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Final Score: Baylor Bears 70, Rice Owls 17

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Or, "How Baylor Got Its Edge Back".

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH F
RICE (2-2, 0-0) 10 0 7 0 17
BAYLOR (3-0, 0-0) 21 21 21 7 70

Box ScoreNotesUSATSI Photo Gallery Photo Gallery

Waco, Texas - Attendance: 43,619

For those wondering when we might get a glimpse at the Baylor of Old in a dominating effort both offensively and defensively (we won't talk about Special Teams because this is a happy place), you finally got your wish.  After two of the most lackluster 35-point wins you've ever seen in your life, the Bears came out today with some of that "edge" that Art Briles says we didn't have so far this season and put up nearly 800 yards of offense in a 70-17 win.

It wasn't perfect by any stretch, particularly because of the aforementioned special teams (that I don't really want to talk about because, again, happy place), but it was clearly the best game of the season so far and exactly what we needed to see heading into conference play.  The offense performed mostly as expected, putting up 796 yards on just 78 plays (10.167 yards per play).  Rebounding from his 3-turnover game against Lamar two weeks ago, Seth Russell played a virtually perfect game, going 12/16 for 277 yards and 6 TDs with no interceptions before leaving the game with about 8 minutes to go in the third quarter.  The rushing offense also had itself a day, amassing 427 yards on 53 carries to average 8.1 per carry. 5 different receivers caught TD passes, including Ishmael Zamora and Lynx Hawthorne, both of whom got on the board for the first time this season.  Shoot, even Gus Penning had a 35-yard catch in the third quarter.

But it was the defense that made this day so exceptional.  Though shorter fields led to two Rice TDs, the defense performed extremely well, giving up just 246 yards on 66 plays (for an average of 3.73 yards per play).  That's the same Rice team that put up 462 and 562 yards against Texas and UNT, respectively, the last two weeks.  A big part of that defensive performance came exactly where I hoped it would: from the defensive line.  The Bears collected 13 tackles for loss (pending official stats) and 6 sacks, punishing Driphus Jackson over and over again to the point that Rice actually took him out of the game, probably for his own protection.  It was a bloodbath in the Rice backfield all day, exactly as it should have been with our defensive line against their offensive line.

Other than special teams, which I've now avoided talking about twice in this post, there's not much to complain about in this game.  I said before the game that Baylor had 3 big keys: stopping the run, running the ball, and limiting turnovers.  All three of those things happened.  And as a result, Baylor turned in the dominant performance people had been expecting to see.

Players of the Game:

QB Seth Russell -- 12/16 for 277 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INTs
WR Corey Coleman -- 6 catches for 100 yards, 3 TDs
RB Shock Linwood -- 16 carries for 158 yards, 1 TD

(I will update with defensive players when we get official stats.)

Full Stats (via ESPN.com's recap).

5 Quick Thoughts:

  • We finally got to see some of the offensive creativity we've been missing early in this game with a few designed QB runs, the return of Corey Coleman as a running back out of the backfield, and well-designed passes to Penning and Jefferson (the latter of which came out of the backfield).  The announcers mentioned that Baylor's coaching staff told them they were intentionally keeping things bland in previous games, confirming our suspicions.  That actually makes me very happy.
  • Once again, the final score doesn't tell the story of how well the defense played in this game.  Both touchdown drives for Rice started on our own 24-yard-line after a long kickoff return and fumbled reverse, respectively.  The inability to hold them to field goals on those drives may be a problem, but I can't fault them for giving up points on extremely short fields.  Otherwise, as I described above, the defense was fantastic.
  • Seth Russell completed 12 passes today and 6 went for touchdowns.  He had more touchdowns than incomplete passes.  Rice's secondary is pretty terrible, but those are good stats against air.
  • Even without Devin Chafin, the running game looked leaps and bounds better than 2014 once again.  Shock Linwood, Johnny Jefferson, and Terrance Williams all looked great in their respective roles, and I couldn't be happier.
  • Ishmael Wilson didn't do himself any favors with those two 15-yard penalties in the fourth quarter.  Can't be doing that when you are fighting to replace Spencer Drango next year.
  • Yesterday, I predicted that our defensive line could have a huge day against Rice, but I didn't think it would be this huge.  Shawn Oakman had his way with Rice's LT repeatedly, Andrew Billings dominated the inside, and Jamal Palmer got in on the action with a sack.  Finally, we saw what we expected to see from them this season.

BONUS THOUGHT: Corey Coleman is the best receiver in the country.

#SicEm