In week two of Baylor’s maiden season at McLane Stadium, the Bears already have more injuries than they can count, and the path to the national championship gets narrower. Baylor’s next four weeks are as follows: home against FCS Northwestern State, at Buffalo, BYE, and at Iowa State (who lost to FCS North Dakota State).
Even if Baylor does not have their normal studs by these matchups– and god willing they will– there is enough defense and depth to essentially keep Baylor on cruise control.
That does not mean that the citizens of Waco and Baylor Nation will not be scared stiff in the process. Here are the good and the bad from week one’s shutout victory over SMU.
The Good: Baylor’s defense was uncharacteristically stout. To say they were great is an understatement and even slightly disrespectful at this point. Phil Bennett’s defense was ranked 35th in the nation last year, and it seems that, as a unit, the Bears have not hit their ceiling yet.
And people expected there to be a drop-off due to the graduation of last year’s defensive studs. Nah, Baylor was supposed to be fierce and ferocious with an in your face each play mantra. But this good, this early? The numbers speak for themselves:
- Allowed seven first downs
- SMU was 22.22% on third downs; 0-4 on fourth
- SMU’s duel QB system completed 52.5% of passes for 91 yards
- SMU ran the ball 25 times for a GRAND TOTAL OF NEGATIVE 24 yards
- Forced three turnovers
- First shutout of an FBS opponent since 1995; first shutout since September 17, 2011 against SFA (game was shortened due to weather)
- Recorded record-tying nine sacks
- Held SMU to 67 total yards of offense
To simply recap the first four SMU drives of the first quarter to demonstrate the defensive dominance: a forced three and out, fumble return to the six-yard line, defensive stop that lead to a punt return to the four-yard line, and a turnover on downs.
That last turnover on downs was after Deion Sanders Jr. returned the kickoff 58 yards deep inside Baylor territory. The Bears do not even allow a field goal; instead they limit SMU to negative three yards on the drive and an incomplete fourth and 13 pass attempt. Baylor strikes with a 46-yard touchdown bomb to KD Cannon with 28 seconds left in the quarter to end the game.
Safety Orion Stewart said they expect to shutout offensives, and linebacker Bryce Hager has said that their defense expects to get a turnover or three and out each time.
The Mediocre: The Baylor offense was mediocre. In a night that provided as many festivities as an annual Diadeloso celebration, from the RGIII statue to President Bush standing at midfield, the play was nothing special. No running back averaged more than six yards a carry. We only scored 45 points for crying out loud!
It was the way it happened. Baylor’s first drive stalled inside the red zone for a 23-yard opening field goal. The next two TD drives were of six and four yards due to the defense and special teams play. Finally, there was a glimmer, perhaps coming as a reflection off the Brazos, of the old Baylor offense everyone knows and loves with Bryce Petty’s 46-yard bomb to Cannon.
The game was over after the first quarter; the whole second half was garbage time, and at least 70 percent of the second quarter was irrelevant. Baylor also committed two turnovers (one in the end zone). It was the most unimpressive and unsatisfactory game where a team puts up 45 points and 574 yards of total offense. Honestly the game was boring.
It did not help that the refs looked as if they were getting back into mid season form also. They inexplicably overturned the back judge’s facemask call that would have extended a drive. Then their mediocrity crossed over the line of intolerableness when they stopped play for a five-minute review on the blocked-field goal-fumble-illegal forward pass debacle. Just call it the LaQuan.
At least Baylor understands that they were sloppy. Time should help them get better.
The Bad: While the defense was out-of-this world extraordinary, and the offense was sub-par juxtaposed to performances over recent years, what exactly was bad?
The kicking game. There is literally one job a kicker does, which is put the ball through the uprights. Chris Callahan only made a 23-yarder, had one blocked, and sent the other two wide. Maybe it was nerves, maybe this will be corrected, but it certainly cannot happen.
Leaving points on the board: Baylor left 16 points on the board with three missed kicks and a fumble in the end zone. If you count the very first stalled drive at McLane Stadium then the number increases to 20 points. The Bears have to be able to capitalize, especially in the Big XII and on the road (and not only Norman).
Penalties: The laundry plagued the Bears last season, and the start to 2014 looked similar. Baylor was called for a sideline warning within minutes and committed 11 penalties for 96 yards. Perhaps Tre’Von Armstead won’t throw the ball into the band after his next score.
Injuries: These are simply nagging. Four elite receivers from ‘WR U’ are out with injury: Clay Fuller (clavicle), Antwan Goodley (quad), Corey Coleman (hamstring), and Levi Norwood (wrist). Running back Devin Chafin (ankle) is most likely out as well.
So there is a huge opportunity against Northwestern State for players to step up and prove their worth in gold. Redshirts may be burned; however, the Bears are deep enough to right the ship in their championship voyage.
The Petty: So the only player who remains a mystery is Petty (back). All indications point to him putting on a headset again, something that allegedly haunts his nightmares. Petty wants to play, saying the coaches will have to take his helmet and run.
When asked about these comments and Petty’s leadership, sophomore cornerback Ryan Reid said, "I’ll take [Petty’s] helmet and run with it" on Saturday.
Petty’s performance against SMU was the worst performance at quarterback that I have ever seen from him. Yes, that includes last year’s game in Stillwater. After being hit on the initial drive, Petty lost his accuracy. It hurt to run, to move, and he consistently missed wide-open receivers downfield that went for touchdowns last year. This being said, Petty completed 13 of 23 passes, tallied 182 total yards, and three all purpose touchdowns.
In one half.
With two broken vertebrae.
Medical science, logic, and plain common sense tells even the causal fan/pre-med freshman that maybe Petty should not take the field Saturday night against the Demons. After all, Baylor while outscoring Northwestern State 166-29 in three matchups they have not fared positively with quarterback health. Robert Griffin III tore his ACL in 2009 against the Demons; he continued to play on it.
Petty has to be one of the toughest guys on the squad. He wants to play. I believe that he may play a drive or two, like an NFL preseason game, before sitting the remainder. But even that is a stretch. Briles wants Petty as a legend, to be in New York, Pasadena, and Arlington, not a ‘what might have been’ story. He certainly will not risk that against Northwestern State.
So this Saturday, Baylor has sold out their on-campus football stadium in a matter of minutes so fans can eagerly watch the Bears, with their backup QB and four, second string receivers, play an FCS foe while they drool over a tenacious Baylor defense whose coach nearly got run out of town three years prior. Not to mention that every week, a Big XII and national championship is on the line.
Not a soul would’ve believed that possible a half century ago.
 Talking about missed opportunities is unscientific; however the point total is certainly in the range from 13-20.
 For those keeping score at home, that is 29 more yards than SMU had offensively.