WVU football: Baylor offense scoring in bunches
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The challenge that awaits West Virginia Saturday night against Baylor is unlike one the Mountaineers have seen.
Maybe that sounds absurd for a team that just beat then-No. 11 Oklahoma State and had already played the Cowboys, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 25 Maryland.
But it's true.
Nobody has seen what the 17th-ranked Bears have in store for the 8 p.m. Fox Sports 1 game at Floyd Casey Stadium. They're debuting their chrome gold helmets, arguably the boldest look in college football for what may be the nation's boldest team.
Some wear emotions on their sleeve. The Bears wear them on their heads.
"To me, that's what it's all about," Coach Art Briles said. "You've got style, you've got attitude, you've got effort. You have an image, and our image is we're going to play fast, we're going to be fearless and we're not going to worry about what other people think because we know who we are and we know what we're going to do."
If the headwear isn't convincing enough, consider Baylor's Holiday Bowl rings. They, too, are gold and feature the score on the side: 49-19. The box score reads the Bears beat UCLA 49-26.
Baylor was, and apparently still is, upset about a touchdown given to the Bruins on the final play of the game when the UCLA player clearly never got the ball into the end zone. Even though there was no time left in the game, Briles tried to call a timeout to have the play reviewed and overturned.
The ring was his final say.
"Of course I'm still mad about that," Briles said. "I don't want to short our players and I didn't want to short them that night. That's why I called the timeout and asked them to review it, which they didn't do. It was hot dog and Coke time for the review staff. They thought the game was over."
This is the squad that is No. 1 in the nation in scoring offense, total offense and passing offense and a program that's been rising since the year before Robert Griffin III won his Heisman Trophy in 2011. Baylor (3-0) has beaten FCS program Wofford (69-3), as well as Buffalo (70-13) and Louisiana-Monroe (70-7) to start the season, but has nevertheless rung up some stunning offensive statistics.
The Bears have five quarters with at least 28 points. All but one of the 25 touchdown drives has lasted fewer than 2 minutes - and the exception lasted 2:07. The first-team offense has played 26 series and only five in the second half. That group has managed 21 touchdowns and needed an average of 69 seconds to score. There have been zero three-and-outs.
So far, the offense has combined with a defense that has four touchdowns and has allowed only three to reinforce preseason predictions. Baylor was picked to finish fifth in the conference's preseason media poll, but also had two of the 25 first-place votes. The Bears had never received a first-place vote and aren't yet six years removed from going 0-8 in the Big 12 in 2007.
"I was wondering why those other 23 didn't believe in us," Briles said. "It just shows, I think, that we're gaining some respect. We're certainly not where we need to be or want to be or are going to be, but we got one foot out of the water and on the land. We're gaining ground."
The Bears absolutely saw it coming, too. Running back Lache Seastrunk transferred from Oregon in 2011 and sat out that season. He wasn't really involved early in the 2012 season, but he finished with a flourish, running for 103, 91, 185, 136, 178 and 138 yards and scoring six times to end the season.
When it was over, he said he'd win the Heisman in 2013. He's never once wavered.
"Why should I?" he asked at the Big 12's media day in July. "Why should I regret it? I said it. Y'all want me to take it back?"
Seastrunk simply revealed a goal. The Bears barely flinched and endorsed Seastrunk's self-endorsement.
"Lache is a great teammate," Briles said. "He's a great, passionate, caring person for everybody on our football team, he prepares as well as anybody in the United States of America and he believes in himself. And I learned a long time ago that if you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will."
Seastrunk has done his part for as long as he's been allowed on the field this season. He's carried 38 times for 417 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 11 yards per carry. His only negative rush this season lost 1 yard.
If he's doing his part, it's because his teammates are doing theirs.
Through all the questioning about what he said, Seastrunk remained adamant about one thing: It was as much about the offensive line as it was about himself.
"It is a challenge," offensive lineman Cyril Richardson said. "I know we play this game as a competition, but what's wrong with making some personal challenges with yourself and accomplishing the challenges you set for yourself? Those are the best ones - to break that limit for yourself and to get to where you want to go. That's what I like to see."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.