WACO (AP) – Garrett Gilbert and SMU made too many mistakes to keep up with Baylor.
Playing in his first game since transferring from Texas, Gilbert threw two touchdown passes in SMU’s 59-24 season-opening loss to the Bears on Sunday night.
Nick Florence threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns, and Mike Hicks returned a fumble for a score to help the Bears beat the Mustangs for the 10th straight time.
Gilbert threw two interceptions and SMU turned the ball over three times. The Bears held the Mustangs without a touchdown until late in the third quarter.
“I’ve got to play better,” Gilbert said. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot the way we did. We’ve just go to continue to improve.
Gilbert, who finished 34 of 59 for 286 yards, was a highly touted recruit from Austin who played in the 2009 BCS title game before his career fizzled with the Longhorns. In his first start with SMU, Gilbert had three passes swatted down at the line and struggled to find receivers down the field.
The junior played for the first time since last Sept. 10 for Texas against BYU.
“I don’t think there was any rust,” Gilbert said. “I think it took our offense a while to get into a rhythm.”
For at least one game, Baylor’s offense didn’t miss a beat without departed Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Florence last started as a freshman in 2009 when he replaced an injured Griffin for several games.
The senior was 21 of 30 and guided Baylor to 613 yards of offense Sunday. The Bears scored at least 45 points for the fifth straight game.
Griffin sent an encouraging text message to Florence before Sunday’s opener.
“He just told me to be myself,” Florence said. “I learned a lot from (Griffin). He’s done a lot for our program. Just because he leaves, doesn’t mean anything different happens here.”
Florence threw first-half touchdown passes to Lanear Sampson, Jordan Najvar and Tevin Reese, and hooked up with Sampson on a 36-yard scoring pass that put the Bears on top 45-3 in the third before Bryce Petty took over at quarterback.
Terrance Williams had 138 yards receiving, and Jarred Salubi and Glasco Martin each rushed for a TD.
“If you give any type of offense like that room to breathe, they’re going to take advantage of it,” SMU defensive back Ryan Smith said. “That’s exactly what Baylor did.”
In last season’s opener, Baylor blew a 24-point lead before beating TCU 50-48 on a late field goal. The Bears didn’t need any late drama this time.
SMU’s Darius Johnson couldn’t handle Gilbert’s pass at the goal line and the ball bounced high in the air. Hicks twice tipped the ball before Lackey intercepted it and returned it 23 yards.
Three plays later, Florence hit a streaking Reese for a 50-yard TD pass that extended Baylor’s lead to 21-3 with 2:02 left in the first half.
“It was a tough first game,” SMU coach June Jones said. “The tips were unfortunate.”
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Johnson caught a short pass and lost the ball just before hitting the ground. Hicks picked up the loose ball and ran 66 yards for a touchdown.
Baylor has won seven in a row. Only TCU at eight has a longer streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Bears matched a school-record last season with 10 wins, a mark that was first set during star linebacker Mike Singletary’s senior season in 1980. Griffin, now with the Washington Redskins, capped his career by leading Baylor to its first bowl victory in 19 years.
Baylor’s offense figured to take a step back without Griffin and four other offensive players from last year’s squad taken in the NFL draft.
Instead, the Bears continued to pile up points as they did under Griffin.
“It was a great team performance,” Florence said.
Florence was 4 for 4 on Baylor’s opening possession, which was aided by four SMU penalties. He capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Sampson.
The senior dropped in a 32-yard pass to Levi Norwood to set up a 5-yard scoring toss to Najvar.
Gilbert connected on five straight attempts, leading to Chase Hover’s 22-yard field goal in the second quarter. The junior threw scoring passes to Der’rikk Thompson and Jeremy Johnson in the second half.
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