Waco, TX – The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks will travel to conference ranked Baylor Bears.
Stephen F. Austin opened its 2011 campaign with a dominant 82-6 win over Division II McMurry, but fell last week in a 34-23 loss to the fourth-ranked team in the FCS, Northern Iowa. The Lumberjacks were ranked No. 16 in the FCS poll and dropped three spots following the loss, which was close heading into the fourth quarter despite a cache of mistakes made by Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks committed four turnovers and had nine penalties for 91 yards against Northern Iowa. Those kind of self-inflicted wounds must be at an absolute minimum this week should the Lumberjacks wish to remain competitive with a top-20 FBS opponent.
Baylor captivated the country two weeks ago in a 50-48 win over defending Rose Bowl champion TCU, and had plenty of time to enjoy the win after last weekend's bye. Now it's back to business for the Bears, who are playing in a home game as a ranked team for the first time since November of 1991. Head coach Art Briles has been adamant that the Bears not get caught up in the hype of the opening win against TCU, just the first step in what he hopes is a hugely successful season for his program.
"It just means that we���re doing what we���re supposed to do," said Briles following the win. "This best not be the highlight of our season."
Baylor leads the series 3-0, and has outscored the Lumberjacks 157-0 even though the two teams haven't played since 1947.
Stephen F. Austin is led by quarterback Brady Attaway, who is 50-of-72 for 556 yards and five touchdowns in two games, although he has also thrown five interceptions. Three of those costly picks came against Northern Iowa, when the Lumberjack offense put up 407 yards of total offense a week after bombing McMurry for 668 yards of total offense. The Lumberjacks have a quality receiver in Corde Roberson, who has 15 catches for 195 yards in two games, with 115 of those yards coming against Northern Iowa. Stephen F. Austin threw 63 times in the McMurray matchup, although the offense was much more balanced with the run against Northern Iowa, running for 126 yards on 29 carries. Jeremy Barnes and Fred Ford both have had solid games at running back, as Ford ran 11 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns against McMurry while Barnes carried 11 times for 64 yards against Northern Iowa.
The defense stood out in the opener, holding McMurray to just 20 yards rushing on 29 carries and 128 yards of total offense for the game. Northern Iowa was a different beast however, gashing the unit for 24 first downs and 211 yards rushing. The turnovers didn't help the Lumberjacks in the field position battle, but the unit struggled to get any pressure up front (just two tackles for loss and no sacks) and were on the field for much of the game. The Panthers won the time of possession battle by nearly 15 minutes. That gassed the defense, which is seeing the level of competition go up each of the first three weeks in McMurray, Northern Iowa and now Baylor.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III has been hyped as a early season Heisman Trophy candidate, and he let his play back up that assertion against TCU. Griffin threw for 359 yards and a career-high five touchdowns, and put together an 11-play, 60-yard drive in the final two minutes to set up Baylor's field goal that eventually sealed the win. Baylor registered 564 yards of total offense in the game, and received huge performances from running back Terrance Ganaway (24 carries, 120 yards and one touchdown) and receiver Kendall Wright (12 catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns). Wright needs just 122 yards to become Baylor's all-time leading receiver. Terrance Williams added six catches for 126 yards and two scores for Baylor, who scored 47 points in the first three quarters before holding off a furious TCU rally in the fourth.
At times, Baylor's defense frustrated TCU's potent offense, especially in the second and third quarters when the Bears built a 47-23 advantage heading into the final frame. But Baylor's offense went cold in the fourth quarter, and TCU hung up 25 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to almost pull off the rally. The Bears allowed 466 yards of total offense and were on the field for long stretches (TCU won the time of possession battle 33:06 to 26:54), with the silver lining being that the Horned Frogs were just 6-of-16 on third down. After the Bears had gone up by two with 1:04 remaining the in the game, TCU moved to the Baylor 40 and threatened to set up a potential game-winning field goal when Mike Hicks intercepted TCU quarterback Case Pachal to seal the victory.
"TCU, and I don't know if I'm right or not, but I think they've lost two games since 2009, so that's a hard team to beat," said Briles. "When you win a bunch you think you're supposed to win a bunch, and our guys really just kept fighting, kept believing and persevered."