BAYLOR VS. KENT STATE RECAP: Freshman Florence Near Flawless, Bears Beat Golden Flashes 31-15

by dentonramsey

BAYLOR VS. KENT STATE RECAP: Freshman Florence Near Flawless, Bears Beat Golden Flashes 31-15

By Denton Ramsey, Bleacher Report Featured Columnist

WACO, Texas — Baylor true freshman Nick Florence, along with an unbreakable defense and special teams, helped lead the Bears (3-1) to a 31-15 victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes (2-3) on Saturday evening at Floyd Casey Stadium.

Despite the downpours and an early 7-0 deficit, Florence — the Bears third-string quarterback — went 20-of-27 in the passing department for 216 yards while also compiling 60 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns in his first career start.

“He’s very confident, intelligent, poised, and aware and those are all qualities of a good quarterback,” Baylor Head Coach Art Briles said. “He’s not afraid to get dirty, dive around and create something. He did exactly what we thought he’d do. He was very efficient and intelligent and that’s exactly what he did.

“The way he handled himself the last two days, you could tell he was really grasping everything and understanding and was delivering the ball well. I felt if it was drier a little earlier we could have done a few more things because Nick is very accurate with the football, but we were still able to make a couple of runs and we got the win so that’s all we were concerned with tonight.”

For Florence, sophomore receiver Kendall Wright was again a key target for the Bears offense — racking up 125 yards on nine catches.

“It [getting the win] is awesome,” Florence said. “It is a great feeling. It is what we needed to do. There was no question in my mind whether we were going to win that game. We were going to do whatever it takes. It was sloppy at times and a lot of that is my inexperience and making mistakes. Our defense made plays and our offensive line made plays and our running backs and receivers made plays. That is what you do to get a win.”

Defensively, Baylor picked up two key interceptions and caused three Kent State fumbles (recovering one) in a strong secondary; while special teams played a large part as well with two blocked field goals (both by senior defensive lineman Jason Lamb) and a blocked extra point (junior defensive tackle Phil Taylor).

“We [the defense] could have done a lot better,” Lamb said. “I don’t know the final stats at all, but I know we gave up too many yards. The good thing from that is when it really came time to buckle down and prevent them from scoring, we were able to do that. We really gave up more yards than we wanted to and that is something we are going to have to work on this week.”

Sophomore running back Jared Salubi also has a solid outing for the Bears, garnering 64 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown en route to a 16-point Baylor win on a stormy Saturday in Waco.

“We know how to keep people there through the game,” Briles said. “We weren’t going to let them go home early. It was a good, tough win. I was really proud of our guys, I thought they showed a whole lot of character and were very resilient and really tough minded. I thought they battled, relieved and overcame. From that standpoint it was a big win and I learned many years ago that there is no such thing as a bad win, they’re all great.

“It’s a big win for Baylor; I thought they did a good job making a statement about our program and our effort and our attitude, and we have to continue to get better as a team. We have a long way to go but we are taking steps forward, not backward and that’s the encouraging part.”

Briles’ Bears return to the gridiron for Big 12 play on Saturday, Oct. 10, in Norman, Oklahoma — as Baylor faces the Sooners (2-2) in a televised game (locally on ABC) slated to kickoff at 2:30 p.m.

“Like I said last week, it’s hard to define confidence,” Briles said. “I’m not worried about confidence quite honestly, I’m worried about production. What we’ve got to do is give them a good plan and go out and perform and produce and with that maybe some confidence will come. But if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. As soon as you step on the field you should be confident and if you don’t, you shouldn’t be out there.”

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com

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