September 22, 2015

(AP) - Seth Russell can certainly throw the ball in fifth-ranked Baylor's big-play offense. There are plenty of talented receivers to catch it, and running backs with the potential for explosive runs.

The offensive numbers are again impressive for the Bears (2-0), the nation's most-productive offense the past two seasons with former quarterback Bryce Petty.

After 723 total yards in its opener, Baylor followed with a 785-yard effort - the second-best in school history - that included three 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers. The Bears' 754-yard average tops FBS.

Still, the playoff-hopeful Bears are a work in progress with their new quarterback, and after a week off, they'll get one more nonconference tuneup Saturday against Rice.

''When (Russell) was good, he was really good. When he was bad, he was bad,'' coach Art Briles said after a 66-31 victory over Lamar on Sept. 12. ''He understands that, he knows that, he knows the expectations of that position. ... What I do like about Seth, he is fearless.''

While Russell has thrown nine touchdowns, he also has five turnovers. There were two interceptions and a fumble in the second quarter alone against the Cardinals, leading to 14 points before the Bears finally pulled away from the FCS team.

''It didn't feel like a good win,'' Russell said. ''I can't make those dumb decisions, especially in bigger games.''

That was only Russell's third career start - he started once in place of an injured Petty as a sophomore early last season. Briles said Russell just needs to keep getting reps.

Russell has recorded more than 300 yards passing in each of his three starts. The only Baylor quarterbacks with more career 300-yard games are the starters who preceded him under Briles: Petty (16), Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III (13) and Nick Florence (nine).

The Bears have uncharacteristically struggled early against overmatched nonconference teams so far.

Lamar was tied 21-21 with 4:34 left in the first half before Baylor quickly scored twice and then got another touchdown right after halftime. That stretch included the last two of Corey Coleman's school-record four TD catches.

''We just weren't ourselves in the first half, like last week with SMU,'' said Shock Linwood, who ran for 130 yards and three TDs. ''We have to start out faster than that. We have to calm down and not be too anxious.''

In the opener at SMU, when Jay Lee caught three touchdowns, Baylor led 28-21 at halftime after the Mustangs were unable to get off another play from inside the 10. Baylor outscored them 28-0 in the second half.

''You'd love to just be dynamically polished every snap, but I'm not sure if that's reality,'' Briles said. ''Through phases of the game, we've shown what we're capable of doing, but we've just got to do it over the long haul.''

Briles, though, would certainly like to see progress going into the Big 12 schedule. Rice (2-1) lost 42-28 at Texas in its only matchup with a Power 5 opponent this season Sept. 12, and the Owls have lost 24 in a row to ranked opponents.

Rice is coming off a 38-24 victory over North Texas last week. Driphus Jackson went 29 of 39 for 373 yards and three touchdowns and Dennis Parks caught eight passes for 163 yards and two TDs.

The Owls rolled up 562 yards of offense and are 18th in the FBS with 522.3 per game, though that's dwarfed by Baylor's top-ranked average.

"We're going to Waco. You see in their two outings what they're scoring per game and you see what they're averaging per game," coach David Bailiff said. "Art has done an incredible job.

"... We're going to try to do all we can to keep it out of their hands. But, we're looking forward to it."

Baylor has won six straight meetings with Rice, the most recent coming in 2011.

You May Like