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November 8, 2013
Grades, observations from 41-12 win
Facing their first ranked opponent of the year, the Bears certainly aced their test, a 41-12 win over No. 10 Oklahoma. Today, SicEmSports reflects on the game with grades for every unit, plus a few "extra point" observations.
Early in the game, it looked like Bryce Petty was out of sync with his receivers. So with the passing game stalling, Petty energized the offense in a different way -- with his legs. Petty capped a five-play drive that gave Baylor a 10-5 lead with a five-yard touchdown. Two plays before that, Petty kept on a zone-read and rushed for 20 yards, his longest run of the season. That sparked two more scoring drives and four touchdowns in a five-drive span. Petty (13-26, 204 yards, 3 TDs) had his second-fewest completions in a single game as a starter, but he made some clutch passes when it mattered. And unlike his counterpart, he didn't make any game-changing mistakes.
Running Back: A+
When you're down to your third running back and you still get a huge game from a runner, you know you've built a deep roster. Lache Seastrunk was hampered by a groin injury, and backup (or co-starter) Glasco Martin IV is now awaiting tests to determine the severity of an injury he suffered early in the game. But instead of ditching its running game, Shock Linwood came off the bench and delivered a career night. Linwood had two previous 100-yard games, but rushing for 182 yards on 23 carries against OU was something different. It was against the starters on a very good defense in minutes that mattered, rather than at the tail end of a blowout. This might've been Linwood's coming out party on a national scene.
Wide Receiver: B+
Baylor relied more on its ground game (255 yards to 204 though the air), so the receivers didn't get as many chances, but the receivers made plays when given the opportunity. There was only one drop -- a laser on a slant from Petty to Levi Norwood late in the game -- but Norwood made up for the loss of Tevin Reese to injury. His 4 receptions for 78 yards and a score were all season highs. Only two other receivers caught passes: Antwan Goodley (6-80, 2 TDs) and Clay Fuller (3-46). There were times, however, when Baylor's receivers had a hard time getting separation from OU defenders.
Offensive Line: A-
The offense followed its script of the past few games: a somewhat slow start before eventual domination. After Baylor failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time all year -- partly because of OU's consistent pressure -- the Bears eventually took over the game late. Baylor gained 424 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per play, from the start of the second quarter on. Of OU's 9 TFLs, five came in the first quarter alone. So after Oklahoma's DL won some early battles, the Baylor offensive line eventually took over, a key reason for Baylor's 28 unanswered points after falling behind 5-3.
Defensive Line: A+
All things considered, this was the best game of the season for this unit. The seven TFLs were the second-fewest of the season. The one sack was a season low. But don't let those numbers fool you. Baylor's defensive line stuffed the run all night long, holding OU to 87 yards on 34 carries (more on those numbers in the extra-point observations below). Baylor did all this knowing that OU's best chance to beat Baylor was to grind it out on the ground. Yet Baylor never gave Oklahoma that chance. OU's longest run of the night was for 23 yards, but it didn't have another run of at least 10 yards. In his previous two games against Baylor, Oklahoma QB Blake Bell had gained 90 yards on 10 carries. Thursday night, he gained five on eight attempts. If a game ball could go to one unit, the defensive line would deserve it the most.
Baylor had several key defensive plays. One of the most important came when OLB Eddie Lackey read Blake Bell's eyes, left the man he was responsible for covering, and jumped in front of another OU receiver to get his first interception of the season and fifth in his career. Baylor converted that takeaway into a touchdown, turning Baylor's tenuous 17-5 lead to a controlling 24-5 margin right before halftime. Lackey finished second on the team with eight tackles and added a TFL. Fellow LB Bryce Hager added seven of his own, while nickel back Sam Holl chipped in with five and a TFL. The linebackers contributed just as much to stopping OU's running game as did the defensive line.
In the second half of the season, senior CB K.J. Morton has turned into one of the team's better tacklers. He definitely had the hit of the night, one that drew a flag but was ultimately ruled not to be targeting. And his tackle for a loss on OU's 4th-and goal from Baylor's 2-yard line signaled that Baylor wasn't going to be gashed by the Bell-dozer like it had been in the past. Morton finished with 7 tackles (third-most on the night) and 1.5 TFLs. Safety Ahmad Dixon, while he had a few mental lapses (including drawing two unnecessary unsportsmanlike conducts), still led Baylor with 10 tackles, many of them right around the line of scrimmage. It might've been his best game in run support. Meanwhile, CBs Joe Williams and Demetri Goodson also had great nights, combining for five of Baylor's seven broken-up passes. Goodson also had a bad penalty (a late hit on a defenseless receiver), but he made up for it the rest of the night. Like the DL, this might've been the best night of the season for Baylor's secondary.
Special Teams: C+
And now, the one area of the team that didn't play at the level of the other units. K Aaron Jones missed two field goals. One, from 52 yards, was understandable. But Jones also missed from 41 yards, a kick that would've given Baylor a four-score lead at the time, and he had one kickoff go out of bounds. Baylor also had bad coverage on the punt that followed OU's safety. Special teams didn't cost the Bears, but they also didn't play well overall.
> Oklahoma literally had one real drive, the only one that ended in a touchdown. By real, I mean it didn't rely on either Baylor penalties or a big return from the special teams. That one drive covered 71 yards over 10 plays and used 4:54 of the clock in the third quarter at a time when OU trailed 31-5. Even though the Sooners did get the touchdown, the Baylor defense made them earn it. OU had to convert on fourth down to get the score (a well-designed pass to the running back out of the backfield). Oklahoma's only other scoring drive covered seven yards in three plays. It was, of course, the drive that followed the sack of Bryce Petty for a safety. Again, Baylor's defense worked over OU. The Sooners were set up at the Baylor 12 but had to settle for three points instead.
> So those were the two OU scoring drives. That leaves 12 other drives by Oklahoma last night. Of those 12, five were three-and-outs. Two others ended with Baylor takeaways. Add it all up, and half of Oklahoma's 14 drives failed to get at least 10 yards of offense. Nine of them were four plays or less. What we saw last night was some amazing defense by Baylor. I don't think I've ever seen a Baylor defense get off the field as frequently -- and as quickly -- as the Bears did against Oklahoma. I know the Sooner offense isn't exactly stellar and was playing its first game without a key cog (FB Trey Millard), but neither is K-State's, and it had little trouble moving between the 20s against Baylor. If I had to break it down into percentages, I'd say OU's offensive struggles were 80 percent the result of Baylor's excellent defense and 20 percent the result of bad play-calling and/or execution. Bottom line, Baylor made OU look bad. The Bears deserve the credit for shutting OU down.
> At this point, it's hard to make a case that Baylor's defensive improvement is only the result of playing subpar competition. Against Baylor's heavily-criticized non-conference schedule, Baylor allowed 297 yards per game. In five Big 12 games, that numbers barely increased to 311.6 yards per game. A difference of 14 yards per game is negligible. Baylor's containing -- or just outright stopping -- every team it faces. OKlahoma, for example, had rushed for at least 130 yards every game this year. Baylor held the Sooners to 87, their first time under 100 yards for a game since losing to Notre Dame last season. OU rushed for under 3 yards per carry for just the second time in two years (also the Notre Dame game). Oklahoma's 237 yards were its fewest in a game since getting 230 in a 27-24 loss to Colorado on Sept. 29, 2007. OU averaged 5 yards per play in that game. Last night, it averaged 3.43 -- a full yard less than what it averaged in the loss to Texas earlier this year. OU hadn't averaged less than 4 yards per play in a game since 2010.
> One of my key stats going into the game was how Baylor had cut down on penalties in Big 12 play. That trend ended against Oklahoma. Granted, replays (and the overturned ejection) showed the 15-yarder on KJ Morton for "targeting" was incorrectly called, and that penalty led to two more personal fouls on Ahmad Dixon, so three of Baylor's 12 penalties were of the questionable variety. Still, 12 penalties for 119 yards is way too many. It didn't hurt Baylor too much last night, but it might in closer games. The 119 penalty yards are nine more than Baylor had in the previous three games combined.
> In the preseason I predicted two 1,000-yard rushers for Baylor. That still may happen -- but with a different combination. Even if the results come up negative and Glasco Martin IV comes back healthy, he'd need to average more than 120 yards per game over the next five (that includes the bowl) to reach 1,000. With the injury and his current average (45.57), that's not going to happen. But Baylor could still have two members of the 1,000-yard club this season thanks to the rise of redshirt freshman Shock Linwood. His career game against OU gives him 625 yards on the season, the fifth-most among all Big 12 rushers. He's averaging 89.29 yards per game, the third-most in the conference. He's on pace for 1,160 rushing yards this season -- not too far behind teammate Lache Seastrunk. He also dealt with an injury, but Seastrunk's groin injury appears to be minor. Despite gaining just 19 yards against OU, Seastrunk is still averaging 111 per game and has 888 yards on the season, both tops in the conference. He's on pace for 1,443 yards a year after rushing for 1,012.
> The next few days will be very important to the program in terms of sorting out some personnel changes. Art Briles said in his post-game press conference that Tevin Reese's wrist injury will cost him his regular season. Glasco Martin IV, as touched on, will have an MRI to determine the severity of his knee injury. Lache Seastrunk and Cyril Richardson both left the game with injuries but should be back by next weekend, but it's still something the team must address. Playing on a Thursday night, though, will at least give Baylor a couple of extra days to rest before playing Texas Tech on Nov. 16 in Arlington.