WACO — At one point, No. 2 Baylor was up 35 in just a quarter and a half of action, and the atmosphere at McLane Stadium resembled that of a rain-soaked party.
But by the fourth quarter Saturday, a large portion of that homecoming crowd had disappeared and a stunned crowd watched quietly as Iowa State had whittled the Bear lead to two scores.
Iowa State never got any closer than it did on a Jauan Wesley touchdown reception that cut the Baylor lead to 15 with 7:47 to play.
But afterwards, what looked to be a dominant victory came with a few qualifiers and a huge injury question mark following the Bears’ 45-27 win at McLane Stadium.
“We didn’t do the things that we needed to do,” said Corey Coleman, who caught his school record 18th touchdown of the season and also became the Bears’ career receiving touchdown leader. “But at the end of the day, we won and it goes down as a ‘W’ in the books.”
Instead of heading into its bye with momentum — ahead of a November schedule that goes at Kansas State, No. 17 Oklahoma, at No. 14 Oklahoma State and No. 4 TCU — Baylor now looks to regroup and awaits word on whether starting quarterback Seth Russell will miss time after the school announced he had suffered a fracture in one of the bones in his neck.
“We’ll see,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “We’ll kind of regroup and restructure and figure out a plan for Kansas State and then go from there.
“That’s all we’ve got on our mind now is K-State.”
Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) was dominant in the first half, outgaining Iowa State 377-135, with more than half of the Cyclones’ yards coming on one drive.
The Bears, meanwhile, scored on three of their first four drives, with Russell accounting for two — on a 36-yard pass to Coleman and a 37-yard scamper of his own — and Shock Linwood dancing for a 17-yard touchdown on the other score.
But the Baylor defense — playing without defensive anchor Andrew Billings — was just as hot out of the gates, as Iowa State had as many turnovers as first downs (3) with 8:14 remaining in the first half.
“I feel like we were just all clicking at a certain point and time in the game,” said Ryan Reid, who picked off a pass for the second straight game, one of four Baylor takeaways. “We all just wanted to have a good defensive game, a good shutout game.”
By the time Iowa State (2-5, 1-3) put together its lone scoring drive of the first half, Baylor had already pushed its lead to 35-0 as Linwood caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Russell and Devin Chafin capped a 12-play scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
But a 3-yard touchdown run by Joshua Thomas to close the half proved to be the first of 20 unanswered points by the Cyclones, which culminated with Anthony pulling them within 15 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Joel Lanning with 7:47 to play.
Baylor scored the next 10 points, including Coleman’s second touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Jarrett Stidham, to put the game away. But that didn’t make the 108 total yards after halftime or the nine total penalties any easier to stomach.
“I think this was one of our less clean games across the board,” left tackle Spencer Drango said. “But I am glad to go into the bye week.”
Baylor knows it must improve between now and the next time it takes the field at Kansas State on Nov. 5.
Because while everyone said they were happy to be 7-0, they also know they can be — and may have to be —better soon.
“We’ve got to lock in,” Reid said. “It’s time to buckle up and get everything going.”