Neal Brown: Air Raid
Good News: After last week, I was hopeful that Neal Brown had figured it out. We had a good offensive output against Iowa State and it seemed like the team figured something out right there. Well, we continued that today, scoring on 7 of our first 9 drives. When it works, it works, and it sure as hell was working today. Props to Detron Lewis who bounced back after losing the ball last week (and nearly losing it on his first catch this week), hauling in 11 catches for 97 yards and a score. You guys like stats? How about this line: Baron Batch - 17 carries, 97 yards and a TD; Eric Stephens - 14 carries, 52 yards and a TD; and Talyor Potts - 4 carries, 21 yards (2 sacks, rushes of 0 and 43 yards).
I think that we saw today what Tuberville visualized when he imagined what sort of offense he wanted. Yards on the ground, yards through the air, and plenty of scores. Baylor's defense isn't at the level of, say, Nebraska or OU, so I take the final tally with a grain of salt, but it's great to see this offense running and building up some confidence and rhythm for when we do play a better defense.
Bad News: If there was downside to watching this offense, it was all of those wide receiver screens. It seemed as if we were calling one of those screens on every other down. They're great when they work, sure, but any play is great when it works. I may sound like a broken record here, but I really love when our primary play looks 8-15 yards down the field and not 2 yards in the backfield.
More Bad News: If there was a second downside to watching the offense today, it happened after Taylor Potts threw his pick. The play calling switched in an instant and the next time we got the ball, we were playing the same old conservative offense that drove us nuts at the beginning of the season. It really seemed as if Neal Brown was trying to not have Potts' confidence shaken by not letting him do anything that had any chance of going wrong. It led to us closing out the game with drives of 5 plays, 4 plays, and 5 plays, not at all what you want to see from a team that's trying to close out a game against a powerful offensive team.
James Willis: Risk Taker
Good News: Last week's defense got embarrassed by a bad Iowa State offense. We had a very apparent game plan, but we just didn't execute. Well, this week, we had again a very apparent game plan and we did execute that game plan. Oddly, I think it was the same plan for both weeks: shut down the run, shut down a running QB, and make him throw the ball against us. We gave up 80 yards on the ground, a total of 2.7 yards per carry and only 18 total yards to Robert Griffin III. Just to review, Potts was 4 carries for 21 yards while RGIII was 11 carries for 18 yards.
We gave up points, but I'll be completely honest: that what I expected out of this season. I expected to see a blitzing, boom or bust defense that was going to get burnt on a great many occasions but would be able to handle at least one aspect of the other team's offense. I got that today, with safety and corner blitzes and a tricky scheme of late-looping defensive linemen, 2 hidden QB spies, and a number of other packages, all designed to keep RGIII from pulling the ball and running. I'll admit that I saw some of the future of this defense today, and I like it.
Bad News: I'm not going to sugar coat it. While our defense shows flashes of excitement, we aren't very good. We have a workable linebacker corps and a surging defensive line, thanks to great play from Colby Whitlock, but our secondary... man, our secondary. Today, DJ Johson and Cody Davis were absolutely, brutally picked on. I am a bit fan of DJ's, but he's going to have some adjustment to figuring out how to not be beaten in man coverage.
The injury/suspension report is still more gruesome, showing Franklin Mitchem, Sam Fehoko, and Will Ford out or hobbled by injury and Scott Smith now suspended for an unknown reason (I've heard violation of team rules and NCAA Clearinghouse issues, so who knows).
Last week, facing the option of putting his young and vulnerable secondary on islands or trying to protect them and giving up the underneath ball, Willis chose to play the conservative hand. It didn't work and we still gave up big plays. This week, we decided to go for it. We knew we would give up big plays, but didn't care, only hoping to create enough big plays on the other side to get stops (4 stops in 6 second half drives). I have a feeling that we're going to be seeing more of this the rest of the year, so steel your stomachs: it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Tommy Tuberville: "Special" Teams Specialty
Good News: The kickers were resurgent. LaCour had a 41 yard average on kicks and showed a good command of both styles that he punts. Carona was getting the ball 3 yards deep on kickoffs. Matt Williams got himself a made field goal. That's a good day for the kickers.
Bad News: I think that teams have figured out how good Eric Stephens is and are now purposefully kicking away from him. This puts Zouzalik in the prime position as return man, but I just don't see his explosiveness as much as having Stephens returning kicks.
More Bad News: I bet you were thinking that I was going to gloss over the two retarded plays of the day. Had you fooled there. If we had lost the game, we would absolutely be the laughing stock of the college football world. Granted, we are being laughed at for that retarded onside kick, but it's not so bad as it could have been.
So what do you think? Looking back at it, we had two (and a half with Carona's missed long field goal) very poor plays on special teams. As fans, we don't want to see any bad plays. We might forgive the special teams for giving up the occasional fake punt or field goal (Florida gave up a first down on a field goal tonight, for example), or even a failed onside kick attempted at a surprising moment. What we won't forgive is plays that we weren't even close on like giving up a 34 yard pass to the up-man on a punt. Or plays in which we forgot the rules of football, looking at a live ball like a bunch of doofuses. I don't mind the call, but c'mon guys, plan for the worst happening and teach your players what to do.
I just wanted to say that it is absolutely shameful that Josh Gordon, the Baylor WR who was arrested last week after falling asleep at in a Taco Bell drive through, high and in possession of marijuana, served a grand total of a 1 quarter suspension. I actually don't have a problem with the narcotic, though that's a political conversation for later, but after an arrest and facing likely charges he received a slap on the wrist. Briles is a jerk and deserves any karmic retribution that comes his way. I find it appropriate that it was Josh Gordon who fumbled the ball at the end, giving the refs the opportunity to run out the clock at the end of the game.