The Baylor Bears defeated the Lamar Cardinals 66-31 on Saturday night at McLane Stadium. The lackluster performance from the No. 5 team in the country had many analysts wondering whether Baylor was deserving of such a high ranking.
For most of the night, Baylor failed to showcase a flow and rhythm that is expected from a top-ranked offense like the Bears. Junior Quarterback Seth Russell started the game with precision as he connected on 16 of his first 19 passes for two touchdowns. However, his next pass attempt signified a distinct change in his performance Saturday night.
Russell completed only seven of his last 15 pass attempts for two touchdowns and three interceptions. After getting off to a hot start, the junior quarterback seemed to be forcing throws and misreading coverage, which resulted in sub-par numbers for the first-year starter.
Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and wide receiver coach Tate Wallis were suspended for Saturday’s game after violating an NCAA recruiting rule last spring. Evidently, their absence affected the team’s typical efficiency on offense.
“I think it took us a little while to make sure everybody was seeing the right things at the right time,” said head coach Art Briles. “When you’re missing two full-time guys on one side of the ball, it does make a difference in the game.”
Russell also said it was a challenge playing without his usual play caller on Saturday.
Two areas of reliability in Saturday night’s game were junior wide receiver Corey Coleman and junior running back Shock Linwood. Together, both players accounted for Baylor’s first seven touchdowns.
Despite the stellar performances from both players, Coleman and Linwood said after the game that the Bears need to start games better.
“We have to wake up earlier,” Coleman said. “I guess some guys thought that we could go out there and, since we’re Baylor, [Lamar] would just roll over. But we need to know every team is going to give us their best shot.”
Linwood said the slow start was unexpected but the team was able to pick up the level of intensity and get the running game going. Linwood also went on to boast that this year’s rushing attack is better than last year.
With so much attention and pressure on Russell to perform, the Bears’ ground game quietly ran for 412 yards against the Cardinals.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears’ defense took criticism after allowing 31 points to an FCS team. However, Russell did point out that some of those scores were his fault.
“[Lamar] got field position inside their 50-yard line three times on those turnovers and the defense did an amazing job,” Russell said. “Coach [Phil] Bennett does an amazing job with them.”
Saturday’s game marked the highly anticipated debut of the iconic senior defensive end Shawn Oakman. Oakman had to sit out of the Bears’ season opener against SMU for a violation of team rules.
Oakman came through with six tackles and a sack against the Cardinals but the defense, much like the offense, struggled early.
“We just have to dominate up front and take care of stuff in the back,” junior defensive back Xavien Howard said. “We have to start and finish strong. We have to play four quarters, not just one half.”
For the second week in a row, the Bears surrendered 21 points in the first half. At this point last season, Baylor had only allowed six points total through their first two games.
So far, the Bears have given up 52 points in 2015, which brings some concern for the defense.
“We’ve got to start faster, we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to be more dominant,” Briles said.
Baylor has performed much better in second halves this season. Through the first two games, Baylor has outscored opponents only 62-43 in the first half, compared to a 59-10 scoring difference after the intermission.
Briles said the team is happy to get the win, but there is much improvement to be made between now and the end of the season.
“We’re not near where we’re going to have to be if we want to make another run at a Big 12 title,” Briles said.