No. 2 Baylor hosts Iowa State for homecoming

Two Baylor fans cheer on the Bears with pom-poms during a football game between Baylor and Lamar on Sept. 12 at McLane Stadium. The Bears won 66-31. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

For the Baylor Bears, homecoming is a special time of the year. Families get together and celebrate their Baylor pride, reuniting for Pigskin Revue and football game during the weekend.

This year’s homecoming game will see the second ranked Baylor Bears host the Iowa State Cyclones.

However, the pageantry of the homecoming season isn’t affecting the Baylor football team as much as the normal student body.

“I think we have the longest homecoming tradition in the United States, so it’s a big game for Baylor and the university as a whole,” said senior tackle Spencer Drango. “We have a lot of alumni coming back, but for us it’s just another game on the schedule.”

While the game may be just another game on the schedule for the Bears, it begins one of the toughest six game stretches in America to round out the season.

Although perennial cupcake Iowa State enters the game with just a 2-4 record, the Cyclones have played tough games against strong opposition.

“They’re good; they’re a good football team,” said head coach Art Briles. “You can ask Toledo; they went to double OT in Toledo and Toledo is the number 19 or 20 team in America. TCU is the No. 3 or No. 4 team in America, and it was 24-21 TCU at half.”

The Cyclones would eventually lose both of those referenced games yet their play has been noticeably improved in 2015.

Offensively, the Bears are playing their same old song and dance, torching the nation yet again.

The Bears rank sixth in passing yards per game and second in rushing, the only team in America to hold top ten ranks in both.

A huge part of that offensive firepower last week was junior quarterback Seth Russell’s duel-threat ability.

Russell torched the West Virginia Mountaineers last weekend for 380 yards passing and 160 yards rushing, earning numerous player of the week awards.

“Nervous wouldn’t be the correct way to describe my feelings,” Briles said. “I think we just try to be intelligent with him. We realize it’s a position that if you want to see grandma while she’s knitting get up and scream, it’s usually when they’re tackling the quarterback.”

Protecting Russell is the first key in Baylor’s gameplan as the junior quarterback is first in the nation in passer efficiency.

Along with Russell, junior wide receiver Corey Coleman has gained a huge following this season.

The Richardson native has caught a school record 16 touchdown passes, which is also top in the nation. Following a 10 catch, 199-yard and three-touchdown explosion against West Virginia, Mountaineers’ head coach Dana Holgorsen called Coleman the best player in the nation.

“I 100 percent agree,” Russell said. “What has he done not to prove that? He’s proven it every day he steps on the field.”

While Coleman and Russell hold all the hype in the passing game, junior running back Shock Linwood has also developed into a top running back in the country. Linwood has gained 803 yards on just 94 carries, averaging an astounding 8.5 yards per carry.

“Shock is one of those backs who’s always going to be there,” Drango said. “He’s very consistent and he’s always improving. One guy is almost never going to take him down. He’ll bounce off guys or spin off guys or jump over guys. He’s almost always going to get positive yards, so he’s a great back for us.”

While the Bears are scary good on offense, sometimes their defense is just plain scary. The Bears have been suspect to blown coverages and missed tackles all season, especially in the first half.

However, the Bears have played noticeably better as of late, forcing turnovers and punts even after the offense gives them short rest. While the Bears returned nine starters on defense this year, linebacker Bryce Hager’s departure left an obvious hole.

Senior linebacker Grant Campbell has filled the hole so far this season very well, playing consistent throughout games.

“He’s been a really good leader, makes all the calls defensively, gets the guys in the right spots, makes the right plays, and has done a really steady job. I think he’s exactly what Coach [Phil] Bennett is looking for on that side of the ball at that position,” said Briles.

Campbell’s leadership and instinct on the defensive side of the ball will be key against a solid Iowa State offense led by freshman running back Mike Warren.

Warren has played very well for a freshman this season, rushing 93 times for 652 yards and three scores.

With a homecoming crowd expected to fill McLane Stadium to capacity and the Iowa State defense allowing almost 462 yards of offense, expect the Bears to do just as they please.

Don’t expect grandma to get up and scream while she’s knitting anytime soon this weekend; the Bears should take of business just fine. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Saturday and television coverage will be provided by ESPN.