After leading 48-0 at the end of the first half, the Bears basically coasted for the next thirty minutes of game time to end a season-opening win over the Northwestern State Demons. Keeping players healthy ended up being the primary goal of the night, with Seth Russell exiting with 2 minutes to go in the second quarter and true freshman Zach Smith following halfway through the third. Shock Linwood and Terence Williams also left at halftime after putting up a combined 170 yards already.
Depending on your expectations for the offense (and whether they exceeded them), the story of the first half, when all the starters were playing, was probably the defense, particularly the defensive line. Ira Lewis at NT played extremely well, showing quickness and surprising strength taking on the interior of the Demon offensive line. Taylor Young also had another strong game at OLB, where he played mostly as an Eric Striker-esque rush end coming off the edge.
One of the major subplots from the game is how many true freshmen ended up playing, considering once they play at all, they might as well play the rest of the season. Zach Smith was obviously going to play as our backup QB, but he was joined in the game by DT Bravvion Roy, WR Jared Atkinson, WR Denzel Mims, DB Rajah Preciado, DB Grayland Arnold, and DB Chris Miller, to name a few. Considering Baylor’s depth issues on both sides of the ball, having those guys get experience this early should prove valuable over the course of the season, particularly when it means guys like Russell, KD Cannon, and Ira Lewis can come out and avoid injury.
If you’re looking for negatives from the game tonight, the only thing I really have for you is penalties. Through Grobe came in and immediately identified that area as one where he might be able to make a difference, the Bears still had a number of penalties even when the first-team units were in the game that either cost points (for the offense) or prolonged drives (against the defense). It ultimately didn’t matter considering the utter domination of the first half, but it’s still troublesome. I’d might also point out how bad the offense looked in the second half when it was clear Baylor didn’t care about scoring anymore, but that’s probably a function of trying to keep guys healthy in a game that doesn’t matter (by playing guys that wouldn’t otherwise play) and Grobe not wanting to run up the score. It’s also a pretty silly criticism when you’re up 48-0 and have nearly 400 total yards at the half.
All in all, it was a very strong opening performance for the Bears and a good start to the Jim Grobe Era. Both starting units played extremely well, and the Bears got a great spark from their special teams for what seems like the first time in a long time. The game was never in doubt from the point Baylor had the ball for the first time, and the Bears stayed, as far as we know, healthy. Can’t ask for much more than that!
Players of the Game:
QB Seth Russell — 14/20 passing for 163 yards and 4 TDs
DT Ira Lewis — Not sure on the stats yet, but he was everywhere inside.
Total Yards: NW State -- 78, Baylor -- 498.
Passing Yards: NW State — 31, Baylor — 223
Rushing Yards: NW State — 47, Baylor — 275
First Downs: NW State -- 9, Baylor — 23
I’m still learning how to use the Chorus editor, so sorry I don’t have a flashier stats box for you. The full box is available via ESPN here.
Give me your thoughts in the comments and let’s celebrate another season-opening win for the Bears!