I don't think anyone could have predicted the game we played against Baylor in our season finale. The Bears were picked to win by over three touchdowns, and looked poised to erupt in order to secure a spot in the first BCS playoffs. Fortunately for us, we played a heck of a game, smashed the spread, and gave the top ten ranked Bears a serious run for their money. Here's the link to the full game if you have the three hours to spare before we dive into the analysis.
Offensively, it really seemed as if we were trying to attack the Baylor linebackers.
This play is a huge example of that. We simply had a good playcall for what Baylor was running. We're lined up in a 5-wide, forcing Baylor's linebackers to try to tackle our short, quick guys in space. Jakeem Grant comes in motion to the middle, then back out, serving the dual function of checking to see if the defense is in man coverage and getting him a slight running start before the screen. Luckily for us, Baylor is bringing a huge blitz, which gives Grant space to cut back into the middle when the safety comes up to make the play. By definition, screens are devised to attack the linebackers, which becoming an increasingly obvious part of the Tech gameplan. If it hadn't been for ball security, this gameplan would've worked to the tune of at least a couple of field goals on the board. Now let's look at the biggest defensive play from the first quarter.
This is a huge 4th and 1 in Baylor's half of the field. The Bears have the field spread with three wideouts, a tight end, and the running back lined up to the strong side. Earlier in the season, these types of situation were an automatic first down for the other team. Fortunately, Mike Smith's defense began to get their ducks in a row towards the end of the season, and we stuff the Bears here due to a great individual effort from Pete Robertson. He dips and rips around the tackle that is attempt him to "wash" block him down the line of scrimmage, and gets at least a chance to make Baylor running back Shock Linwood change direction. Bryce Petty sees that Branden Jackson is settling on the line of scrimmage, and hands the running back the ball on the read option. Pete Robertson and the blitzing JJ Gaines end the play in the backfield. We stayed patient, we played relaxed, we didn't over pursue anything, and we made the play.
As of this quarter, we're still working the linebackers and poor cornerback Terrell Burt.
Baylor is lined up like they're going to be blitzing as seen in the first clip. I'm not sure if we audibled to a rollout as opposed to standing in the pocket, but it worked regardless. Baylor ended up not blitzing their strong and middle linebackers, and only blitzing their weak side linebacker. If it was an audible, it was a genius audible by Mahomes, as he's rolling out away from the pressure. Jakeem Grant appears to be running a slant route, but he breaks it off into a corner route in response to Burt jamming the inside. The rest of the receiver's routes take them either into the flat or in the middle, leaving just Grant and Burt in the middle of the field. This becomes a semi-difficult throw for Mahomes while on the run, but Grant was open regardless. It was simply a well-drawn up play that exposes Baylor's blitzing tendencies and tendency to match up one-on-one down the field. Shortly after this, Baylor's offense began to click, and the game became a shootout fast. After several more instances of Grant burning Burt down the field, we find ourselves in a 2nd and goal situation midway through the second quarter, needing a touchdown to stay within striking distance of the juggernaut Baylor offense.
We lined up in an "Ace" formation with two tight ends at either side and Ian Sadler and Bradley Marquez on the right. Before the motion it looks as if we're going to hand the ball off to Kenny Williams and let him work the weak side of the offense and try and beat Baylor to the corner. However, Marquez comes in motion to line up as another running back. This could mean many things, Marquez could be taking a jet sweep, he could be coming in to block, or he could be a fake entirely. Mahomes fakes to Williams, which draws out the aggressive tendencies of Baylor's linebackers. Both Bryce Hager and safety Collin Brence bite on the play fake, and Marquez runs right behind them into the now-open flat. Mahomes hits him in stride, and no one from Baylor is close enough to make the play.
This quarter was rough. Very rough. It was full of Baylor's tall receivers just going up and getting footballs over our defensive backs. Let's take a peek at one of those plays.
Here we have Baylor's QB of the future, Seth Russell, making a huge play with his arm. Baylor is lined up with two wide receivers to each side in as balanced of a formation as you can have in the shotgun. You can tell that we're getting beat up and are very tired, as we just can't seem to get any kind of pressure on Russell despite bringing Sam Eguavoen on a blitz. The running back heads to the flat and it pursued by Micah Awe, shutting down the route. Austin Stewart had been playing off of his man by a considerable amount, and Seth Russell makes a beautiful throw right over his head. We can't really tell if Derrick Dixon is supposed to be helping him over the top or not, but regardless of coverage breakdown Baylor simply makes a great play when we have an adequate defense called for the situation. They have a great offense down there in Waco, and they're gonna make some of those plays, but with the youth in our defensive backfield turning to experience, I hope we can at least limit plays like these in the future.
It's time for some Mahomes to Marquez fade action! In my opinion we had really tried playing not to lose in the third, and it was nice to see us open up the playbook and get after it. In my opinion when we play games with full on aggression we have a much better chance. This quarter felt like the game against Oklahoma in 2013, where we nearly walked out with a road win over the team that beat Alabama by 2 touchdowns. When we open it up and spread the field both vertically and horizontally we're a hard team to beat. Let's look at what happens when we put away the .22s and start blasting with the 12 gauge.
Mahomes starts in the pistol with Quentin White to his right and DeAndre Washington right behind of him. He makes a play action fake to Washington, even though by the blocking and the lackluster fake it's obvious that the ball was never going to go there. For a brief second, Marquez is open down the field. Mahomes makes a questionable decision, and slings the ball downfield. Marquez lays out and snags the pass with a Baylor defender draped on his left shoulder. While the decision to simply rip the ball downfield is without a doubt a questionable decision, having Marquez in one-on-one coverage with a Baylor defender at this point in the game isn't an awful decision, just questionable. Fortunately here at Texas Tech we have some very high quality receivers who can go up and make plays like this one. If we gave these guys a few more opportunities to catch the ball down the field, we might be looking at an even more explosive offense than what we have.
In case Marquez's first catch wasn't impressive enough, he did it again with even more pass interference than the first time. He's lined up as the outside receiver in the tripe formation, and goes pretty much straight for the end zone. There's barely any pressure on Mahomes, who throws a bomb to Marquez in the corner of the end zone. He was open at one point, but Mahomes took a smidgen too much time to throw the ball to him, so the Baylor defender had time to catch up and try to defend the pass. Marquez once again comes down with the ball despite only having his left arm to work with.
While those last two plays don't hold much analysis, they illustrate what can happen when we cut our offense completely loose. There are many times this season that I thought we were playing a little chained, and this shows what can happen when we go all out. We absolutely have to get our fast guys in space and let them use all of the field and not restrict them to 15 yards down the field. Opening up the playbook can and will continue to do wonders for our running game and out offense in general.