Bears brace for road test against Cyclones

Sophomore wide receiver Chris Platt ran the ball in for a touchdown after a pass from senior quarterback Seth Russell on Saturday at McLane Stadium. The Bears beat Oklahoma State, 35-24. Photo Credit: Timothy Hong | Lariat Photographer

After being tested by the Cowboys’ talent and the weather, the Bears’ defense came up with several clutch plays last Saturday to preserve a 35-24 victory over Oklahoma State and remain undefeated. Now Baylor football turns their attention to a road matchup with the Iowa State Cyclones.

Acting head coach Jim Grobe was pleased with the Bears after their hard-earned victory last week and is hoping to see that same level of play carry over to Saturday.

“I thought it was a good challenge for us. I liked Oklahoma State’s football team,” Grobe said. “I like the way they’re coached. I knew the level of competition was going up. I was excited to see how our guys would respond to a level of playing field, and I think they did a great job.”

The Cyclones enter the contest at 1-3 under first-year and former Toledo Rockets head coach Matt Campbell. However, the Cyclones are coming off their lone win of the season, a convincing 44-10 win over San Jose State.

Ames, Iowa, has not been particularly kind to the Bears in recent years, and although losing two of their last three trips to Ames, they did win convincingly in 2014. Grobe said he hopes the Bears will be better tested and prepared for the Cyclones than they were for their last away game against the Owls.

“I think for us, we have to learn how to play on the road. We didn’t start very well against Rice, and it was good to get one under our belts,” Grobe said, “but Iowa State has always been a tough place to play for Baylor, so I have a feeling we’re in for a battle.”

Senior quarterback Seth Russell knows the challenges that are presented on the road in conference, especially in a tough atmosphere like Iowa State.

“It’s always tough going to Iowa State. They have great fans, great turnout every year. It’s a grass field, and we don’t play on grass fields a lot,” Russell said. “Rice was a good test to see how we’d react on the road. Going to Iowa State, it’s going to be a great environment, and we’re excited about it.”

For Russell and the offense, it has been a priority to start each game fast and get into an offensive rhythm. After having struggled to start quickly in their first three games, the Bears were able to turn things around last week as they scored on their opening drive.

One of the keys that has been crucial to the offense has been the growth and development of the offensive line. Injuries to the quarterback and running back positions hurt Baylor a year ago, so there has been pressure to protect and prevent injury this year. Russell has only been sacked twice through four games, as teams have struggled to get past the Bears’ offensive line.

“That’s who they are. They’re the offensive line at Baylor,” Russell said. “They’re known for moving guys, playing fast, getting the ball down the field in a hurry. They’ve really come into their own, and created their own image. It’s cool to see how they’ve grown together.”

The Baylor defense has been stout thus far. It has forced turnovers, made huge stops on fourth downs, repeatedly gotten out of bad situations,and gotten the ball back to Russell and the offense. However, Iowa State will certainly throw some wrinkles at the Bears’ defense.

In last week’s win against San Jose State, the Cyclones used with great success a two-quarterback system featuring junior Joel Lanning and sophomore Jacob Park to exploit the Spartans’ secondary. Lanning threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns, while Park threw for 165 yards and three touchdowns. They also saw sophomore running back Mike Warren rush for a season high 103 yards on the ground.

Warren also rushed for a team high 145 yards against the Bears last year in Waco.

After a win last week, Campbell is focused on keeping the Cyclones playing together.

“Play together,” Campbell said at his weekly press conference. “It’s not about you; it’s not about me. It’s all about us.”

When the Bears and Cyclones take the field tomorrow, the Baylor Bears hope to make it about them. Baylor won the meeting between the two schools year last year, 45-27. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. The game will be broadcast on FS1.