Baylor's offense: "Scary. Really Scary"
AMES Paul Rhoads spoke bluntly, forcefully in other words, like he normally does.
The topic: Baylor's feared tops-in-the-nation offense.
The Iowa State coach brought it up, unprompted, and delved deeply into its video game-like stat lines Monday before a reporter could squeeze out a question.
"I've got some numbers for you that might excite you," said Rhoads, whose growing but 1-4/0-2 Cyclones face the No. 12 Bears (5-0, 2-0) in Saturday's 6 p.m. ESPNU-televised Big 12 game at Waco, Texas. "Sixty-three points a game, 715 yards a game, 56 percent third down conversion (rate). Oh, yeah, they play defense, too: 18 points a game, 346 yards a game is all they're giving up; 33 percent on third down ... "
And so it went.
You almost don't need Baylor's sports information department to articulate how daunting a task the Wally Burnham-led ISU defense will face at Floyd Casey Stadium as 32-point underdogs.
But here are a couple more hard-to-digest for the defensive-minded tidbits:
The Bears lead the nation in percentage of drives ending in a touchdown 42 out of 70, or 60 percent.
Even more staggering, the starting offense has produced 35 touchdowns in 48 possessions (72.9 percent).
The latter stat's better than all but four FBS quarterbacks' completion percentages.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, for instance, is connecting on 73.2 percent of his passes.
Baylor football's putting up more points.
"Wow," Cyclone defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said when asked what reaction watching the Bears' game tape provokes. "Really, you sit down and watch the Baylor wide receivers and it's actually scary. It's really scary. The speed and athletic ability those kids have got and the way the quarterback puts it out there, it's amazing. It really is amazing."
Five Baylor receivers, led by Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese, average at least 20 yards per catch.
Star running back Lache Seastrunk averages 9.9 yards per carry.
The quarterback, Bryce Petty, has completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and one interception.
"The scheme is simple," Rhoads said. "That's a good thing. ... It's fast players playing fast and a quarterback that we know the last two quarterbacks (Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence) they played with. One played (Sunday) night and made a lot of money with a pretty fancy trophy in his house and the other one had better numbers than he had. I think (Petty's) every bit as good and does a number of the things they ask him to do better than the last two. He's strong. The velocity of his ball is amazing and how quick he gets it out of his hand is amazing."
So far this season, but ISU managed to hold the same scheme and many of the same explosive players to three touchdowns in a dominant 35-21 win in Ames last season.
That's the fewest points Baylor has scored in its most-recent 36 regular season games, so what blueprint made it possible?
"Just tackle well in the open field," Cyclone safety Jacques Washington said. "We prevented the big play. Same thing we'll have to do here."
So the plan is to slow, not stop the Bears.
Stopping simply doesn't happen.
Baylor's won nine straight games and a Saturday victory would create a school-record winning streak.
"We're going to have to practice fast and be prepared," ISU linebacker Luke Knott said. "Just like we had to be (last week)."
ONE OUT, TWO BACK: Offensive lineman Jacob Gannon, Rhoads said, is doubtful for Saturday's game with a knee injury. But leading rusher Aaron Wimberly will return after missing most of the second half at Texas Tech with a banged up shoulder and tight back. Also back: starting cornerback Jansen Watson, who missed the Tech game with an ankle injury.
RICHARDSON'S HEALTH: Quarterback Sam Richardson has battled a right ankle injury since the season opener and continues to take hits on it. He's been at less than 100 percent sometimes closer to 60 percent health since the season opener and Rhoads said as long as he's hampered, the offense will struggle to consistently improve. "We're not going forward because he's not getting any better (physically)," Rhoads said. "Whether it's any worse or not, we're not progressing. And that's part of the game. At the same time, it's dissatisfying to have to try to improve with that in mind."
WEST HONORED: Cyclone receiver/return man Jarvis West was named Big 12 special teams player of the week and also the College Football Performance Awards' national kickoff returner of the week. West notched a 95-yard kickoff return for touchdown against Texas Tech. It was ISU's first non-onside kick return for touchdown since 1994, when Troy Davis accomplished the feat.