Seth Russell needed only one play to pick up the Baylor quarterback mantle, launching a 42-yard completion to Corey Coleman that sparked a four-touchdown first quarter for the No. 4 Bears.
Baylor’s defense didn’t find its rhythm until the second half, however, as SMU battled early before No. 4 Baylor pulled away for a 56-21 win.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight, no question,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Everybody thought we were going to just come in here, show up and win. It doesn’t happen that way. They are a good football team.”
Baylor’s offense started fast. The Bears scored in four plays on each of their first two possessions, with scoring runs from Devin Chafin and Russell, who started Baylor’s second possession with a 60-yard pass to Coleman.
Russell finished the quarter with two touchdowns passes, 7 yards to Jay Lee and 36 yards to K.D. Cannon.
“I felt really comfortable,” said Russell, who finished 15-for-30 for 376 yards with an interception and six total touchdowns. “That’s what we’ve been working for. We weren’t quite sure what SMU was going to do on the defensive side. But luckily we hit a couple deep balls early, which made them a little bit softer.”
While the Bears moved the ball at will early, SMU’s offense came close to keeping pace against a Baylor defense missing suspended stars Shawn Oakman and Orion Stewart.
The Mustangs scored on their first offensive play, a 46-yard pass from Matt Davis to Courtland Sutton. SMU evened the score at 14 when Xavier Jones ran for a 4-yard score just eight minutes into the game.
SMU kept Baylor out of the end zone in the second quarter, and Davis connected with Sutton again, this time a 31-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-21. SMU had two chances to tie the game before halftime, but an interception ended the first. Poor clock management doomed the second.
The Mustangs faced a third-and-goal at Baylor’s 3. Davis took the snap with the clock ticking under 20 seconds. When Davis tried to keep the play alive, Baylor’s Grant Campbell came up with a sack to end the half.
“That was a big moment,” said Baylor safety Terrell Burt, who finished with three tackles and a pass breakup. “I think that was the biggest drive in the whole game. I think overall, that helped our team out and helped us come out and know that we’ve got this game. That’s what we did in the second half.”
In the third quarter, SMU had two more possessions with a chance to tie Baylor but again couldn’t score. The Bears offense 97 yards in eight plays to take a 35-21 lead and control of the game, with Russell finding Lee for a 22-yard touchdown to finish the drive. Russell threw two more TD passes before leaving the game.
Davis finished with 166 yards passing and 115 rushing to lead SMU, which showed great improvement from last season. SMU scored 12 points total in its first four games a year ago, including a 45-0 loss to Baylor in the season opener.
“We know that people are going to be gunning for us,” Russell said. “If you are at the top, they are going to try to knock you off.”
Three Baylor running backs topped 70 yards on the ground, led by Shock Linwood’s 75 on eight carries, and Russell added 59 yards rushing, as Baylor set a school record with an average of 10.48 yards a play (723 total yards on 69 plays).