It was a perfect day for football. The Baylor Bears, fresh off of a 56-21 win over SMU the weekend before, came home to a near sold out crowd to play in front of their home fans. With perfect weather, and very few empty seats to watch the 4th ranked Bears start their quest for a 3rd consecutive Big 12 title, and 17th straight home game (tied with Alabama for the nation's best streak), everyone was ready for some football. Well, except maybe the Bears. A 66-31 win is a fine result, expect when high expectations and dreams demand more.
Another sluggish start, and an embarrising at times defensive performance had this game too close for too long, especially considering Lamar's FCS standing, and the Bears returning almost their entire defensive starting lineup. There were no excuses to be used in this one. This was not a new coach with a new scheme. The Bears weren't away from home, and without several key defenderes. The Bears had no reason not to have a dominant effort on the defensive side of the ball. An 87 yard, 10-play touchdown drive on the second possession of the game for Lamar tied it all up at 7. Then a short touchdown drive near the beginning of the 2nd quarter after a Seth Russell fumble gave the Cardinals the lead.
A quick reponse by the Bears gave them the lead again, but back-to-back interceptions by Seth Russell once again gave Lamar tremendous field position and a game-tying touchdown. At 21-21 with under 5 minutes to go in the first half, Baylor fans were uneasy, the team was pressing, and the Cardinals were celebrating.
Two late touchdowns to end the first half turned the tides back in the Bears favor, and they added a 3rd touchdown to open the 2nd half and were up 21 and safely ahead. However, two possessions ending in punts surrounding a third Russell interception gave a quick halt to the celebration that was insuing.
Simply put, the Bears were flat from the start, only briefly played as well as they could (and outscored the Cardinals 21-0 in a 6-minute span). They were hurt once again by penalties (12 for 93 yards), but that is something Baylor is used to. They are accustomed (right or wrong) in overcoming the parade of yellow flags that harass their games. Pre-snap penalties on offense (and even special teams with TWO offsides on kickoffs), and over-aggressive penalties on defense have become as normal as less than a minute touchdown drives.
It is the turnovers that are new, and quite honeslty, unacceptable. Four Baylor turnovers, all at the hands of new starting quarterback Seth Russell. 1 fumble, with three interceptions. Simply, not good enough, even with over 350 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bears still struggle with mobile quarterbacks, and ones that utilize the zone-read to cause confusion. The Baylor defensive line and linebackers did not have their best game of the year, getting gashed for big runs, and failing to tackle the Cardinal ballcarriers.
Stats of the Game
- Corey Coleman set a school record with his 4-touchdowns receptions
- Coleman was held without a catch on the Bears first 2 drives of the game, as Jay Lee caught 7 passes
- Seth Russell completed 18 of his first 20 pass attempts of the game
- Russell would not complete any of his next 3 passes, two of which would be intercepted
- The Bears rushing attack has been absolutely dominant in the second halves of both of their games, averaging over 9 yards per carry after halftime
- In the first half, the Bears ran for 109 yards, for 4.74 yards per carry
- In the second half, the Bears ran for 318 yards, for 10.29 yards per carry
- The last five drives of the game resulted in 271 yards rushing, or 63.47% of the Bears rushing totals
- Lamar scored 31 points, however 17 of them were setup by turnovers
- On those three scoring drives, the Cardinals traveled just 57 yards
- On the other 15 drives for Lamar, they had two long scoring drives (87 and 84 yards)
- The remaining 13 drives, Lamar totaled 141 yards (10.84 yards per drive) and had 9 three-and outs, and 2 drives ended by the clock
Words of the Game
Offense - When it's Good, it's good. When it's bad....
The Baylor offense put up 66 points, had 785 total yards, and ran the ball for more than 7 yards per carry. There was a LOT of good things offensively from this game. However, 4 turnovers, including three in the 2nd quarter, will leave a bad taste in your mouth. For the second game in a row, the Bears offense fell apart in the 2nd quarter. Against SMU, they gained 1 yard. With a Seth Russell fumble, and then two interceptions within 3 pass attempts, the Bears offense stumbled once again. Even with those three turnovers, they still put up 21 points in the quarter.
Seth Russell continued to force passes, but I don't think that was his issue against Lamar. His first two interceptions both looked like bad reads of the defense, or misscommunication with his wide receiver. The first pass was a deep out, that looked to overshoot Jay Lee who might have stopped on the route expecting zone coverage, not man. The second was a third down pass that Russell threw a slant route, while Corey Coleman ran a go. The third interception was a forced ball, after escaping pressure.
It is hard to know who was to blame on the first two interceptions (Coleman has stated it was his fault) without knowing the play-calls and reads, which you can't know from just watching the tape. However, it looks to me that Russell is having some issues with his reads. When he has a simple assignment, and knows where the receiver will be, he is very good. When he has to read the defense, and "agree" with the receiver on that read, there have been issues. This is a young quarterback, so that is to be expected. I expect a cleaning up of the game plan with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles back for the Rice game, and hopefully we can get much more of the good Seth, and less of the bad.
Defense - Better on a 2nd Viewing
Look, the defense wasn't very good against Lamar. They struggled to stop the zone-read running attack, and slot receivers continued to have their way against the Baylor safeties. The defensive line was beaten way too many times by the Lamar front. Baylor had too many missed tackles, and not enough big plays on that side of the ball.
However...looking at the big picture and what they actually allowed, it looks a bit better than the raw emotions of the first viewing. No, the Bears were not dominant, but they were better than the "awful" that most would have said during and immediately after the game. Here are the facts:
- Lamar had the ball 18 times. 1 of those was a kneel down at the end of the first half.
- Baylor allowed 31 points, not good on paper, but looking at how those points came is necessary.
- Baylor's starting offense allowed 1 long touchdown drive, a 87-yard drive on the Cardinal's 2nd offensive possession
- The only other long touchdown drive for Lamar was late in the 4th quarter against the Bears 2nd and 3rd string defenders
- The other three scoring drives were all short-field drives setup by Baylor turnovers
- The Bears defense forced 3-and-outs on 9 drives (10 if you include holding Lamar to a field goal attempt when they had the ball on the BU 12 yard line). That is over 50% of the drives for Lamar
I am not here to defend the Baylor defense. There is a lot of areas they need to improve. The Bears linebackers have to play better, especially against the zone-read. They were not assignment sound at times, and still saw way too many missed tackles. But, on a second look, this was a better defensive performance than I thought leaving the stadium.
Tweets of the Game
Play of the Game
1st Quarter - 1st and 10 from Lamar 42
Pure speed. Single man coverage on the outside, as the Bears went three-wide. Corey Coleman alone on the wide side of the field, with a corner on him. The next closest defender is half a field away. Just a simple go pattern. Even with the corner back pedaling and giving quite a bit of room, Coleman speeds past him by the 20 yard line. With the ball already in the air, this play is over. The pass though is a little long, so Coleman dives at the 1 yard line, catching the ball 4 yards into the endzone. He does a great job of securing his arm under the ball, to make sure he can roll over with it and complete the catch.
Players of the Game
Offense - Corey Coleman - 6 catches, 182 yards, 4 touchdowns
For the second game in a row, it is Coleman that stands out the most to me. A school-record 4 touchdown night for the star junior receiver. Coleman was dominant, catching touchdowns of 42, 21, 61, and 31 yards from quarterback Seth Russell.
Honorable Mention: Shock Linwood (130 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns), Terrence Williams (121 yards rushing), Johnny Jefferson (121 yards rushing, 1 touchdown), Jay Lee (9 catches, 111 yards), Seth Russell (343 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, 5 yards rushing, 4 turnovers)
Defense - Xavien Howard (1 tackle, 1 interception)
The one area that I think the Baylor defense did extremely well in was defending the deep pass and the play of their two top cornerbacks. Almost all of the success the Cardinals found through the air was to their slot receivers, usually at the expense of one of the Baylor safeties. Howard played solid all night, getting good position on the few deep shots Lamar took, as best exemplified by his interception in the 4th quarter.
Honorable Mention: Shawn Oakman (6 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)
This was not what Baylor fans wanted. Yes, 66 points is great, but this was an ugly game for quite a bit of it. Too many turnovers, too many penalties and just not enough crisp play. It looked like a flat team, one that expected to dominate an overmatched opponent with pure talent, rather than a cohesive game plan. The Baylor defense played very simple schemes for the most part, but a few adjustments throughout the game cleaned some of the issues up. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this one, much more than I expected. Overall, it was a 5 touchdown win in front of a mostly full crowd in perfect weather.