The Baylor Bears are Holiday Bowl champs. That is not much of a surprise, as the game was pretty even on paper. Yes, I know I picked UCLA to win, but as we spoke about, this game could go either way. However, what I (and most humans) did not see occurring was a blowout victory starring the Baylor defense in an epic performance.
The Bears defense came out and attacked from the start, hitting UCLA in the mouth early and watched them stagger around for the next 3 quarters. They did it with incredible blitzes up the middle, and their defensive ends making plays even with just a 3-man blitz. It was a sight Baylor fans had not seen all year; in fact we rarely saw glimpses of THIS kind of pressure.
The Bears had 13 sacks in 2012 coming into the game. They had five at halftime on their way to six for the game. It took the Bears 12 games to get 13 sacks, and then it took them 30 minutes to get almost 40% of that total. It was a truly incredible performance by the defense, and one that I cannot talk enough about. But the other side of the ball deserves a little credit, and it probably rides on the shoulders of our lineman.
The Bears attempted just 13 passes all game, by far a season low, on their way to running for 306 yards and five touchdowns. Lache Seastrunk led the Bears with 138 rushing yards on just 16 carries, while Glasco Martin came oh so close to the century mark with 98 yards and 3 touchdowns. Nick Florence even got into the running party with 37 yards. With 67 rushes, the Bears ran a staggering 83.75% of the time.
The Baylor offense was pretty simple, as they did not really change formations and what they were trying to do at nearly the same frantic pace as we are used to seeing. They stayed with a single back, tight end look that took Levi Norwood and Antwan Goodley off the field most of the time. The defense though was anything but simple.
The Bears showed a variety of looks, including the return of the hybrid 3-4 with Sam Holl and Ahmad Dixon as the outside linebackers flanking Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey. They also showed a bit of a bigger 4-4, bringing up Holl or even Mike Hicks in early downs. Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett also called a variety of blitzes that truly worked to perfection. On most third downs, the Bears would just send the house, as Brett Hundley never adjusted to the pressure the Bears were showing.
Baylor primarily blitzed up the middle, where the Bruins were weaker in 2012, and made even weaker due to 3 injuries to the line during the game. They did send some pressure from the outside, but the inside blitzes were much more effective. Finally, the defense played a variety of looks. I even saw some tight bump and run coverage with Chance Casey out there getting up on the line of scrimmage. The Bears played zone, man and both at the same time, which utterly confused the Bruins receivers and quarterback.
Were those new wrinkles to the defense that Bennett never implemented early in the year, or were they always there and just never executed well enough to identify? Honestly, I do not know, but I loved seeing it.
Fun Stats of the Game
---The Bears fumbled three times in the game, and lost all three
---The first two fumbles by the Bears were both turned into touchdowns, the only two real touchdowns that were scored. Outside of those two possessions, the Bruins scored just 6 points in 13 possessions.
---Jonathan Franklin, the star UCLA running back, was held to 38 total yards on 18 touches (14 rushing attempts, 4 receptions)
---The Bears, who earlier in the year were allowing a 60% 3rd down conversion rate, held UCLA to just 1 of 17 on 3rd downs. They were also just 3 of 8 on 4th down.
---Baylor attempted just 3 passes the entire second half
---The Baylor defense had 6 three (or four) and out possessions.
Words of the Game
Offense – gut-punch
Look, the Bears took this game over with their running game, sprinkled in a few passes during the first quarter, and then put it back into the hands of one of the best running duos in the country. Really, after the Bears went up 21-0 on the Tevin Reese 55-yard score, it was the running game that did all of the damage. They had just 37 yards passing after that point, with 11:08 left on the clock in the second quarter.
Baylor would get the ball, and just run it down UCLA's throat, behind their powerful offensive line. Even when UCLA knew we were going to run, they couldn't stop it. After UCLA scored a field goal to get it to 35-13, the Bears ran the ball 5 of 6 times before punting (and chewing up 3:37 of clock) and then on the next drive ran 7 times in a row getting the touchdown and taking 2:44 off the clock. Finally, in the 4th quarter, after the two rather curious fumbles by Martin and Seastrunk, the Bears ran the ball 7 times out of 8 plays (the other was a pass interference call on UCLA) and drove the ball down in 3:20 to score another touchdown. THAT is a bunch of gut-punches.
Defense – Shocking
Okay, who expected that??? If you say you did, you are lying. That was an epic performance, one that should have ended with just 19 points allowed. Again, the two touchdown drives they did have were both short fields, helped by Baylor turnovers. The first was just 22 yards, while the second was 35 yards. The Bears defense didn't even bend much, and they certainly didn't break.
The Bears had 6 sacks and additional 12 tackles for loss. Those tackles for loss don't even count the dozen or so tackles at the line of scrimmage. The defense yielded just 84 yards gained in the rushing game (before you take out sacks and lost yards). If you take Brett Hundley out of the equation, they averaged just 2.26 yards per carry on 19 rushes.
Passing wise, UCLA was able to get a few big passing plays late, but the Bears still held them to just 26-50 passing, much lower than the 68% completion rate that Hundley had in 2012. He was averaging 8 yards per attempt, but was held to just 6.58 despite having to pass deep most of the game. The Bears defensive line was all over the field, and really flustered Hundley into throwing early. So many times he had a green hat charging right at him and he threw the ball off of his back foot way too short for a receiver to make a play.
Players of the Game
Offense- Cyril Richardson, Guard
Really, it was hard to choose one. I could go with the entire offensive line, as they just dominated this game from the start, but if I had to choose one guy from that group, it was Cyril Richardson, who might have just played his way into a first round draft choice this year. The Junior guard was exceptional all day, and just punished whoever UCLA decided they were going to send. He was about perfect in run blocking all day, and if you re-watch the game (I know I will) just focus on him and see the kind of devastation he brings to that side of the line.
Honorable Mention – Thunder and Lightning, Nick Florence's Beard, Terrance Williams
Defense – Terrance Lloyd
Another junior lineman, Lloyd might have had his best game at Baylor. He had 4 tackles, 1 sack and 3 tackles for loss. Honestly, I thought he had even more than that as he was all over the field. The starting defensive end was in Hundley's face all game, and along with Chris McCallister gave the Bears a tremendous pass rush.
Honorable Mention – McCallister, Bryce Hager, Eddie Lackey, Sam Holl
Man do I love being wrong. I mean, I really do. I thought the Bears would come out a little rusty, but they came out on fire, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Bears defense came out and took it to UCLA, and with new formations and adjustments, is that more of the defense we will see next year? I doubt the results will always be that good, but I liked the play-calling and the risk taking.
I think the offense also gave us a bit of a preview on what we will see next year, especially if a certain junior guard returns for his senior season. The Bears leaned heavily on a running attack that will have to protect a first time starting quarterback next year, be it Bryce Petty or Seth Russell. It also will have to help out a rebuilding wide receiver group that is losing both of its outside starters. Will we see more of a running attack focus next year with a self-proclaimed Heisman contender leading the way?
We have tons of time to get those questions and more, so let's just sit back and enjoy this one Bear fans. The Baylor Bears are your 2012 Holiday Bowl champions!!!!