Baylor added a second win, a 66-31 victory over Lamar, to the season resume. However, it was far from the dominant performance that most were expecting from the 4th ranked Bears. Gritty play by the Cardinals aided by mistakes and miscues by the Bears kept the game close throughout most of the first half. Head Coach Art Briles, in the post-game interview summarized it this way, “We’re happy to win, but we’ve got a few things to work on the next few weeks”. This might be a bit of an understatement considering the 12 penalties, 4 turnovers, and 31 points Baylor gave up to an FCS opponent that they should have plowed over.
What to take away from Baylor’s performance
- DE Shawn Oakman’s return to the lineup, after his one game suspension, added a much need spark to the Bears’ defense. The senior Defensive End forced a fumble by Lamar RB Kad Harrington which was recovered by LB Aiavion Edwards and led to a Baylor TD. He also tied with Edwards for total tackles at 6 and led the Bears with 3.5 tackles for loss. In addition, Oakman finished the game with the teams’ only sack. After three Lamar penalties made it 3rd down and 30 on their own 15 yard line, Oakman beat Cardinals LT Cody Elenz and rushed QB Joe Minden. Minden just managed to get the pass off but was flagged for intentional grounding, with Oakman credited for a 10-yard sack.
- QB Seth Russell has some work to do. Russell accounted for all four of Baylor’s turnovers leading to 17 Lamar points. On the first Baylor drive of the second quarter, Russell fumbled the ball at the BU 36 yard line which led to a Cardinals TD. He would go on to throw two interceptions in the second quarter, on back-to-back drives, and one more in the third quarter. On a positive note, even with the turnovers, Russell still threw for 23 of 34 for 342 yards and 4 touchdowns. After the game, Coach Briles had this to say on Russell’s performance, “When he was good, he was really good; when he was bad, he was really bad”. If Baylor hopes to go undefeated in Big 12 play, Russell cannot have another game like this. 4 turnovers against almost any conference opponent is an almost guaranteed way to lose a game.
- Baylor has a penalty problem. Against Lamar, the Bears were flagged 12 times for 93 yards. To add some perspective, in the 13 games of 2014 season, the Bears were flagged for a school record 127 penalties totaling 1149 yards. Baylor finished the season ranked 125th in penalties per game. Through two games, Baylor has been flagged 25 times for 198 yards, putting the Bears in last place, 127th in the nation, and on pace to break last year’s record. So far this season, the offense is the biggest offender, accounting for 20 penalties, whereas 3 to the special teams and 2 are on the defense. False starts account for 9 of the Offensive miscues, 2 are for ineligible receiver downfield and 1 for an illegal formation this means that 60% of all flags against the offense are procedural issues. These are the types of penalties that should be correctable by the coaches in the upcoming practices. Penalties contributed heavily to Baylor’s two losses last season and will cost the Bears a win or two this season if they can’t get this issue cleaned up.
Baylor has a bye week this coming Saturday, before facing another SWC foe, the Rice Owls, on Sept. 26. Rice lost on Saturday to the UT Longhorns 42-28, which makes the Owls a good measuring stick for the Bears. Rice will be the last non-conference game and last chance to correct any issues before the Bears head into conference play against high scoring Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 3.