A four-touchdown performance in a 49-7 win — even over a team as lowly as Kansas — typically bodes well for a quarterback. Such is not the case for Seth Russell and Baylor.
The homecoming victory registered on Saturday afternoon certainly rivals performances from Baylor’s conference title seasons, but the 42-point win was not delivered by the hands of the Bears’ star quarterback — at least not as much as his performance indicates.
Averaging over close to 600 yards per game heading into Saturday, Baylor collected just 453 total yards against KU. That was largely due to the passing game struggling. Whether it was Russell or the 15-mile-per-hour wind that influenced play-calling ever other quarter, the point remains that the offense never adjusted to make the win as gratifying as it should have been.
Russell was pulled at halftime leading 42-0, but he mustered only 144 yards passing and would have been lucky to double that even if he played all game.
Completing 60 percent of his passes on the season, Russell was 9-of-22 against the Jayhawks. Those incompletions weren’t just dropped passes as they’ve been in the past, with Chris Platt being a common culprit. Moving against the wind, Russell put too much power on a couple balls which landed 10 yards beyond his targets, including a go-ahead touchdown attempt intended for K.D. Cannon early in the first quarter.
If there was any question if Cannon would have scored then, Baylor drew up the same exact play moving in the opposite direction for a 59-yard touchdown.
That was one of the only passes that made Russell look like the same man who scored four touchdowns at Kansas last season while completing two-thirds of his passes. He also missed Cannon on what was assuredly a touchdown off a fly route, this time putting too much touch on the ball in line with the wind. Russell similarly missed Platt on four occasions.
This is not to say Russell only struggled to move the ball because of the weather. This wasn’t a repeat of the TCU game last season, but 15-mph winds are enough to sway the outcome of routine plays. Just ask Kansas’s punter, who drove an 82-yard punt in the first quarter but couldn’t get Kansas outside its own territory when battling the air currents in the second quarter. The Jayhawks’ two quarterbacks struggled along the same lines.
Luckily for Baylor, which is now primed for a top-10 ranking, Russell has reliable legs to turn to when his arm is out of commission.
Baylor’s first drive was almost purely orchestrated by Russell on the ground — he rushed four times for 28 yards, including the opening touchdown. Later on fourth down at Kansas’s 26-yard line, he trucked through a tackle for a second touchdown. He finished the afternoon with a team-leading 68 yards and is a hundred yards from topping his 402 yards last season on the ground.
If Russell’s going to make a bid for the Heisman — at the very least, Big 12 Player of the Year — this will be a pivotal stretch of the season. Can he bounce back and outplay TCU and Oklahoma down the stretch, or did this Kansas contest expose him in a telling fashion? Last season he didn’t have the chance to make up for his similar performance against Iowa State; he suffered a season-ending injury.
If cornerback Ryan Reid is to be believed heading into another bye week, “We get to rest again, so everybody else should be worried about Baylor,” Ryan said.
Should people be afraid of Russell right now? Maybe not worried about what he did, but how he will return after another week’s rest.