WACO — The Baylor Bears kept winning and piling up big offensive numbers after Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III went to the NFL.
They expect to keep doing so even when changing quarterbacks again.
Junior Bryce Petty has attempted only 14 passes (10 completions) for the Bears. But this is his fourth year in coach Art Briles’ system after watching Griffin and Nick Florence, who set a school record with 4,309 yards passing and was second nationally with 375 total yards a game one year after RG3 won the Heisman.
“Really, Bryce, a reasonable expectation, first thing that popped into my mind is break every Baylor record there is offensively, which is what we expect him to do and what he plans to do,” Briles said. “I don’t know what expectation anyone would have other than doing that, which equates to winning every football game we step on the field with, which needs to be his expectation along with ours.”
Baylor has gone to three consecutive bowls for the first time, winning the last two over Pac-12 teams. The Bears are trying for four consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1985-88 under coach Grant Teaff.
Lache (pronounced Lake) Seastrunk and Glasco Martin combined for 1,901 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns as the Bears ranked second nationally in total offense for the second year in a row. Baylor gained 572 total yards a game last season.
“If everybody does what we have to do, it will make things real easy for Bryce,” said left guard Cyril Richardson, the 335-pound All-Big 12 player and top pro prospect. “All we’ve got to do is focus on what we do and how we do it.”
Five things to watch during Baylor’s season:
1. HEISMAN HYPE: After rushing for only 181 yards his first seven games for Baylor, former Oregon transfer Seastrunk had 831 yards and six touchdowns the next six games. He declared even before being the offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl that he would win the Heisman Trophy, or at least get very close to that. “I said it, and I won’t be taking it back,” Seastrunk said just before fall practice started. Coach Art Briles said Seastrunk believes in himself. “I learned a long time ago, if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will,” the coach said. Seastrunk was tabbed the preseason Big 12 offensive player of the year.
2. BALANCED BEARS: The only team to rank in the top 25 nationally in both rushing and passing the past three years is Baylor, and the last two years the Bears were among the top 14 in each category. The big passing system is unchanged with Petty. Returning receivers Tevin Reese and Levi Norwood both had at least 40 catches last season. And there is the running back combo of Seastrunk and Martin, the latter whose 15 rushing TDs in 2012 were surpassed in the Big 12 by only Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, a Heisman finalist.
3. EXPERIENCED TACKLERS: There are five defensive players going into their third season as Baylor starters. And three of the top five returning tacklers in the Big 12 are Bears — linebackers Bryce Hager (9.5 tackles a game) and Eddie Lackey (8.0) and safety Ahmad Dixon (7.8). But the Bears last in the league allowing 502 yards a game.
4. STILL STREAKING: The four-game winning streak Baylor carries into the season is the longest in the Big 12, and includes three wins over Top 25 teams. The Bears finished 2011 by winning six in a row, then started last season with three consecutive victories. There were then four losses in a row before another strong finish.
5. FAREWELL FLOYD CASEY: This is Baylor’s last season playing home games at the off-campus stadium that opened in 1950. A new stadium is under construction along Interstate 35 and the Brazos River. The Bears will play seven games at Floyd Casey Stadium, and won’t play anywhere else until Oct. 12 at Kansas State since their first four games are at home. The opener is Aug. 31 against Wofford, and the Casey finale is Dec. 7 against Texas. The Bears are 4-0 at home against Top 25 teams the last two seasons.
Predicted finish in Big 12: Fifth.