After missing Saturday’s 70-6 blowout of Northwestern State, Baylor coach Art Briles expects quarterback Bryce Petty to be back in the starting lineup for the first road game.
The No. 8 Bears travel to Buffalo for Friday’s nationally televised game at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Petty didn’t suit up against Northwestern State after suffering two cracked vertebrae in his lower back in Baylor’s season-opening 45-0 win over SMU on Aug. 31.
“We’ll know more in two days, but I think he’ll be back,” said Briles in his Monday press conference. “Bryce is doing really good. He said it was sore, but not painful, and that’s a big difference. If he’s able to go, he’ll go.”
With Petty on the sidelines, sophomore quarterback Seth Russell earned Big 12 co-offensive player of the week in the first start of his college career. Russell shared the award with Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters.
Russell hit 16 of 25 passes for 438 yards and five touchdowns in the first half as the Bears roared to a 49-3 halftime lead. Though redshirt freshman Chris Johnson took over at quarterback in the second half in the lopsided win, Russell’s passing yards were the third most in school history.
“He was exceptional in the way he handled himself and the decisions he made,” Briles said. “I told him I was proud of him. He’s been around here three years and I know he can throw, I know he can run, and he’s exceptionally athletically gifted.”
Russell’s main target was freshman KD Cannon who made six catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Jay Lee and Davion Hall also caught long touchdown passes from Russell against the Demons.
Briles expects receiver Corey Coleman to play for the first time this season against Buffalo after dealing with hamstring issues. Tight end Tre’Von Armstead should also be ready after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament against SMU. Freshman tight end Jordan Feuerbacher stepped in and made two catches for 15 yards against Northwestern State.
Briles said All-America receiver Antwan Goodley’s quadricep injury is improving, but is still questionable for the upcoming game. Running back Devin Chafin is expected to miss his second straight game with a high ankle sprain, but should be ready for the Sept. 27 Big 12 opener at Iowa State.
After winning their first two games at McLane Stadium by a combined 115-6 score, Briles is anxious to see how the Bears perform on the road for the first time in their final nonconference game.
The Bulls are off to a 1-1 start following a 38-28 home win over Duquesne and a 47-39 road loss to Army.
“You’ve got to win on the road and understand that people want to beat us,” Briles said. “They want to get us on their home floor and slap us around. Either you man up and bond together and fight for each other or stay at home and don’t get on the plane. We’re going to get challenged a little bit, and to me that’s exciting and inspiring.”
Baylor’s defense has been superb as it leads the Big 12 by allowing 134.5 yards and three points per game. The Bears’ 12 sacks are the most in the league and opponents are averaging 0.8 yards per rush.
But Buffalo should be the biggest challenge for the Bears’ defense so far this season. Led by quarterback Joe Licata, the Bulls are averaging 513 yards and 38.5 points per game. Licata has completed 69.8 percent of his passes for 699 yards and eight touchdowns.
In last year’s 70-13 loss to Baylor at Floyd Casey Stadium, Licata hit 10 of 16 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. But he’ll likely see much more pressure from Baylor’s defensive line than any he’s faced this season.
“They’re kind of a step up from what we’ve seen the last couple of weeks,” Briles said. “It’s a good situation to gauge where we’re at. We’re playing at a high intensity level. When you get guys with talent who are big, powerful and strong and with an aggressive nature, you have a chance to be very disruptive from a defensive standpoint. That’s the way these guys are playing.”
Averaging 647 yards and 57.5 points per game, the Bears lead the Big 12 in major team offensive categories. Though the Bears are averaging 263 yards rushing per game, Briles would like to see the ground game become more consistent.
Johnny Jefferson and walk-on Silas Nacita came off the bench to rush for more than 100 yards apiece against Northwestern State.
“We still feel like we’ve got a long way to go,” Briles said. “We’re leading the Big 12 in rushing right now, but we haven’t run the football to the level where we need to be and we’re going to be. But the great thing about O-linemen is they love to be challenged.”