

While the Bears intercepted SMU twice last week, miscommunications in the secondary led to two 30-yard touchdown receptions by the Mustangs.

The Bears plan to eliminate giving up big plays, as well as penalties, against Lamar. The Bears were flagged 13 times for 105 yards against the Mustangs.

“All [the penalties against SMU were] unacceptable,” said junior cornerback Ryan Reid. “When it comes to the game, you’ve got to clean it all up. We’ve worked on it as a team and you won’t see it anymore.”

Oakman’s return will also increase the Bears’ pass rush and outside contain on defense.

Oakman’s dominance last season (11 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss) will likely force Lamar to double-team him. Doubling Oakman could allow Andrew Billings and senior defensive end Jamal Palmer to deal some damage.

After giving up 21 points to the unranked SMU Mustangs last week, all eyes will be on Baylor’s defensive effort and execution against Lamar.

Kickoff at McLane Stadium is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday and will be broadcast on FSN.