Shock Linwood found out when everyone else did that Big 12 rushing leader Lache Seastrunk was bypassing his final season with Baylor.
At first, Linwood wondered why Seastrunk was leaving early with the Bears fresh off a Fiesta Bowl appearance and their first Big 12 title. Then he started thinking about the opportunity that provided him this season.
Linwood is now 23 yards shy of giving Baylor a 1,000-yard rusher for the fifth consecutive season. He and fellow sophomore Devin Chafin are both coming off 100-yard games, something they also did last year against Texas Tech, the team No. 5 Baylor plays on Saturday.
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”They’re both very tough, aggressive runners that run with an attitude and run with a purpose and I think we feed off that mentality,” coach Art Briles said.
Briles and the high-scoring Bears (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) like to spread things out – and run the ball.
While Briles’ offense is fairly characterized for big passing numbers, the coach has always talked about the importance of a running game to make everything work. Even when Robert Griffin III was winning the Heisman Trophy three years ago, and during record-setting seasons by Nick Florence and Bryce Petty since then.
Baylor had only six 1,000-yard rushers in the 63 seasons before Briles arrived in 2008. The undersized Linwood (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) is on the verge of making it five in a row, after Seastrunk became the first Bears running back to run for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and then was an early entry in the NFL draft.
”We just have the mindset of going out there and running the football, because that’s how you beat teams,” said Linwood, who has 13 rushing touchdowns and is second in the Big 12 with 97.7 yards per game. ”You have to be more physical. That’s how you do it, running the ball.”
With Seastrunk and senior Glasco Martin both injured for last year’s Texas Tech game, Linwood ran 29 times for 187 yards and a TD. The 6-foot, 225-pound Chafin had 11 carries for 100 yards and two scores.
The Bears are the nation’s top overall offense (584.5 total yards per game) for the second year in a row, after finishing second each of the two seasons before that. They have been pretty balanced throughout, running for at least 230 yards per game though that entire span.
”They want to spread you out and run the football, and they throw whenever you put an extra guy in the box,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. ”It’s really very simple, and that’s what their goal is. … That’s what they’ve wanted to do for a number of years.”
Linwood and Chafin both had 21 carries against the Cowboys on a rainy night last Saturday. Linwood ran for 113 yards and a score while Chafin had 106 yards with three touchdowns.
”As a unit, that’s always a great feeling whenever you and your brother can help contributed to much to the team,” Chafin said. ”Whatever we accomplish, we feed off each other and do better when the other one is doing good.”