Baylor quarterback Nick Tiano has secured his football future, committing to Mississippi State during the summer.
With the pressure off and the future before him, the Red Raiders senior appeared poised to make the most of his final season at Heywood Stadium.
"I was just really excited to play," said Tiano, who threw four first-quarter touchdown passes in Baylor's 51-7 win over Howard on Friday. "This goes by so fast and I wanted to have some fun.
"Last year I was uptight at times, and I just want to enjoy this experience with my teammates and my classmates and the crowd."
Before giving way to the reserves very early in the second quarter, Tiano finished 5-of-8 for 155 yards and the multitude of scores that decided this one about the time the sun was setting over Lookout Mountain. The numbers would have been even more eye-popping if not for three drops by his teammates early in the first drive of the team's season opener.
"My only disappointment was the first drive and the three drops," Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "With Nick, the confidence he's gained through competing and last year's experience, he's just playing very well and he showed that tonight."
Gage Upshaw scored Baylor's first touchdown of the season on a 63-yard punt return. From there Tiano took over, throwing scoring strikes to Adrian Harris, Ryan Parker, Daniel Moore and Devin Smith before the end of the first quarter of his final season at Baylor.
Add in a Charlie Glascock 1-yard scoring run and a late safety and Baylor was alternating red shirts in so quickly it's surprising Eddie Etter didn't get a carry.
"It was good to get that many kids on the field," Massey said after using four quarterbacks and at least two kickers. "I was really happy with how some of the older kids were coaching up the younger guys tonight."
While the experienced Red Raiders were flexing their muscles and passing along lessons that culminated in Cade Bearden's 8-yard touchdown run that stretched the lead to 51-0, the learning experience has just started for Howard and first-year coach Mark Teague.
The Hustlin' Tigers contnued to work, despite the early deficit, and managed some nice gains in the second half, highlighted by Vincent Boling's touchdown run.
"Our kids kept fighting," Teague said. "And we're going to make sure everyone we play knows that we're going to keep fighting all year.
"There were a lot of positives to take away tonight, and considering we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, I think we made some great strides."
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.