By Jeff Cantrell
The Baylor Bears closed out non-conference play Saturday with a definitive 70 to 17 victory over the Rice Owls. The Bears had an extra week off to prepare for the game, and it appears they put that time to good use. The defense had its most impressive showing of the season and gave up points on only 3 of Rice’s 14 possessions. The offense also operated at a high level as the Bears scored touchdowns on 10 of their 13 possessions.
- The running backs carried the day. In the preview, I suggested that Baylor may look to run the ball more in this game to take pressure off of QB Seth Russell following his three interceptions in the Lamar game, and that’s exactly what they did. Baylor started the day off with a heavy dose of RB Shock Linwood, mixed in with some fairly safe screen passes to get things moving. Linwood was able to gash the Owls for 158 yards on 16 carries for a 9.9 yard average and a touchdown. In addition, Johnny Jefferson carried the ball 9 times for 86 yards and a score. Terence Williams, working with the second team, finished the game for the Bears carrying the ball 19 times for 111 yards and a TD. In total, including QB keepers and a few WR run plays, Baylor ran the ball 53 times for 427 yards and three scores, compared to just 19 receptions on 25 attempts in the passing game. It should be mentioned that Baylor did get 366 yards and 7 TDs on those catches but part of the credit for the passing numbers should go to the effectiveness of the Baylor ground game.
- The Baylor defense spent a lot of time in Rice’s backfield and kept QB Driphus Jackson firmly in their sights. The Bears got to Jackson five times on the night, and are credited with six QB hurries. Jackson was rarely able to get comfortable as he threw for a season low of 115 yards. The Owls running backs fared even worse against the Bears. The Owls ran the ball 45 times for 94 yards with an average of 2.1 yards per play as the Baylor defenders accumulated 11 tackles for loss. Special shout outs to DE Shawn Oakman and LB Taylor Young. Oakman had five tackles on the game, including two for losses and a sack. The sack, Oakman’s 15th ties the school record for career sacks. Young saw his first action since going out with an injury in week one and he made the most of it as he got in on four tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. If the Bears D can stay healthy, continue to operate at a high energy level, and continue to improve upon this performance, then it could be a very special season for Baylor.
- The offensive line did a superb job of protecting the Quarterbacks and keeping the Owls out of the backfield. The O-line kept both Russell and backup QB Jarrett Stidham clean and upright on the day by not allowing a single sack. More than that, the Rice pass rushers weren’t even able to get pressure on the quarterbacks and were not credited with a single QB hurry on the afternoon. In, addition, the Owls manage only three tackles for loss in the game as the offensive line opened up huge holes for the running backs, who sprinted down the field for large gains. It will be interesting to see how well the line will hold up as the Bears go into conference play.
Baylor next heads to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas to face off with the Texas Tech Red Raiders. This will be the conference opener for the Bears. The Red Raiders, on the other hand, are coming into the game following a disappointingly close 55-52 loss in their first conference game against #3 TCU.