It was pretty evident after about the third touchdown Baylor scored last Saturday night that the Bears have one heck of an offensive football team.
Later, between research breaks as Baylor continued to score touchdowns, I began to wonder where the team I was watching stacks up with some of the other great offensive juggernauts West Virginia has run into through the years.
I remember sitting in the stands as a freshman student in 1986 watching Miami’s Vinny Testaverde perform laser surgery on an overmatched Mountaineer secondary and an injured Melvin Bratton blowing kisses to the WVU student section as he was being whisked off the field on a stretcher. I was also standing on the sideline up at State College, Pa., in 1991 when Penn State marched up and down the field on West Virginia the way Hitler once went through Poland.
In 2001, rookie coach Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers ran into a Compassionate Crematory (I actually saw one of those on the bus ride into Waco last Saturday, by the way) down in Coral Gables against the top-ranked Hurricanes. Miami’s offense scored 45 points, but it could have easily been much, much worse had the generous-to-a-fault Larry Coker kept his foot on the gas pedal.
I was also up in the Meadowlands in 1994 to watch Nebraska bludgeon West Virginia to death with a rubber mallet. Had Tom Osborne not been such a good friend of Don Nehlen’s, one got the feeling that Nebraska could have rung up the scoreboard on the Mountaineers the way the Huskers used to do against the likes of Pacific and San Jose State.
I was too young to remember West Virginia’s beat-down at Penn State in 1973, but some of the WVU participants in that game told me that it was quite a performance by the Nittany Lions, particularly running back John Cappelletti. That was the game when Cappelletti scored all of those touchdowns for his dying kid brother Joey that was later turned into a TV movie – to which Bobby Bowden remarked afterward, “Had I known that he was doing that for his brother, I wished he would have scored a couple of more!”
In fact, immediately after the game, a dejected Bowden sat in the visitor’s locker room and considered hanging up his whistle right there on the spot – that’s how despondent he was afterward. Thankfully, he came back to his senses.
In 1978, Barry Switzer’s powerhouse Oklahoma ground attack ran up and down the field with impunity against West Virginia on the way to a 42-point blowout victory. Most of the Sooner starters were out of the game by halftime and spent the second half signing autographs with their shoulder pads and helmets off. The game was so memorable to Switzer that he couldn’t remember a single detail a few years ago when I asked him about it during a telephone interview.
I wasn’t around to see Ben Schwartzwalder’s great 1959 Syracuse team, or Big Jim Tatum’s powerhouse Maryland clubs of the early 1950s, or the Roger Staubach-led Navy Midshipmen of the early 1960s, but the old-timers tell me those were awesome offensive football teams as well.
And naturally, none of us were around when Marion County native and ex-Mountaineer Fielding Yost dropped 130 on his former mates in the 1904 massacre of all massacres in Ann Arbor – easily the worst defeat in WVU history.
That October afternoon, 109 years ago, Yost’s famous “Point-a-Minute” Michigan team scored 22 touchdowns and converted 20 extra points, which by modern scoring rules would have amounted to 152 points had it happened today.
No, I’m not sure this year’s Baylor team is quite in that class just yet, but what the Bears have done through the first four games of the season certainly puts them into position to be part of the discussion.
Baylor is first in the country in total offense averaging 779.5 yards per game, first in the country in passing offense averaging 432.3 yards per game, first in the country in passing efficiency with a 218.96 rating, first in the country in scoring offense averaging 70.5 points per game and is second in the country in rushing offense averaging 347.3 yards per game.
Last Saturday, Baylor had 864 yards, 38 first downs and 73 points – all modern-day records set against West Virginia – and it could have easily been more if Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk remained in the game after Baylor scored a ninth touchdown on its first series of the third quarter.
Petty, a junior quarterback, looks more like a four-year starter than a four-game starter, and you can see why Oregon went through all of that trouble with Willie Lyles to get Seastrunk on campus. Seastrunk, averaging a staggering 11 yards every time he runs the football, looks to be the next great Texas-bred tailback to come down the pike.
And every single one of Baylor’s wide receivers were on top of West Virginia’s DBs before they could even get out of their backpedals.
“Offensively speaking, they played fast,” admitted West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen Monday morning. “They’ve got tremendous, tremendous speed – they’ve got better speed than I thought, and I knew they had good speed.”
Tevin Reese’s juggling 47-yard touchdown catch to put the Bears up 21-7 was one for the highlight reel, but I thought Antwan Goodley’s 10-yard first-down catch on third and seven midway through the first quarter when he picked a Petty laser beam off the turf was just as impressive.
The Bear O-line was big and aggressive and they controlled the line of scrimmage the way a bully who flunked the sixth grade three times controls the playground. The Bears can run between the tackles, they can run outside and they can attack all parts of the football field with Petty’s arm, plus, Art Briles and his offensive staff have complete command of the sidelines, shuttling in fresh players the way a Vegas blackjack dealer tosses out new cards.
It was an impressive performance any way you slice it up.
“Baylor was prepared. They were fresh. They were fast. They were energized,” said Holgorsen. “They are better on all three sides of the football. I’d like to think it was a combination of us being a little worn out and Baylor being pretty damned good.”
The real question now is: Can the Baylor defense hold up its end of the bargain? There is no question the Bears can score points with anybody and on anybody – Alabama included - but will they be able to stop people at key moments of the game when they need to?
If they can, and Petty and Co. can remain healthy, Baylor could find itself in the Big Game come January – their offense looks that good.
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