Tablet Sports

Gil LeBreton: Baylor Bears add to ranks of believers

If a tree falls in the forest — or, it seems, if a Baylor opponent gets a couple of quick early touchdowns — do the unbeaten Bears ever hear?

Apparently not.

No star running backs, no problem.

No first-quarter defense, no sweat.

Once Baylor worked out its injuries and its early kinks Saturday night, the Bears again struck a brassy pose for the poll voters, overwhelming the Texas Tech Red Raiders 63-34 at AT&T Stadium.

If this was supposed to be a trap game for Baylor — which began the day No. 5 in the BCS standings — somebody forgot to set the cheese. Tech rang up 233 yards and scored three times in the first quarter, and the Bears didn’t even blink.

If this, too, was supposed to be the night when the Bears paid a price for being without their two injured running backs, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, instead the Baylor offense didn’t skip a beat.

The Red Raiders raced to a precocious 14-0 lead, but soon met the fate of so many other Baylor opponents this season. The game ended with the Bears’ backup quarterback taking a knee at the Tech 11-yard line, mercifully sparing the Red Raiders from an initiation into the 70-Point Club.

Baylor has scored 70 on four opponents this season, 69 in another game and now 63. Some might look askance at the defenses the Bears have played this season. But to Baylor, the weekly point gorging is advertising.

Texas Tech had the right idea. The key to beating Baylor – merely a wild guess at this point of the season – was supposed to be jumping on top of coach Art Briles’ team early.

But don’t wake the Bears. Though Texas Tech led for most of the game’s first 15 minutes, Baylor swiftly recovered by scoring on a three-play touchdown drive, a punt return and a one-play cameo march.

With all due respects to Florida State and Oregon, is there another offense in the land that can pounce as quickly as Baylor?

Tech’s brief hopes vanished in a flailing thicket of missed tackles and costly turnovers.

If you fumble, Baylor will burn you. If you miss a tackle, quarterback Bryce Petty and this Baylor team will make you pay.

The two missing running backs? No problem.

Baylor’s appropriately-named Shock Linwood rushed for 187 yards Saturday, and the backup-backup, Devin Chafin, ran for an even 100.

“We knew they were going to score – they’ve scored on everybody,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

“We just had to limit it and limit our mistakes, and we didn’t do that.”

And though Briles called the game “a dogfight,” it was his team that barked resoundingly for most of the night.

With No. 4 Stanford losing, the Bears can expect to move up at least another notch in the BCS standings. The once-unthinkable, a place in the BCS title game, remains within realistic reach.

The Big 12 Conference champion likely will be determined next week, when Baylor travels to Oklahoma State. The 9-1 Cowboys have held five opponents this season under 14 points, including Texas on Saturday, 38-13.

Baylor’s toughest road test to date was an October visit to Kansas State, where the Bears clawed out a 35-25 victory.

For those who have disparaged the Baylor schedule and shrugged at the golden-helmeted Bears’ gaudy scores, trust that Briles team will be tested over the final three weeks. The visit to Oklahoma State will be followed by a road game at TCU and a stadium-closing finale against Texas.

“When you’re down 14-0, down 20-7, against a good team,” Briles said, “and you come back and finish the way we did, to me that’s impressive.

“That shows you have a tough-minded football team that’s mature and believes what’s happening inside the locker room.”

On Saturday, they believed. And they didn’t even blink.