WACO, Texas — No. 21 Baylor was every bit as good as expected. And as Friday night’s college football season opener unwound, Northwestern State got better.
The Bears’ 55-7 romp was not unexpected – the Demons had played three other FBS Top 25-ranked foes this century, and none of those games were close – but Baylor was borderline awesome in the first half. Afterward, NSU played their hosts even on the scoreboard and infinitely more competitively on the field.
“Hey, that Baylor team’s a load,” said fourth-year Demons coach Jay Thomas. “But our guys didn’t fold. I was proud of our effort and how we played much better in the second half.
“We’ll go through this tape, find a lot to fix, learn from it, and get ready for a big ballgame next Thursday at home, a Southland Conference game, against a team that beat us last year,” he said, looking forward to the White Out Game at Turpin Stadium against Incarnate Word. “This is a good teaching tape. We had a lot of guys who got their feet wet tonight and that will help us next week.”
Twenty-four Demons made tackles. Ten carried the ball at least once. Very few of the 75 on the trip didn’t get into action.
“A game like this will only help us,” said senior running back De’Mard Llorens. “Baylor has a lot of great players. They played very well. But we did some good things and we saw a lot that we can do better.”
The stats were lopsided as the score. Baylor outgained the visitors 498-78 and had 23 first downs to nine by NSU. The Bears scored on all eight of their first-half series (six touchdowns, two field goals) and added their final TD on a 62-yard drive to open the second half. The Demons had seven three-and-outs on their nine first-half series, and set a school record with 12 punts, eight by halftime.
NSU was stymied by an aggressive Bears defense that notched 15 tackles for loss for 67 negative yards.
“Their defense played lights out in the first half, just gave our offense fits. We just couldn’t get any first downs, and that kept our defense on the field,” said Thomas.
Baylor senior quarterback Seth Russell threw touchdown passes of 4, 6, 5 and 10 yards, hitting 14 of 20 for 163 yards in just under two quarters. Senior running back Shock Linwood topped a 275-yard rushing attack with 97 yards on nine carries.
But the Bears did not lace the Demons’ defense with a series of long scoring plays as they did two years ago in a 70-6 rout. Baylor had only one run, Linwood’s 42-yarder, over 19 yards, and just one pass, a 45-yard catch by Lynx Hawthorne, longer than 19 yards.
NSU’s touchdown came on a 4-yard keeper from graduate transfer quarterback Brooks Haack, capping a 45-yard, 8-play drive late in the third quarter.
“A lot of smiles in the locker room right now,” said Thomas. “Baylor was good. To get out there and battle and go toe-to-toe with them, I’m very proud of the effort. The outcome wasn’t there, and we didn’t have much success in the first half, but I’d like to say this: Coach (Jim) Grobe (Baylor’s new head coach) is first class.
“The score was obviously out of hand, he came out and just took the air out of the ball, milked the clock down. We took the same approach too. He got to play a lot of guys and so did we, which is good,” said Thomas.
Defensively, the Demons got a game-high nine tackles from transfer linebacker Koby Welch, seven from senior safety Adam Jones, and five each by junior cornerback Manuel Mukes and senior linebacker Shawn Stephens. Transfer linebacker Nick Pierotti claimed the game’s only turnover, a fourth-quarter fumble forced by Welch.
— Northwestern State Sports Information