WACO, Texas — Did the worst defensive performance in West Virginia (and Big 12) football history unravel all the morale-building from the season’s first five weeks?
No. 17 Baylor’s 73-42 runaway victory erupted in a cacophony of 864 yards, 10 touchdowns and more breakdowns than Keith Patterson cared to count. The loss sapped WVU’s defensive coordinator of all the optimism he derived from the previous week’s upset of Oklahoma State.
“I thought our kids would gain a lot of momentum from last week … but today we didn’t have it,” Patterson said.
From the third play of the game—when Bryce Petty fired a 61-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Antwan Goodley—WVU’s defense looked baffled and punch-drunk.
Petty finished 17-of-25 for 347 yards and two touchdowns, numbers compiled despite exiting after the first drive of the third quarter, by which time Baylor led 63-21. In fact, the Bears’ first-team offense did to West Virginia (3-3, 1-2) just what it had done to Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe.
After scoring on 22-of-26 drives in three nonconference games, Baylor’s starters scored touchdowns on nine of 10 drives Saturday, a parade of points interrupted only by Petty throwing an interception to Daryl Worley on third-and-20 deep in WVU territory.
That stop was an anomaly for WVU’s defense, which surrendered 468 yards rushing, including 172 to Lache Seastrunk, who turned his mere 15 carries into a Heisman highlight reel. Most impressive was an 80-yard gallop that put Baylor up 28-7 barely 10 minutes into the first quarter.
Consider how many yards Seastrunk might have added had he carried the ball in the second half. That’s when Baylor turned instead to freshman Shock Linwood, who netted 126 yards on 14 rushes, including a 55-yarder that is easily the longest of this young career. Before the night ended, Baylor had eight rushing touchdowns.
“We didn’t do anything we set out to do,” Patterson said. “We didn’t stop the run. We couldn’t stop the vertical shot.
“We got whipped everywhere. We tried every coverage, every set. We tried moving our anchor points, we tried zone pressure. But you’ve got to give Baylor credit—they physically whipped us. It seemed like absolutely nothing worked.”
More about that frantic first quarter: Baylor’s 369 yards in the opening 15 minutes were the most by any NCAA team in any quarter in the past decade.
This wasn’t just a low point for 2013. It was an all-time slaughter, with WVU made to look more feeble than at any point from last season, which we wrongly believed to be as low as a Mountaineers defense could sink.
“I’ve never seen a team establish the line of scrimmage like (Baylor) did,” said West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, who promoted Patterson to coordinator over Joe DeForest before last year’s Pinstripe Bowl. The move seemed to be paying dividends until Saturday night, when Baylor accumulated the most yards ever by a Big 12 offense. The
“We’ve been pretty proud about how we’ve been playing defense around here the last five games,” Holgorsen said, “but you can’t play defense when the line of scrimmage is 5 yards backward every single play.”
“It’s on us—you can’t put it on schemes,” said West Virginia senior safety Darwin Cook. “We just came out here and laid an egg.
“The way we practiced and the way we prepared, it wasn’t about having a hangover from the Oklahoma State game or anything like that. I didn’t think we were too high on ourselves or nothing.”
Yet Patterson clearly saw the emotional contrast between his unit succeeding against Oklahoma State and being blasted by Baylor seven days later.
“It’s not good enough to do it one week and then take a step back the next week,” Patterson said. “You’re going to play good teams in the Big 12 week after week, and we’ve got to learn how to handle success.”
If coping with success really is an obstacle, the next two weeks should be a breeze.