With a 56-21 win over the SMU Mustangs, the Baylor Bears start off the 2015 season 1-0. A frustrating first half gave way to what Baylor fans expected to see early. It was a shootout to start the game, as Baylor received the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in 50 seconds to score the first touchdown of the 2015 season. After a big kickoff return by SMU, it took just one play for Mustang quarterback Matt Davis to find Braeden West for a 46 yard touchdown. 52 seconds after that, Seth Russell scampered in for his rushing touchdown of 2015. 21 points scored in less than 2-minutes.
The game would slow down, as Baylor and SMU would exchange touchdowns on their next two drives, before the game would stall out with the Bears leading 28-21 through halftime. With the SMU defense finally stopping teh Baylor offense, and holding them to three-and-outs, it was the Baylor defenses turn to keep the game in the Bears control. With a goalline stand to end the first half, the Bears went to halftime with a 7-point lead.
The second half though would be another story, as the Bears came out after halftime and dominated on both sides of the ball. SMU would not score again, while the Bears would put up 4 more touchdowns. Big plays by Jay Lee, Corey Coleman, and Jarrett Stidham's first pass as a Baylor Bear going for a beautiful 42 yard touchdown pass to Chris Platt highlighted the Bears domination of the 2nd half.
With the Mustangs tiring late in the game, the Bears talent and depth (along with some excellent halftime adjustments) put the game out of reach and gave the Bears the blowout win they were looking for.
Fun Stats of the Game
- In the second half, the Baylor defense allowed just 109 yards, 6 first downs, and no points
- Those 109 yards were less than what the Mustangs gained on their first two drives of the game (127 yards and 14 points)
- The Baylor defense 6.11 yards per play in the first half, and 3.30 yards per play in the second half
- Over the courcse of three drives in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the Bears had -16 yards and no first downs
- The rest of their drives produced 27 first downs, 56 points and they still ended the game with 723 total yards
- Tonight was Baylor's FBS-high 12th time scoring 50 points in a game since 2013
- Baylor running backs ran for 247 yards, and averaged 8.23 yards per carry with 1 touchdown
- Seth Russell accounted for 435 total yards and 6 touchdowns, tying a career and Baylor high
Words of the Game
Offense - Second
Most Baylor fans will remember the 2nd quarter of this game, and not for a good reason. The Bears would finish with negative yards in both drives of that quarter (plus a 3rd straight drive in the 3rd quarter) and not convert a single first down. It was a mess all around. Baylor turned to their pass attack often in that stretch, passing 14 times out of 16 plays during their struggles. The runing game, dominant to that point, seemed forgotten. Consider it a learning experience for Seth Russell and new offensive coordinator Kendall Briles. After the half, the Bears would again find success, with the running attack leading the way. 300 total yards rushing for over 8 yards a carry is a tremendous weapon, and one you do not want to go away from.
Overall, the Bears averaged 10.47 yards per play for the game, accruing 8 touchdowns in a dominant performance, even with the lull in the 2nd quarter. Seth Russell had 6 total touchdowns, and Jay Lee tied a Baylor record with 3 receiving touchdowns in the game. Even with just 1 yard of total offense in the 2nd quarter, the Bears were able to gain over 700 yards in the game, a testament to their offensive firepower.
Defense - Adjustments
The first half of defensive football by the Bears was not a welcome site to fans of the Baylor program. It looked like nothing had changed since the last time the Bears played a football game, except this wasn't a top-10 Michigan State team, but rather a 1-win team in SMU. Poor tackling, poor angles, and even worse containment by the defense let SMU do whatever they wanted. A team that scored 12 points in their first four games of 2014 had 21 points after their first four drives. A team that had three touchdowns TOTAL in 6 homes game in 2014 had three against a Top-5 team in 2015.
With the move to a 3-man front, the Bears started to slow the Mustangs down in the 2nd quarter, and after halftime, would shut the Mustangs out. Containment issues still plagued the Bears at time, but the defense would do its job for the last 9 drives for SMU. No points, 2 turnovers and a lot less stress for Baylor fans.
Tweets of the Game
Play of the Game
2nd Quarter - 3rd and Goal from the 3
An awful 2nd quarter was about to turn disastorous late, as a Seth Russell interception gave the Mustangs the ball in Baylor territory with minutes left in the half. SMU promptly drove down into the redzone and close to the goalline. With 49 seconds to go, and 1 timeout, SMU had it first and goal at the 3. A run for no gain on first down resulted in SMU curiously taking their final timeout of the game. On second down, Matt Davis fought for a half a yard on a QB-keeper. With the clock running, the Mustangs snapped the ball with 16 seconds remaining in the half. Jamal Palmer got tremendous pressure on Davis, forcing him to go away from the quick throw. He tucked the ball, looking to run, but Grant Campbell was right there to wrap up the quarterback as time expired. SMU would not have time to get a field goal attempt off, and ended the half down 7. As good as that play was though, it resulted in this amazing image:
Never change SMU fans. Never change. From that point on, it was all Baylor.
Players of the Game
Offense - Corey Coleman - 5 catches, 178 yards, 1 touchdown
What else can I say about the best reciever in the nation. I saw that without hesitation. Corey Coleman is going to be the best wide reciever in the nation this year. It started on the first play of the game, a simple zone-read play action pass that resulted in a 42 yard bomb. It ended on a simple quick pass to the sideline, where Coleman made a guy miss and then exploded past the charging defense for a 57 yard touchown. In between was the usually dominance. The junior receiver's ability to seperate and adjust on the deep balls is unparralled in college football. A full season of health in this offense will result in some of the best numbers we have ever seen from a wide receiver, in any offense.
Honorable Mention - Jay Lee (3 catches, 70 yards, 3 touchdowns), Seth Russell (15-30, 376 yards passing, 59 yards rushing, 1 interception, 6 total touchdowns)
Defense - Andrew Billings - 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss
The Bears were without two of their best defenders for the entire game, and another one of their leaders for the majority of the game. With Shawn Oakman suspended, Andrew Billings was the main guy on the defensive front for Baylor. Commanding double, and even triple-teams for most of the game, Billings did his job in the middle of the Baylor defense. His stats aren't pretty, but he occupied blockers very well, and kept the middle of the line busy for SMU. Billings was the consistent force for the Bears. While the Mustangs did have success running the ball, most of it was to the outside, away from Billings.
Honorable Mention - Jamal Palmer (9 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack), Grant Campbell (11 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
You can say it was the first game. You can say the Bears were without two of their best defenders in Shawn Oakman and Orion Stewart for the entire game, and lost linebacker Taylor Young early in the game to a collarbone injury. You can even say that the Bears didn't really know what to expect from the SMU offense, with a new head coach who made his name as a tremendous offensive coordinator. You can say all that, but that still does not excuse the performance of the Baylor defense in the first half. Too many missed assignments, especially in containment on QB Matt Davis. Too many missed tackles from the entire defense.
Luckily, there was a second half for the Bears. The Baylor staff made their adjustments, and dominated the second half as they should have. 28-0 in those last 30 minutes is very good, especially on the road. The coaches put the players in a position to win, and they did. With the Bears talent advantage, and the Mustangs lack of depth, this was a game of attrition late. The Mustangs were tired in that 4th quarter, and the Bears took full advantage.
It was a 35 point win that the Baylor team will not be happy about. That is the good news, as the coaching staff will have plenty of "teaching moments" for a team still needing them.