With a promising quarterback, an energized fan base and a new ranking, Baylor has good reason to be excited.
The No. 23 Bears hope to keep the home faithful on board with a sixth straight win Saturday, hosting a Buffalo team which gave a bit of a scare to one of the nation's top teams last week.
Following a 69-3 home victory over Wofford last Saturday, the Bears (1-0) joined the AP poll for the first time since last Sept. 23.
The win featured a promising debut from Bryce Petty as he faces the challenge of living up to the standard of Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, who set a single-season school record for passing yards in 2012.
"To be honest, the first couple throws I really couldn't tell you what happened," Petty said. "It was funny because I was telling a couple of guys that I have always gotten nervous before games, and I really didn't get that nervous before this game. I was thinking something was off. Then I knelt down to pray in the end zone and it just hit me."
The redshirt junior entered the season with 14 career pass attempts but had 24 last Saturday, completing 19 as he threw for 312 yards with touchdown passes to Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese. Petty has yet to throw an interception.
"He did exactly what we planned out to do, what he's worked out to do, what he's here to do," coach Art Briles said. "He's been through four springs already. He's experienced. He's got some mileage on him — some good mileage."
Lache Seastrunk rushed for 111 yards and two TDs on 11 carries, reaching the century mark for a school-record fifth straight time. He is averaging 9.2 yards per carry during that stretch.
Baylor rushed for 281 yards while the defense limited Wofford to 233 overall and forced three turnovers. The Bears, coming off a six-sack performance in a Holiday Bowl win over UCLA, had three sacks last week even though their opponent attempted just 17 passes.
"The UCLA game set the bar and that's what we're trying to get back to." said defensive end Chris McAllister, who returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown.
After finishing last in the Big 12 with 41,194 fans per game last year, Baylor drew 44,989 last week, the second-highest opening day total in stadium history.
"That was a big deal, a big deal for our football team, a big deal for Baylor University without a question because the people turned out and really supported and made a big difference in how we played," Briles said.
However many people fill the 50,000-seat stadium, it should not faze the Bulls (0-1). They played in front of 103,980 fans on the road last Saturday in a 40-20 loss to then-No. 2 Ohio State.
"You walk out and you hear 100,000 people booing," quarterback Joe Licata said. "That's awesome. It really is awesome."
After falling behind 23-0, Buffalo twice came within 10 points and would hold the Buckeyes to 244 yards over the final three quarters.
"There's only two ways you could go," coach Jeff Quinn said. "Our kids didn't (quit). I was really proud of them for that. It's a more mature team."
Perhaps no one impressed more than Khalil Mack. The linebacker finished with eight tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and a 45-yard interception return for a TD. He nearly had another sack and a forced fumble, but a hands-to-the-facemask penalty nullified it.
"They've got a kid that kicked our tails, that outside linebacker," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "I know he beat guys that I expect to play very well on our offensive line."
Alex Neutz, who finished 2012 with 1,015 receiving yards, had game highs of nine receptions and 98 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown that drew the Bulls within 30-20 in the third quarter.
While Briles was careful to pay due respect to Wofford, he noted that Buffalo would be a "step up."
"Buffalo brings a lot of sleek bodies that can run, guys that have been on a little bit bigger stages week in and week out than maybe our previous opponent," Briles said.
The Bulls have lost their only two matchups with the Bears, most recently falling 34-6 at Baylor in 2010.
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