Week 3 Grades vs. Sam Houston State

The crowd gets an A. 44k for Sam Houston State? Well-done. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Baylor 48, SHSU 23: Post-Game | Thoughts | Recap | Box Score | Game Notes | Interviews

If you're thinking "Wow, why is he rushing through this stuff so quickly?" I already told you the answer this morning. We're on a compressed schedule this week with a Friday night matchup with ULM coming up and I want to give both the attention they deserve. That's why I decided to move through the aftermath of last night's game relatively quickly. Next up on the agenda is the grade report for Baylor's individual position units.

Just like after the SMU game two weeks ago, I enlisted the help of as many contributors as felt comfortable taking part. So far, Brandon (@TheBrandonLamar) is the only response I have ready to print, so here we are. If Pras or thermhere wants to add their thoughts later on, (or Fountain Mall, Kate, etc., I don't want to exclude anyone unduly) they can feel free to do so.

Update: Pras grades now in. 15 minutes late or perfectly on time based on CPT.

Updated Update: KM grade(s) now in. SB Nation hated me yesterday. Also, my grades are based on "in-game" observations, and the reactions of the fans around me, so read accordingly.

As a quick primer since we basically jumped right in last time around, I intend to do this every week by the actual position groups. That means the OL gets its own individual grade, as do the RBs, WRs, QB (or QBs as the case may be), and everyone on the defense, as well. It's all for fun, obviously. Please don't get your panties in a twist if I grade your favorite player poorly. Or any player, really. Baylor fans are a touchy bunch that way. Just preparing you now for the fact that the grades won't look as good as they did the first time.

Quarterback(s):

MCM: C+ for Nick Florence. I'm grading harshly here, I know, because we've come to expect so much more from him. In an atypically inefficient night, Florence completed only 24 of 41 passes, with 3 TDs and, importantly to this grade, 2 interceptions. One of them, on further review, should probably not be counted against him. Tevin Reese gave up completely on a route, making the throw look a lot worse on TV than it probably was. The other was the spawn of a good decision and poor execution. With time running out in the first half and Baylor trailing 20-10, Florence took the offense into Bearkat territory before throwing into the endzone for Terrance Williams. Though a decent-enough throw in that Williams could have caught it had he been alone, he was not, and Dax Swanson celebrated his presence by intercepting the ball basically on the goal line itself. A better, loftier throw and Baylor goes into halftime down only 3. That was only one of several poor throws (not poor decisions, poor throws) in the game. We were lucky that the Bearkats dropped at least one other would-be interception and several other errant passes hit only the turf.

Overall, it's still worthy of note that Florence managed to surpass the 300-yard mark again and lead the team to victory, and, like Brandon, I can't get enough of the scampering maestro. The fact that he didn't score on that play is an injustice. Like I said, it's a harsh grade to say he only gets a C+, I just expect a lot more from him by this point.

BL: I was hoping to grade this position an A this week, with Bryce Petty getting a lot of reps, but that’s not the way it went. Nick Florence earned a solid B, and came back down to earth a bit yesterday. While 24-41 for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns doesn’t sound bad, the 2 interceptions were bad. We all knew that Nick didn’t have the cannon for an arm that RG3 had, but yesterday it showed. Both interceptions were badly underthrown balls, and we won’t be able to afford those against better competition. This all being said, Nick’s 60 yard run play in the second half was fantastic and keeps his grade up this week.

Pras : B-. There were flashes of the QB we saw settle down and pick apart SMU, but there were also too many moments where Florence was not quite up to the game plan. The TD pass to Terrance Williams in the 3rd Quarter was fantastic, but the interception before the half and the inability to make SHSU pay for playing such tight press coverage were not. Seeing Florence fly/rumble/stutter for a 60 yard dash was entertaining, especially since I’m going to pretend that when his right arm started flailing towards the end that he was looking for the guy holding out cups of Gatorade in marathon races.

KM: B(-). Though that 60 yard run was pretty darn electrifying, and I think that directly led to my unsurprising lack of voice today. Everything else was underwhelming and even a bit worrying, considering the defenses that Baylor will be facing from here on. That run, though, y'all. I can't keep away from that run.

Wide Receivers:

MCM: The group as a whole gets a B+ because the issues we had in the passing game, with the one glaring exception I mentioned above, weren't their fault. Yes, it's possible that TWill fights back to take the ball away from Swanson. He is an NFL-caliber receiver, after all. But it's hardly expected in the circumstance given the fact that his momentum was carrying him past Swanson already. The rest of Williams' game was simply stellar, with 2 outstanding touchdowns among 6 overall receptions and 131 receiving yards. He was Baylor's biggest playmaker on the night and looked amazing. Get that man more targets. Do the same for Lanear Sampson. Take them away from Tevin Reese, whose bone-headed play in the second half led directly to Florence's second interception.

Since Brandon included Jordan Najvar (the only of the TEs to catch a pass) in this group, I will as well. He performed at least admirably in reeling in 3 passes for 24 yards and a TD. That play was one of my favorite highlights of the game because it was so well-designed.

BL: We’d have to have a really bad all-around game to give our guys anything less than an A. Terrance Williams led the way again with 6 catches for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. Lanear Sampson had only 5 catches for 40 yards, while Tevin Reese had 5 catches for 91 yards and 1 rush for 12 yards. I was at the game and don’t have the luxury of watching any replays, but it seemed to me like Reese had a couple of balls his way that he could’ve caught and didn’t. Tight end Jordan Najvar caught Florence’s other touchdown pass of the day and had 3 total catches for 24 yards.

Pras : A for Terrance Williams, C for Reese, B for everybody else. 6 catches, 131 yards, 2 TD’s, ho-hum, another game for perhaps the most underrated offensive players in the Big 12. While Reese’s 5 catches for 91 yards looks pretty good on paper, a sub-50% catch rate(as Mark highlighted in his review) is not. Add in the poor play that included false start penalties and bad route running and you have the worst individual performance from a WR we’ve seen so far in this young season. To whom much is given, much is expected.

KM: Upon research, Tevin Reese only led to a penalty for a false start twice, but it felt like more than that. To us in the stands, it seemed as though every time there was a whistle, there would be a "Number 16" right after that. Well, except that one time that the referees were confused by their whistles. Or someone was confused by their whistles. I didn't know that whistles could be confusing, but we were all confused after that.

Running Backs:

MCM: B. I think I've made my feelings on Jarred Salubi sufficiently known at this point. My conviction that he should not receive the majority of carries is matched only by the similar conviction that this grade would be higher had he not. That's not just my steadfast adoration for Lache Seastrunk talking, either. In my perfect world, the majority of carries lost by Salubi would go to Glasco Martin. It's a difficult topic overall because I fully realize the counterargument: Salubi is simply too good at pass protection and the others too poor to replace him. Like many great men, it seems Terrance Ganaway was never fully appreciated in his time (at Baylor). In yesterday's game, the lack of a running threat from our RBs themselves cost us dearly. Because they didn't have to account for a viable threat from Salubi (who, in fairness, gained 83 yards on 17 carries for an average of 4.9 ypc), Sam Houston's linebackers never bit on the play-action pass. Considering how much of our downfield attack develops from that predicate, we simply have to be better. Lache was Lache in his one carry on the night, scoring from 15 yards out when the game was still in doubt (we were up 11).

BL: This just looked like a B performance to me. We combined for 232 yards rushing, but when you look a little closer, that number is deceiving. Nick Florence was responsible for 80 yards, including his big 60 yard run. Tevin Reese had 12 yards on his 1 carry, Levi Norwood had 7 yards on his carry, and Brody Trahan had one yard on a botched fake kick attempt. After all of that, you leave our backs with only 132 yards rushing, and I just don’t feel like that’s enough. Salubi did a little too much "dancing" and not enough North/South running for my taste, and I feel like Martin should be getting more carries. Lache Seastrunk got 15 yards and a touchdown on his 1 carry, and I want to see more.

Pras : B for Salubi, B+ for Martin, A++++++++/Controlled Substance for FreeLache! I’m not saying that Salubi needs to be benched; it’s quite possible that he develops as the starting RB into a more fundamentally sound player that plays to the scheme more efficiently. I am saying that Salubi getting more than all of the other non-QB runs combined should be addressed. There’s value in what Martin brings, even if there’s less upside, and the possibilities of FreeLache! has ODB foaming at the mouth.

Offensive Line:

MCM: B-. I've honestly gone back and forth on this grade all day. I said this afternoon that I thought they played better than they looked. Tonight, I'm not so sure. That's what happens when you have conflicting statistics and personal observations. The struggles of the running game are properly attributed at least in part to the offensive line. As are the sacks taken by Florence. Looking at it in terms of simply attribution is probably incorrect, too, because Florence wasn't getting the ball away quickly at all (credit the Bearkats' secondary) and only rarely did you see a rusher come completely free. Still, 4 QB hurries and 3 sacks is entirely too many for a group as skilled as ours, and we will need much better against teams with a lot more talent on the DL than the Bearkats. Like Brandon, I can only hope that inexperienced played a big role in what happened. That's where I place the majority of the blame for the umpteen procedure penalties we had, anyway. We do, after all, have 4 starters on the OL playing their first collegiate games at those positions. There's your ray of hope if you were looking for one.

BL: C. This was not a good game for our offensive line, and frankly it concerns me a little for the future. Again, I haven’t seen any of the game on tape, but the line must have had 37 false start penalties (sarcasm, a little), and Nick had more pressure on him than he should’ve. I guess we need to remember that we’ve got young guys, and several guys at new positions, so there’s a learning curve. But these guys are going to have to play a lot better moving forward.

Pras : B-. They accomplished the most important task: Wear down the SHSU front 7 such that Baylor would have the clear advantage in second half/4th Quarter. While the primary goal was accomplished, however, it’s clear that the OL did not dominate to the degree that it did against SMU. The OL performance early in the game lead to Florence getting a slight case of happy feet, which unfortunately lasted even after they made their adjustments. Still, their push in the rushing game was good, and 232 rushing yards (5.9 YpC) and 544 yards is nothing to sneeze at.

Defensive Line:

MCM: C+. Very hard to give them an adequate grade considering the disparate performances from the first to second halves. In the first half, our DL looked like a stiff breeze could blow it over and go for 7 yards. After the BUGWB put on their show and the ground was ceremoniously broken, they were dominating the line of scrimmage, filling passing lanes, and putting pressure on the progeny of Mr. and Mrs. Bell. A confusing performance to say the least. I also hesitate to grade them too poorly for schematic reasons; it's asking quite a bit to expect down linemen to not only stop the rush but also create pressure entirely on their own (as we hoped for most of the first half). They started playing better when they had more help. Fancy that? Give them credit for three huge sacks in the second half, a force fumble, and one of the most entertaining fumble returns in recent memory from Trevor Clemons-Valdez. Had he managed to register a fat guy TD, it would have instantly rocketed to the top of my favorite plays of the year list.

BL: C. We did have 3 sacks, but I don’t have much to say other than that. In general, we aren’t getting enough pressure up front, and with our personnel, I don’t know that we’ll see much improvement there this year. Let’s move on.

Pras : C first half/B second half. And so the dilemma continues. How do you grade a unit that is having one hand tied behind it’s back? We know that Bennett wants to get pressure without blitzing, but how does that explain dropping 8 so frequently? There were times where a Baylor DL was able beat his man and generate some pressure, but there wasn’t the consistent hat-on-hat victories across the line that are necessary to generate the consistent pressure that leads to good sack numbers and mistake-prone play from the opposing QB. I’m still hopeful that Bennett is trying to keep some of the defense under wraps for conference play.

Linebackers:

MCM: B+. Aside from the one play where Eddie Lackey was inexplicably left alone to cover Tim Flanders in the open field to disastrous results, I hesitate to think of many instances where our linebackers performed poorly. That is, of course, omitting Sam Holl from the definition of the word "linebacker." All Bryce Hager did was lead the team in tackles (10, 8 solo) and tackles for loss (3) while also notching a quarterback hurry. Lackey performed less well with only 3 tackles, a result, I think, of constantly being asked to cover tight ends and backs out of the backfield. I'm not kidding, you guys, Hager is just good. I hope non-Baylor people are taking notice.

BL: B+. Overall, I think they had a decent game. Hager and Lackey combined for 13 tackles, and as they did in game 1, both pursued the ball well. Lackey did get beat in coverage, for what I believe was a touchdown pass. He was in great position to make a play on the ball, but didn’t get his head turned to do so. I think Lackey is too good not to correct this in the future.

Pras : A-. I know that Mark hyped them quite a bit coming into the season, but they’ve fully met the hype (and succeeded most rational expectations) so far. Bringing size, speed, and good fundamental play, it has me wondering if we should be playing more 4-3, especially when the rush heavy attacks like those at UT and KSU are on the schedule. They didn’t look good when asked to cover, but realistically they should not be asked to cover much more than the RB in their base 4-2-5 look.

Ahmad Dixon:

MCM: C. I'm going to disagree with my esteemed colleague Brandon on this one; I think Ahmad had one of his worst games as a Bear yesterday. He was largely ineffectual in coverage, almost non-existent in run support, and didn't make any of the "wow" plays that we've come to expect from him. The fact that he is so skilled hurts him here because he is nearly always extremely good. Yesterday he wasn't. Maybe I'm being too hard on him considering he had 6 tackles (4 solo). A question for someone who knows more than I why don't we blitz him in running situations?

Oh, and the "late hit" was an awful call by the officials and only one of many that went against us. That's not an excuse, it's an observation.

BL: B. Nothing really sticks out to me with Ahmad outside of the late hit penalty he collected in the second half. I was following the ball on the pitch and didn’t see the hit, and I haven’t seen a replay. I’ve heard "that was a stupid play", and "that was a bad call" from various people, so I’ll have to reserve judgment.

Pras : B-. Dixon’s play suggests he may be reverting back to having a dumb play or two a game, but I’m hoping he gets back on the right track. Dixon’s talent is obviously worth keeping him on the field despite the downside of costly penalties or worse, but it hurts if you get the downside in a game without the game changing upside plays.

Defensive Backs:

MCM: C+. I'm going to keep this short because I really don't want to get any more angry emails accusing me of "hating" Sam Holl and Mike Hicks. If you want my thoughts on them individually, go read through the GDT. I will say that I feel like calling them "safeties" is charitable at this point because I feel less safe with them back there than if someone pulled a gun on me in a Waco alley. The cornerbacks performed as their scheme dictated; I honestly believe we have corners who could be good in man-to-man coverage that are being asked to play a zone so loose it makes the Falaise Gap look like Fort Knox. It should be noted that the three Baylor interceptions came in the span of four Sam Houston drives in the second half. Those plays by K.J. Morton, Demetri Goodson, and Darius Jones, respectively, kept them from matching our offense and, in the case of Jones' pick-6, actually extended the lead.

BL: C-. We have 2 safeties who really like to hit people, and they do that pretty well. The problem is, neither one of them could even handle me in pass coverage. Chance Casey got hosed on a pass interference call that he played perfectly. I’d like to see more of him. Demetri Goodson is very athleticand doesn’t get burned in coverage, but he and KJ Morton both got beat yesterday because they aren’t getting their heads turned to find the ball in the air. They were both in position, but couldn’t make the play. That’s got to get fixed.

Pras : A for Demetri Goodson. B- for KJ Morton. D for Hicks/Holl. Dimitri Goodson has been a revelation. I was skeptical when he was made a starter, especially given how spotty our CB play had been before Morton and Williams locked down the starter spots last year. But Goodson has not only earned the starting spot, he’s been their best CB this year. I can’t help but suspect his good play is resulting in more action heading toward Morton’s direction and he wasn’t up to it for much of the night. Good play late in the game had me grade him a bit more favorably than he probably deserves. As for Hicks and Holl, I said it last night and I’ll keep saying it: There’s just no reason they should be on the field at the same time. Whatever you gain from playing a 4-2-5 is lost by playing two guys who are so limited in coverage at safety. I don’t even want to imagine what Geno Smith and Dana Holgerson have planned for them.


Special Teams:

MCM: B+. Kickoffs and kick coverage were actually very good, punts and punt coverage... not so good. Field goals were also pretty poor considering we missed one and had another blocked. That's six points that just vanished into the ether. Focusing on the positive, did you know the longest kick return against us yesterday was 26 yards? That's only one yard better in field position than a touchback under the new rules. Sam Houston State returned 6 kicks for a grand total of 95 yards, or just under 16 yards per return. Outside of the turnover on downs on our first drive, the two interceptions, and the one horrid punt return given up, SHSU's average starting field position was inside their own 20. When was the last time we could say that?

For punts, I shouldn't be too hard on our coverage team considering the officials missed one of the worst illegal blocks I've ever seen. The fact that it occurred right in front of his face just means it was too close for him to see. Perhaps he's far-sighted. I'll focus more on the fact that we covered kicks so well than our missed kicks and that one punt. Because I want to retain my sanity.

BL: B. This game felt a little more like last season (at least no kickoffs went out of bounds). 1 missed field goal, 1 blocked field goal, and only 3 touchbacks on 8 kickoffs. Spencer Roth only punted twice, and averaged 54 yards per, which we can live with. Every phase of the game took at least one step back this week, special teams included.

Pras : B. Did Art Briles hire a Special Teams coach whilst we weren’t looking? Because why can we (suddenly) cover kickoffs? Could this coach now make his way to FG kicking and punt coverage? KGreatThanksBai.

KM: B. Miss one field goal, have another blocked, and all the seniors and alumni will turn on you, Aaron Jones. I know that's not exactly hard hitting analysis, but that's what happened around me.

Uniforms:

MCM: INC. Liked the combo, hated the first-half results. I'm just superstitious enough in sports to think we shouldn't use that combo again. Still love those helmets, though.

BL: D. It’s time to retire the green/green/white combination, or at least only wear them in the second half

Pras : B. That’s a nice way to work in the Green Matte Helmets. It was nice to see them work in a Green/White look without looking like Michigan State, and I think that’s largely attributable to the Matte. My main complaint is that the look blended in quite well with the green field (with white lines). Add in the green gloves that many of the Baylor WR were wearing and they were basically camouflaged on my non-HD feed. I’d be curious to see what gold pants could bring to the look, but I’ve heard that the players tend to dislike the gold pants look.

KM: C. I'd rather see the matte helmets with the all-black uniforms, to be honest. The white pants are better than the gold pants, but both are far behind the green or black pants. While there weren't the camouflage problems live, the team didn't look nearly as sharp as two weeks ago.

I don't really like having a situation where we win by 25 and I don't give any position units an A, but as I've said repeatedly, the first half still happened. Yes, there was a lot of good in the second half from a lot of players, especially on defense. That's what kept this from being a page full of Fs.

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