Almost everything went well for the Baylor Bears , Sunday, as they opened their new stadium on the Brazos River with a 45-0 demolishing of SMU on Fox Sports. The only blot on an otherwise bright day was the fact star quarterback Bryce Petty suffered a back injury as he scored a touchdown making the score 30-0 in the first half.
The Heisman Trophy candidate could be seen grabbing his lower back and side on throws after that. He appeared to be walking gingerly. Although he finished the first half, Petty was wisely pulled for the remainder of the game. The Fox sports announcers observed that Petty's play was affected by the injury.
Coach Art Briles will now have to decide whether or not Petty should play in next week's game. If he sits it out it would give his back time to heal from whatever happened when an SMU player tackled him as he crossed the Mustang goalline. It was officially designated a "bruised back."
Briles said he would've pulled him earlier except the trainers assured him there was no "structural damage." Since the upcoming two games are against weaker, non-conference foes it might be a good opportunity to rest Petty and allow his back time to heal before heading into the difficult Big 12 schedule.
Before his injury, Baylor's star quarterback threw for 161 yards and was involved in three touchdowns.
Former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III was present for the unveiling of a 9 1/2 foot bronze statue of him before the game. It was unveiled outside the new McLane Stadium before kickoff. The towering statue is located between the glittering new stadium and the Brazos River. It sets perched on a plaza at the end of a 775-foot pedestrian bridge over the water which many fans cross on their way to games.
Ken Starr, the president of Baylor, said during the dedication ceremony that when a person comes to Waco, "You're going to see the statue of Judge Baylor, Coach Grant Teaff and Robert Griffin III." Griffin won his Heisman in 2011 after leading the Bears to their first ever victory against powerhouse University of Oklahoma. Griffin's dramatic touchdown pass in the waning moments of that game lifted the Bears to a 10-game win season and was credited with inspiring Baylor supporters to open their wallets to support the construction of the new state of the art stadium.
It was a celebrity-filled occasion for Baylor as former President George W. Bush met Griffin and Starr at midfield for the coin toss. Bush still owns his ranch at nearby Crawford at which he was seen frequently during his eight years in the White House. He spends most of his time these days though at his residence in Dallas. Starr arrived on campus following an 8:30 a.m. church service.
The Baylor defense looked sharp on this warm August day on the Brazos. In the first quarter Bear defenders recovered a fumble at the SMU six-yard line which Baylor converted into a touchdown. Speedy Levi Norwood then sprinted 45 yards with a punt return to the Mustang four-yard line which led to a second touchdown.
Petty then arched a perfect 46-yard touchdown pass to heralded freshman KD Cannon after the Bear defense once again stopped the Ponies offense cold. Cannon, ranked one of the best receivers to come out of high school in the nation in 2013, proved he wasn't overrated. A true freshman, his abilities are so clear there was no reason to waste a red shirt season for him.
Star linebacker Bryce Hager forced the fumbled at the Mustangs 6 which was recovered by Aiavion Edwards and led to Shock Linwood's touchdown run. Linwood had been the object of a heated recruiting battle between TCU and Baylor. Hager is the son of former University of Texas star Britt Hager.
Ouststanding defensive end Shawn Oakman was as good as advertised with two sacks, two tackles for losses and a forced fumble. Only a junior, Oakman is expected to be one of the best defensive ends in that nation this year.
Baylor alumnus Bob Balch of Wichita Falls, Texas, believes the injury to Hager which kept him out for the last few games of last season was one of the reasons the Bears lost the Fiesta Bowl to Central Florida. It was reassuring to Baylor fans seeing Hager back and healthy as he is one of the leaders of the Bear defense. The Baylor defense accounted for eight sacks.
An interception by Xavien Howard while the game was still in doubt in the first half was emblematic of how well the defense played for Baylor, giving SMU its first shutout ever under the regime of SMU coach June Jones, who is considered an offensive guru.
Outstanding backup Seth Russell played quarterback in the second half and got some valuable playing time. If Petty is going to have to deal with a nagging back problem this year, Russell could play a pivotal role in the Bears' defense of their first Big 12 championship ever.
Baylor University is a private school associated with the Baptists while SMU is a private school originally associated with the Methodists.
RG III is the first Heisman Trophy winner in Baylor history. Baylor fans hope Bryce Petty will be the second. Ranked 10th in the nation, the Bears have a legitimate chance at making the first ever playoffs in Division I football.
With games against Northwestern State, Buffalo and Iowa State coming up the Bears should have time to heal. Preseason All-American wide receiver Antwan Goodley was reportedly also injured in this game. He experienced a tightness in his calf and left the game early.
Baylor's next game is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the new stadium. It will be broadcast on FSN, acccording to the Baylor Lariat.
Other luminaries present at the historic game in addition to the 43rd president included his wife Laura Bush, Texas governor Rick Perry and both U.S. Senators from the Lone Star State John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet also was in attendance. Cruz and Perry are both reportedly considering runs for the White House.
Only four teams will qualify for the playoffs for the national championship this year. Baylor fans hope the Bears can get healthy in time for the toughest part of the schedule.
Petty sounded optimistic after the game saying his back already felt better.
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