Baylor finally has its first taste of injury adversity.
Star wideout Tevin Reese is out for the rest of the regular season with a dislocated wrist. Running backs Lache Seastrunk (groin) and Glasco Martin (knee) are banged up and day-to-day heading down the stretch.
With those injuries, can the nation’s highest-scoring offense keep humming?
“We’re about to find out,” coach Art Briles said.
There’s reason to believe it can. Look no further than Baylor’s final three quarters against Oklahoma.
Martin exited early in the first quarter with the knee injury. Soon after that, Seastrunk tweaked his groin. Then just before the end of the first half, Reese injured the wrist.
But facing one of the Big 12’s better defenses, Baylor barely missed a beat. From the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth, the Bears scored on six of eight drives, including five touchdowns.
In place of Martin and Seastrunk, freshman Shock Linwood exploded for 182 yards on 23 carries. It wasn’t just gaping holes the offensive line carved out for him, either. Linwood amassed 97 of his yards after contact, repeatedly driving his way through Oklahoma defenders for big plays on the ground.
“Shock's performance was non-surprising,” Briles said. “He's a good football player, understands the game.
“You give him an opportunity, he's going to take advantage of it.”
This wasn’t first time Linwood took advantage of an opportunity. Despite essentially being Baylor’s third-team tailback, the former 2-star recruit is now second in the Big 12 with a rushing average of 89.3 yards per game, trailing only Seastrunk.
“Shock is going to step up great,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “His success is no surprise to any off us."
Seastrunk and Martin, however, will be coming back soon. Perhaps as soon as this week against Texas Tech in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Reese is not coming back. At least not until a bowl game.
To most teams, losing a player of Reese’s caliber would be a deathblow. Reese, a fixture in the Bears’ receiving corps since Robert Griffin III was the quarterback, leads the country with an average of almost 25 yards per catch. His penchant for big plays had become a cornerstone of the Baylor attack.
“We'll have to compensate in a variety of ways,” Briles said.
The fact Baylor is equipped to compensate for the loss of Reese underscores just how loaded this receiving corps is.
Antwan Goodley, perhaps the most improved offensive player in the conference, leads the Big 12 in receiving touchdowns (10) and receiving yards per game (121.8).
Even with the added focus with Reese off the field, Goodley kept popping the Sooners deep. He pulled in a 24-yard touchdown grab just before halftime. Then at the beginning of the fourth quarter, he delivered the exclamation point, hauling in a 25-yard touchdown pass that put Baylor ahead 41-12.
Levi Norwood stepped up well as Goodley’s new receiving wingman, too, bursting through the Oklahoma secondary for a 17-yard touchdown grab that put Baylor up 31-5 early in the third quarter.
"We have a good nucleus of guys,” Briles said.
But to capture their first Big 12 title, the Bears might need help from outside the core nucleus. Speedy freshmen Corey Coleman and Robbie Rhodes showed loads of promise during the preseason. Neither had a catch against Oklahoma. But both could play key roles down the stretch.
"You can't replace a guy like Tevin, on or off the field,” Petty said. “Leadership and experience. It's a big loss.
“But the other guys, they’re ready.”