With a near-capacity crowd of 44,989 packed into Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor couldn’t have delivered a much better all-around performance in its 69-3 season-opening blowout of Wofford.
But the Bears aren’t in dreamland. They know it will be tougher to put up the same kind of numbers Saturday afternoon when they play again at home against Buffalo.
The Bulls have been rebuilding the last four years under Jeff Quinn, and made significant steps at the end of last season by winning three of their last four games.
They took another major step in last weekend’s season opener against No. 2 Ohio State as they stayed within striking distance before the Buckeyes scored the final 10 points for a 40-20 win before 103,980 fans in Columbus.
“They went to Ohio State and played extremely well,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “It could have been a lot closer. But it will be a good matchup for us in that they are up-tempo and throw the ball more. It will be a big step up in the caliber of depth and the speed factor. They have a lot of guys who can run and have been on bigger stages week in and week out than our previous opponent.”
After falling into a 23-0 first-quarter hole against the Buckeyes, Buffalo cut the lead to 30-20 early in the third quarter as quarterback Joe Licata hit Matt Weiser with a 16-yard touchdown
pass and Alex Neutz with a 10-yard scoring pass.
Licata finished 19 of 32 for 185 yards while Neutz made nine catches for 98 yards. Buffalo’s ground game was led by Branden Oliver with 73 yards on 26 carries.
The Bulls will present a much different challenge than Wofford which ran an option-based wingbone attack. Baylor’s defense was outstanding as it limited the Terriers to 233 yards total offense including just 60 passing yards. The Bears forced three turnovers including defensive end Chris McAllister’s 25-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“Buffalo is more the type of offense we’re used to defending,” McAllister said. “They’re athletic and have speed at the skill positions. They will present us with a couple of challenges. We’re happy with the way we played, but we strive for perfection and there are areas we can improve.”
Buffalo’s defense is led by linebacker Khalil Mack, who returned an interception for a 45-yard touchdown against Ohio State and recorded 2 1/2 tackles for loss. The 6-3, 258-pound Mack is a two-time Mid-American all-conference selection and is the NCAA’s active career leader with 58 1/2 tackles for losses.
“All the talk he’s generated he deserves,” Briles said. “He’s a big-time, good player. I compare him to (former Texas A&M star) Von Miller because he’s explosive, dynamic, quick and vicious. He’s a multiposition guy. We have to be very aware of him, and we’re going to be.”
Briles expects Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty to keep improving after a superb starting debut Saturday against Wofford. After three seasons as an understudy to Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, Petty hit 19 of 24 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns.
“Bryce did what we expected,” Briles said. “There are certainly a couple of things that he can clean up, but he was efficient and poised and showed leadership qualities.”
With 411 yards passing and 281 rushing, the Bears piled up 692 yards total offense. Nine different receivers caught passes while Lache Seastrunk led the running game with 111 yards on just 11 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Even when the substitutes came into the game, the Bears continued to play at a high level. Baylor has been developing its depth since Briles arrived six years ago, and it’s paying off.
“Our depth has improved dramatically over the last three years,” Briles said. “There isn’t a dropoff, and that’s encouraging on both sides of the ball. Our guys who got on the field and played were dominating.”
Baylor has a chance to get more depth on the field against Buffalo. Briles said senior cornerback Demetri Goodson has a chance to play after missing the Wofford game with a bone bruise in his arm. Briles said redshirt freshman running back Devin Chafin is dealing with “an NCAA issue” and hopes to hear by Friday whether he’ll be cleared to play against Buffalo.
BEAR FACTS: Sophomore defensive tackle Javonte Magee didn’t return to Baylor on Monday as coach Art Briles had anticipated. Briles said last week that Magee was attending a family funeral in Louisiana, and he has been away from the team for more than three weeks. “My deal with him has nothing to do with football, it’s all about what he’s doing when he’s 42 years old,” Briles said. “I want him to get a college degree and I want him to be a productive citizen and husband and father. One of the best ways is to stay involved and stay in school. That’s where I’m at.”