WACO — With top-10 teams falling across the nation, No. 12 Baylor entered its homecoming game against Iowa State determined not to join the list of victims.
And thanks to its defense — not its nation-leading offense — it got the job done.
Baylor lit up the home scoreboard again in a 71-7 victory Saturday — its largest margin of victory in a conference game — but it was the defense that set the tone with its finest performance of the season.
“That probably is the best game we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said senior linebacker Sam Holl, who had an interception Saturday. “We’ve waited a long time for this, we’ve worked really hard to improve.
“Things are finally clicking for the defense here, and that’s making us a much better team.”
The Baylor offense was typically explosive, racking up 714 total yards of offense. But the defense was stellar, shutting out the Cyclones until 47 seconds remained in the game and allowing just 174 total yards to help Baylor (6-0) to its first 3-0 start in Big 12 play in school history.
“We’re the only thing holding us back,” senior safety Ahmad Dixon said. “Nothing else can hold us back, nothing else can stop us from winning this Big 12 championship except for (the defense).”
Don’t tell that to the offense, which sees its defensive counterparts as equally capable of putting opponents away.
“We’ve been watching this for, how many, six games, right?” junior running back Lache Seastrunk said. “They’ve been shutting people out — this ain’t nothing new to us.”
The offense needed that helping hand early after Iowa State (1-6, 0-4) forced a Baylor punt on its opening drive. The Bear defense responded by forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, which started in BU territory.
The Cyclones’ next drive was even shorter, ending in two plays after Aaron Wimberly forced a fumble that Eddie Lackey recovered for the turnover.
“It’s huge for us,” quarterback Bryce Petty said of the defensive stops. “That’s just momentum for us.”
In the meantime, the offense came to life as Antwan Goodley put the Bears on the board on a beautiful pass from Petty for a 4-yard score, followed by Seastrunk capping a two-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown after the fumble.
The Bears’ next two drives stalled inside the 5, but with the defense only allowing three first downs in the opening half — all on one drive that stalled in Baylor territory again —- it didn’t matter.
Without fail, the offense began clicking late in the second, scoring 17 points in the final five minutes of the first half.
The first score came on a 2-yard touchdown run by Seastrunk, who had 100 yards in the first half, including a dazzling 48-yarder to set up his second touchdown. The Temple product finished with 118 yards on the ground.
The second score was a 36-yard touchdown by Goodley, who found himself all alone on a slant on fourth-and-6, part of a nine catch, 138-yard effort in the first half. He finished with 11 catches for 182 yards in a dominant performance.
““He’s a stud, he’s a great player,” Petty said of Goodley. “We knew it all along, (we were) trying to keep him quiet, I guess, in camp so no one really figures him out — but you can’t keep him quiet during the season.”
Halftime proved no match for the Bear momentum, as the Cyclones’ opening drive came to a screeching halt thanks largely to the second sack of the game by Chris McAllister.
The offense kept it rolling with a 10-play drive, helped by a 45-yard grab by Goodley, which Petty finished with a 6-yard quarterback keeper for a 44-0 lead.
The Bears added two special teams touchdowns — a 52-yard punt return by Levi Norwood in the third and a 97-yard kickoff return by Corey Coleman in the fourth — to complete the lopsided win.
And after successfully avoiding the upset bug, the Bears’ only hope was to do it again a week later against Kansas.
“It’s just we’ve got to keep doing it, that’s the thing,” coach Art Briles said. “We’re closer than we were two weeks ago, but we’re not where we need to be yet.”
We’ve still got to keep getting better — just being as clean as possible in all three phases.”