With style, speed and talent, Baylor’s offensive players have emerged as the poster boys for high-tech football.
Scoring points at a dizzying pace, the No. 19 Bears are breaking records every time they step on the field. They’ve amassed 209 points in the first three games of the season, which is more than the Bears scored in any entire season from 1997-2003.
Fans headed to the concession stands go at their own risk. The Bears can easily score a touchdown or two while they’re getting their hot dogs and Dr Pepper. Baylor’s first two touchdown drives in Saturday’s 70-7 blowout of Louisiana-Monroe took a total of 72 seconds.
The Bears have become the first team since the 1930 LSU squad to score 60 or more points in each of the first three games.
Newspaper boys trying to flag down customers in that era would have had a field day with this Baylor offense: “Come see the best aerial circus on earth. Watch the wizards from Waco weave their magic. See Bryce Petty, Tevin Reese, Antwan Goodley and Lache Seastrunk deflate defenses like a Model T with four flat tires.”
But as dynamic as the offense has been, the development of the defense might be an even bigger story in Baylor’s 3-0 start. When you’re in the same room as Brad Pitt, you’re probably not going to get a lot of attention. Baylor’s defense knows the feeling, but its performance this season should not be overlooked.
Bears flying high
The Bears rank second nationally by allowing just 7.7 points per game, a far cry from last season when they allowed 37.2 points per game. With interception returns for touchdowns by Terrell Burt, Joe Williams and Chris McAllister and a 91-yard fumble return by Bryce Hager for another score, the Bears’ defense has outscored opponents, 24-23.
Even Baylor’s defense has become offensive. Those guys enjoy blowing up scoreboards, too.
“Everybody talks about the offense, but we want them to talk about the defense as well,” Burt said. “We try to make a turnover or get a touchdown and do whatever we can to help the team out. Every game we come in hungry because we know last year we didn’t do the best.”
There’s no question the Baylor defense is light years ahead of where it was after three games last season.
When the Bears played at Monroe last September, Warhawks quarterback Kolton Browning pulled off a pretty flattering Johnny Football imitation. He had the Bears running in circles as he passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns while running for 49 yards and a score.
Baylor gave up a whopping 560 total yards and was fortunate to escape with a 47-42 win.
But in Saturday’s rematch at Floyd Casey Stadium, the Bears allowed just 295 yards and pressured Browning out of his comfort zone most of the afternoon. Browning hit 17 of 41 for 219 yards while throwing two first-quarter interceptions that were returned by Williams for a 41-yard touchdown and Burt for a 63-yard score.
“Last year when we played those guys, we didn’t really go into the game well prepared,” Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon said. “So it kind of messed us up. We couldn’t jump routes like we were doing (Saturday), we couldn’t force turnovers the way we were doing. We couldn’t run to the ball like we were doing. With us having the knowledge and all that, that’s how those plays came about.”
It was just another example of how much Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett’s crew has grown after returning eight starters from last season.
“We weren’t very mature last year and we didn’t really understand what he wanted, didn’t understand the scheme as a whole,” Dixon said. “It wasn’t just one particular person, but as a whole we didn’t understand the scheme. So now that we have the scheme, we know what we need to know, and we’re just showcasing what we’re doing now.”
Not only is Baylor’s defense more experienced, it’s deeper all the way around. With defensive tackle Trevor Clemons-Valdez out with a knee injury, freshman Byron Bonds looked solid in his first start. Senior cornerback Demetri Goodson saw his first action of the season off the bench after suffering a bruised arm in the preseason.
Besides forcing four turnovers, seven Baylor players recorded tackles for losses and five broke up passes. Second-team defensive end Shawn Oakman continued to show he’s going to be a force as he collected a team-high 2½ tackles for loss while freshman safety Taion Sells intercepted his first pass.
It says a great deal when Baylor’s starters can sit out most of the second half and the defense shows no dropoff. Dixon missed the second half with an arm contusion, but is expected to return for Baylor’s Big 12 opener against West Virginia on Oct. 5.
That kind of depth should really benefit the Bears down the road when they get into the teeth of their Big 12 schedule.