With Seth Russell throwing for four early touchdowns and the Baylor defense pitching a shutout for the first 44 minutes of action, the Bears sprinted to a 55-7 victory in their 2016 season opener. The Bears had a massive edge on both sides of the ball, gaining 498 yards while allowing just 78 to the Demons. Late in the first quarter, the edge was even more pronounced, with the Bears allowing just -28 yards before allowing the Demons first 1st down of the game on the second to the last plat of the 1st quarter.
Baylor debuted its 3-4 defense, with Ira Lewis being the long defensive tackle in the starting lineup. With K.J. Smith and Jamie Jacobs on either side of him, Lewis dominated the first few possessions of the game, routinely getting into the backfield for big plays. The Bears racked up 15 tackles for loss resulting in 67 yards loss. Outside linebacker Taylor Young, often lining up as a stand up defensive end, led the Bears with 5 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Of the 15 total drives the Demons had, only three tallied more than three plays, the result of a stunning twelve three-and-outs by the Baylor defense.
“That was the plan to go out there and have a presence,” said Baylor linebacker Taylor Young who collected six tackles and a sack told the Waco-Tribune. “Everybody did their job, everybody came through and the coaches were happy. So that’s a big thing.”
While the Baylor defense was suffocating the Demons offense, the Baylor rushing attack was hitting on all cylinder. With the Demons playing off the line and keeping the Baylor receivers in front of them, the Bears ran the ball at will in the first half. Shock Linwood gashed the defense for gains of 42 yards, 16 yards, 18 yards, and 10 yards during the first half. The Baylor rush attack was especially effective on first down, averaging 7.35 yards per carry.
Acting Head Coach Jim Grobe picked up his first win as a Baylor Bear. “The kids were on a high to play football again,” Grobe said. “There was a great sense of energy. I felt good about the coaching staff and the players, and I like the cohesiveness of this team. It was good to see our students turn out and the way the fans supported us.”
The big plays were missing from the Baylor passing attack, as their long pass play went for just 45 yards. Russell, completed 14-20 passes for 163 yards and those four touchdowns. Zach Smith, a true freshman making his Baylor debut, threw for 60 yards and a touchdown on 5-7 passing. KD Cannon led the Bears with 5 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Special Teams was also a large edge for the Bears, with wide receiver Tony Nicholson averaging 20.75 yards per punt return, including a 44-yarder. Nicholson also had a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty near the start of the 2nd quarter. It was a breathtaking effort from Nicholson who made several defenders miss in the open field including a beautiful juke on the over matched punter.
Throughout the game, the Bears substituted liberally and had many players make their debuts in the green and gold. QB Zach Smith, WRs Denzel Sims and Jared Atkinson, DT Bravvion Roy, corners Raleigh Texada and Grayland Arnold, linebacker Thomas Cletcher, lineman Tyrae Simmons, and safety Chris Miller all avoided a redshirt season and will be active on game days.
With the win, the Bears are now 1-0 on the season, and welcomes former SWC rival SMU to Waco next Saturday at 2:30 pm.
Notes of the Game
- Northwestern State averaged just 1.3 yards per offensive play
- Baylor's Top-3 running backs (Shock Linwood, Terence Williams, and JaMycal Hasty) tallied 27 carries for 237 yards, 8.78 ypc, and 2 touchdowns
- Five Bears recorded their first career touchdown. True freshman quarterback Zach Smith had his first passing touchdown, while Blake Lynch, Pooh Stricklin, Sam Tecklenburg, and Jordan Feuerbacher all recorded their first receiving touchdowns.
- Baylor almost caused as many negative yards as the Demons ended up gaining (67 yards lost, 78 net gained)
- Offensive Coordinator Kendall Briles had "CAB" in marker on his hand, for his father "Coach Art Briles"
- The Bears had 393 total yards of offense in the first half
- Total Yards Comparison in 1st quarter: 210 for Baylor, -4 for NSU