By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
WACO, Texas – Hash tag BringTheBling (the debut of the chrome helmets, visible from the space station). Hash tag BringThePoints. Hash tag OffenseIsFun.
Baylor was trending on Twitter Saturday night. In this age of digital media, that’s a worthwhile benefit for a team whose offense is in danger of crashing the hard drive of the school’s media relations department with crooked numbers.
The No. 16 Bears (4-0, 1-0) opened Big 12 Conference play with their second game in the last 28 days. Two bye weeks in September failed to affect Baylor’s potent offense. West Virginia, which defeated the Bears in a memorable shoot out last season, came up on the short end of a 73-42 outcome.
The 31-point deficit on the scoreboard was misleading. The Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2) put up 28 second-half points; 21 of those came against the Bears’ reserve defenders after Baylor had built a 45-point edge.
“From a defensive stand point, we’re not satisfied,” Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon said. “We’ve got a lot to clean up. As far as the scoreboard, we’re not accepting this 100 percent. That’s not how we play Baylor football. Just because the starters weren’t in on defense, that’s still our scoreboard.”
And that scoreboard is on the verge of overload. Averaging 69.7 points per game, the Bears blew past that, setting a record for points in a Big 12 game. The last two games, Baylor has finished with 781 yards in total offense, the school single-game record. That’s another change for the record book; the Bears rolled up 864 yards (also a Big 12 record) including 617 in the first half.
“It’s execution and production and just doing what we’re supposed to do,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “And doing it with a lot of predictable outcomes. That’s what we’re looking for. We don’t ever want to look at a play and be surprised that it works.”
Based on data available since 1980, STATS said Baylor is the only team to score at least 66 points in four consecutive games. The Bears have scored 28 or more points in seven of their 16 quarters.
“It’s a team win. We’re all smiles and we should be,” said Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who is like a point guard throwing lob passes to Kevin Durant, LeBron, M.J. and Dr. J. “We let it get closer than it should be on the scoreboard. It’s a happy locker room. But there’s there are always things to improve on.”
Improve to prove. Proving Baylor belongs in the discussion about the nation’s best teams will be a season-long challenge just as much as closing out the rest of the season. The discussion on ESPN’s GameDay questioned Baylor’s schedule, reasoning that an offense averaging 70 points a game is facing inferior teams. The experts opined that Oklahoma is the Big 12 favorite.
“It’s kinda funny,” Petty said. “I always feel Baylor’s a ‘but’ team … Baylor’s good, but. Baylor scores points, but their defense is suspect. Baylor is undefeated, but it hasn’t played a tough schedule. It puts a chip on our shoulder.
"We know that we're the best. It doesn't matter what somebody on ESPN says or whoever. We know that we're the best."
Last year in Morgantown, the Mountaineers won 70-63 and the teams combined for 70 first half points; it was 35-all at halftime. The teams combined for 70 again, but Baylor had a 56-14 advantage. The first half took nearly two hours and for the Bears’ offense, it was time well spent.
“I would recommend giving Baylor some credit,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I’ve never seen a team establish the line of scrimmage like they did. You can’t play defense when the line of scrimmage is five yards backward every single play. The other side was the same way. The established the line of scrimmage.”
Baylor’s nonconference accomplishments caused some to question the unworldly statistics. The Bears, though, started Big 12 play maintaining a pace that would qualify them for the pole at the Indy 500.
In the first 30 minutes, Baylor averaged 10.6 yards – a first down – per snap. The Bears had eight touchdown drives in the first half that averaged 73 yards in length and 1:40 in length. Baylor had back-to-back one-play lightning strikes for TDs.
“Any time you get in Big 12 play, you’re going up against good players,” Briles said. “Our intent was to play with purpose. The second half was a bit of a downer, so we decided to judge the game on the first half because we did what we felt we needed to do.”
Derek Smith is the public address announcer at Floyd Casey Stadium and after each first down, he announces “And that’s another Baylor …” which is answered by the fans yelling “first down.” Through four games, Baylor is averaging nearly 33 first downs per game and almost a first down per play (9.6 yards per snap).
And that’s with the first team offense playing just over a half. Petty played one second-half series against West Virginia; he finished 17 of 25 for 347 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Lache Seastrunk gained all 172 of his yards and scored two touchdowns on 15 first-half penalties.
“This is without a doubt the best offense I’ve been part of around here,” said senior running back Glasco Martin, whose return to duty gives the Bears yet another play maker. “We’re hittin’ on all cylinders. We have Big 12 quality depth at every position, doesn’t matter who we put in there.”
The negatives for Baylor would fit in a Tweet. A fumbled punt became a West Virginia TD, Petty threw his first interception and Seastrunk didn’t play in the second half because of slightly bruised ribs.
The West Virginia positives were few and far between. The Mountaineers won the toss and elected to defer. That meant Baylor would get the ball first but would spend the first quarter playing into a stiff wind.
Forty seconds into the game, Petty hit a wide-open Antwan Goodley with a 61-yard touchown pass. West Virginia then got a break when Levi Norwood fumbled a fair catch inside his 10. The Mountaineers recovered in the end zone to make it 7-7 with 12:32 remaining.
All that meant was that Baylor had 57 minutes and 32 seconds for its hyper-speed offense to rack up notable numbers.
“We felt like we might move and score some more,” Briles said. “We have an explosive nature from an offensive stand point.”
Baylor was held scoreless for 15 minutes; of course, that was halftime. But for the Bears’ opponents, the quarter hour in the locker room is a welcome respite.
“Our identity hasn’t been written,” Briles said. “We’ve played four games since Aug. 31 and it’s Oct. 5. You’re not gonna date someone four times and get married. I think we’re a tough football team. It’s fair for people to doubt us. But our play on the field gives us a reason to have some confidence.”
Hash tag NextGameAtKansasState.