Seth Russell delivered a game for the ages and Corey Coleman is enjoying a season for the ages.
West Virginia had no answer for that dynamic duo as No. 2 Baylor romped to a 62-38 win before a packed house of 45,370 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium.
Russell passed for 380 yards and five touchdowns and amassed a career-high 160 yards rushing and another score. He became just the second Baylor quarterback to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in a game after Robert Griffin III did it against Kansas in 2011.
With the Mountaineers stacking the line of scrimmage with extra defenders, Russell often blew past them with his running ability. Carrying 14 times, Russell helped the Bears (6-0, 3-0) extend their nation’s best home winning streak to 19 games.
“We felt like coming into the game that he would have to run some, and we schemed a few runs for him,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “That’s an X factor that we haven’t had for a couple, three years. And he’s really good at it. He made a lot of adjustments at the line of scrimmage when he checked off of a lot of things.”
Three of Russell’s touchdown passes went to Coleman, who set the Baylor single-season record with 16 touchdown catches just halfway into the season. Coleman broke Kendall Wright’s record of 14 touchdown catches set in 2011.
“Kendall’s like my big brother,” Coleman said. “It’s a blessing, and he set the standard high. My goal was to go get it, and I reached it. I’m trying to make (the record) elite. I’m trying to make it unbreakable.”
After watching Coleman collect 10 catches for 199 yards, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen called him the best player in America. He also called this the best Baylor squad he’s seen.
“No. 1 (Coleman) is the best player in college football — you can put me on record for that,” said Holgorsen, whose team dropped to 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the Big 12. “This is the best Baylor team I’ve seen. With the experience that Baylor has offensively, we can’t outscore them. We had to have them have a bad day.”
The Bears avenged a 41-27 loss to West Virginia last year in Morgantown, a game that has haunted them. It was the Bears’ only blemish during the regular season and effectively kept them out of the College Football Playoff. Baylor tied its short series with the Mountaineers at 2-2 with each team winning two home games.
“We just erased last year and tried to make a statement for this year,” Baylor cornerback Ryan Reid said. “I didn’t know until Coach Briles said in a meeting last night that they were the only Big 12 team that had a winning record against us (since 2012). That put a sour taste in everybody’s mouth because we’re the best team in the Big 12.”
The Bears were highly efficient as they racked up 693 yards total offense and didn’t have a turnover. While Russell and Coleman put up big numbers, Jay Lee caught a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes and Shock Linwood rushed for 84 hard-earned yards on 19 carries.
Though the Bears allowed 471 yards, they got some key stops and Reid made his first interception of the season.
Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings had a big day with three tackles for loss and a sack before going out with a sprained left ankle midway through the third quarter. After limping to the locker room on crutches, Billings returned to the game for one play before he was pulled again. He will be evaluated during the week to see if he’ll be ready Saturday for Iowa State.
The Bears looked like they would put the game away early when they took just 58 seconds to move 80 yards for their first touchdown. Russell’s 50-yard pass to Coleman set up the quarterback’s 16-yard touchdown run.
“If they bring seven you leave one free rusher, that’s who we were reading,” Russell said. “If he crashes down, I pull it. I just went one-on-one with the safety basically. That’s kind of what they did last year. We didn’t execute the quarterback run as much last year, just because we weren’t expecting it. This year we were expecting it.”
But the Mountaineers scored almost as quick when Skyler Howard found a wide open Shelton Gibson along the left sideline. Gibson cut across the field and outraced the Baylor defenders for a 70-yard touchdown with 12:45 left in the first quarter.
On their next possession, the Bears moved 73 yards for a touchdown. Russell’s 42-yard pass to Coleman over the middle was the biggest play, and the two combined again for a 2-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 14-7 lead.
Russell then went to KD Cannon for 13 and 9 yards and kept the ball for a 13-yard option play to the 19. West Virginia’s defense stiffened but Chris Callahan drilled a 36-yard field goal to give the Bears a 17-7 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
West Virginia ran time off the clock with its running game as it drove 33 yards to Baylor’s 35. But then Howard hit David Sills for 29 yards before spotting Cody Clay for a 6-yard touchdown to cut Baylor’s lead to 17-14 with 13:57 left in the second quarter.
The Bears responded with their longest drive of the game as they moved 89 yards.
With Baylor’s running backs struggling to get consistent yardage, Russell took up the slack by breaking loose for 46 yards to the 11.
On the next play, Russell lofted an 11-yard pass to Coleman for his school-record breaking 15th touchdown catch that gave the Bears a 24-14 lead with 12:21 left in the second quarter.
“You watch him, the way he runs his routes, he’s just so dynamic, so explosive,” Russell said. “You’re going to have to double-team him. That’s maybe the only way you can stop him. Then you leave one-on-one with one of the fastest guys in the nation and one of the most consistent guys in the nation, Jay Lee and KD (Cannon). So, it’s basically pick your poison.”
When you’re hungry, you want to eat.
Reid intercepted Howard’s long throw in the end zone, but West Virginia had two more chances to score touchdowns in the second quarter and only came away with a field goal.
After West Virginia drove 78 yards to the 2, Shawn Oakman nailed Howard for a 1-yard loss. Taylor Young then stopped Howard for no gain on third down to force Josh Lambert’s 25-yard field goal with 4:55 left in the second quarter.
Callahan answered with his second 36-yard field goal for the Bears. West Virginia looked like it would score again after Wendell Smallwood busted loose for 52 yards to the 10.
But Baylor’s defense came up with another stand and Lambert missed a 35-yard field goal with two seconds left in the first half.
Howard hit 18 of 37 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns, but the two missed scoring opportunities at the end of the first half hurt.
“That guy’s a playmaker, he’s a good baller,” Briles said. “It’s just hard to get sacks without pressure. And when you get pressure, they’re going to get the ball out of their hand and throw something fast underneath. They’re not going to stand back there and pat the ball like everybody did in 1968.”
After Baylor’s defense stopped the Mountaineers to open the second half, Russell and Coleman hooked up again for another touchdown.
Facing fourth-and-3, Russell hit Coleman for first down yardage but he got a lot more.
Slipping away from West Virginia cornerback Rick Rumph, Coleman broke into the clear for a 33-yard touchdown to push Baylor’s lead to 34-17 with 9:44 left in the third quarter.
“It’s crazy — he’s on pace to go for like 32 (touchdowns) right now,” Lee said. “I’m proud of him and I’m proud of everything he’s done. To be in the position he’s in, it goes to show what he’s done on the field through his stats.”
Lee gave the Bears a little more breathing room when he caught a pair of touchdown passes from Russell late in the third quarter.
Russell sailed a 36-yarder that Lee ran under in the end zone with 5:39 left in the third quarter. Four minutes later, Russell found Lee crossing over the middle for a 52-yard score to open up a 48-24 lead.
Linwood ran 11 yards for a touchdown for a 55-24 lead with 11:53 left in the game before tight end Trevor Clemons-Valdez caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Stidham with 1:21 remaining for Baylor’s final touchdown.
With their sixth win, the Bears are bowl eligible for the sixth straight year. But they clearly have bigger things on their mind.
“It was a big win,” Lee said. “We are bowl eligible now, but we didn’t think about that when we went into the game. We just had to go out there and do what we know how to do.”