Baylor coach Art Briles didn’t contemplate jumping off the Umphrey Bridge after seeing the injury report before Saturday’s game.
But it’s pretty scary when your all-Big 12 quarterback and top four returning receivers from last season are all watching from the sidelines.
The No. 10 Bears’ 70-6 blowout of Northwestern State before 45,034 fans proved at least two things: They’re deep in the right places and the Demons had no match for their overwhelming speed and athleticism.
In the second game at McLane Stadium, the only thing that could stop the Bears was a 22-minute delay of the opening kickoff following lightning flashes. The Bears spent Saturday night watching a thunderbolt named KD Cannon catch touchdown passes from Seth Russell.
Cannon showed why he won the Class 4A 100 meters in a blinding 10.3 seconds last spring. The freshman phenom from Mount Pleasant caught touchdown passes of 50, 81 and 42 yards in the first quarter to tie the school record with three touchdown catches in a game.
Cannon finished the night with six catches for 223 yards, the second most receiving yards in Baylor history behind Terrance Williams’ 314 against West Virginia in 2012. All of Cannon’s production came in the first half.
“I’m not surprised by what Seth did or any of our receivers, and KD in particular,” Briles said. “We don’t view those guys like they’re backups. They all bring something different to the table. They got an opportunity that they wouldn’t get under normal circumstances. I’ve watched a lot of high school receivers, and KD was the best I’ve ever seen.”
Starting his first game for the Bears, Russell hit 16 of 25 passes for 438 yards and five touchdowns as Baylor opened up a 49-3 halftime lead. The sophomore quarterback didn’t play in the second half, but his passing yards were the third most in school history behind Nick Florence’s 581 against West Virginia in 2012 and Robert Griffin III’s 479 against Oklahoma in 2011.
Russell’s passing yards and touchdowns were the most for a Baylor player in a half.
“They were loading up the box to stop the run, and our passing game was open,” Russell said. “KD knows how to get open. I threw it up and he went and got it. He’s the fastest kid in the state and the nation.”
Great performances were needed from Cannon and Russell since many of Baylor’s key offensive performers were sidelined with injuries. The Bears finished the night with 720 total yards.
Quarterback Bryce Petty sat out after suffering two cracked vertebrae in his lower back in last Sunday’s 45-0 season-opening win over SMU. Joining him on Baylor’s lengthy injury list were receivers Levi Norwood (fractured wrist), Antwan Goodley (quadricep injury), Corey Coleman (hamstring injury) and Clay Fuller (fractured clavicle).
Throw in running back Devin Chafin with a sprained ankle, and that’s a season’s worth of injuries for some teams. Briles said Petty’s back is improving, but doesn’t know yet if he’ll play Friday at Buffalo.
“We felt he was a little better today, but in five days we’ll get on a plane to Buffalo,” Briles said. “He’s eager to get back out there. He’s a winner and a fighter and a heck of a football player.”
But the injuries did nothing to slow down the Bears as they blew out to a 46-point first-half lead behind the show stopping play of Russell and Cannon. It was all over quickly for Northwestern State (0-2), the only Football Championship Subdivision school on Baylor’s schedule.
Another stout defensive show
After giving up just 67 yards in the shutout of SMU, the Bears’ defense was tremendous once again by holding the Demons to 202 yards. For the second straight game, Baylor didn’t allow a touchdown as both Northwestern State scores were field goals.
Russell and Cannon began hooking up on the first possession. After making a leaping catch along the left sideline near the 20, Cannon turned upfield and sped past the Northwestern State defense for a 50-yard touchdown with 13:42 left in the first quarter.
Making his second interception of the season, Xavien Howard returned his steal of Zach Adkins’ pass 25 yards to Northwestern State’s 34. After hitting Shock Linwood with a 29-yard pass, Russell sprinted around the left side for a 3-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a 14-0 lead.
Andy Wickman pinned the Bears at their own 4 with a punt, but they didn’t stay there long. Russell got the Bears out of the hole with a 15-yard pass to Cannon and then connected on the longest play of the night.
Breaking past Northwestern State’s defense, Cannon caught Russell’s pass at midfield and raced for an 81-yard touchdown with 7:11 left in the first quarter.
Russell and Cannon weren’t through as the two combined for a 42-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left in the first quarter to stretch the lead to 28-0.
“I never dreamed of a game like that,” Cannon said. “I didn’t expect three touchdowns in a quarter. It’s a great feeling.”
Northwestern State’s Chris Moore nailed a 25-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but Lynx Hawthorne put the Bears in good field position with a 37-yard kickoff return to Baylor’s 41.
Following a holding penalty and two false starts, the Bears faced third-and-28 at their own 23. But Russell hit Cannon with a 34-yard pass to keep the drive alive.
Linwood finished it off with a 2-yard dive for a touchdown to push Baylor’s lead to 35-3 with 6:49 left in the first half.
There was still plenty of time for the Bears to score two more touchdowns. Russell spotted Jay Lee streaking behind the Demons’ defense for a 61-yard touchdown with 2:13 left in the first half.
Russell finished off his tremendous first half by hitting freshman Davion Hall with a 57-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to extend Baylor’s lead to 49-3 with 1:02 remaining in the second quarter.
With redshirt freshman Chris Johnson replacing Russell at quarterback, the Bears scored early in the second half as Johnny Jefferson drove across for a 2-yard touchdown to complete a 49-yard drive. Jefferson led the Bears with 107 yards on 20 carries.
Silas Nacita ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and had a 104-yard rushing performance on just 14 carries.