After a short bye-week our Baylor Bears took down conference big boy Oklahoma in primetime last Thursday night. After another frustrating slow start for the offense, they finally clicked in the 2nd half and put up 28 unanswered points. By the time OU scored its only touchdown, the game was out of reach. The slow start can, again, be partially contributed to the poor early play of the offensive line.
This is a disconcerting trend for the offense. One that should be preventable yet keeps happening. Luckily at this point it is just nitpicking as the offensive line redeemed themselves and paved the way for our 3rd string running back to run through the OU defense for 182 yards on 23 carries (7.9 yards per pop).
How this works: I only graded the starting offensive lineman, but I did grade the TE's as a group. I graded on a Pass/Fail system based each how well each lineman played on every down. On run plays I looked for: (1) did the lineman block anybody on the play? (2) did the lineman get a solid contact on the defender and drive them back or seal them from the play? (3) did they sustain their blocks to the end of the play? On pass plays I looked for: (1) did the lineman block someone? (2) did they get solid contact and maintained the pocket? (3) did they sustain their block?
If they passed all three criteria they got a score of "1," if not then they received a "0." Penalty plays were not counted as full plays and instead the lineman who caused the loss of yards was handicapped for the next play. This means that if they were make a good block on the ensuing play the best score they could get was a "0." If they failed to make a block on the next play they would receive a "-1."
|PASS||1||1||1||1||1||1||0||PENALTY ON WR|
|PASS||1||1||1||0||1||0||-7||SACKED, MISSED FG|
|RUN||0||1||1||1||1||3||CYRIL REPLACED BY FULLER|
|RUN||1||1||1||1||1||1||39||CYRIL BACK IN|
|PASS||1||1||1||1||1||1||0||PENALTY ON WR|
|PASS BLOCK ERRORS||1||0||2||4||0||2||9|
|RUN BLOCK ERRORS||4||5||2||6||4||4||25|
|PASS PLAY ERRORS||6|
|RUN PLAY ERRORS||18|
There were twenty plays in Baylor's first three series. Eleven of those plays had blocking errors in them, seventeen individual blocking errors in total. That is a terrible start to this game. The line isn't totally to blame as Petty was off the mark and the OU defense swarmed to keep running plays from breaking into the secondary. But that is a massive amount of blocking errors. If they had been avoided, Baylor could have leaned on the OU defense with the run game while Petty struggled to find his touch. That didn't happen, though, and we had to endure the ugliest one and a half quarters of the season.
Our first touchdown drive (in the middle of the 2nd quarter) was, not surprisingly, Baylor's first drive without a blocking error or a penalty. The next series could have easily been stalled again as the offensive line committed four blocking errors in four plays. But two defensive penalties on OU kept their drive alive, allowing Baylor to get it's 2nd touchdown. After that, the line solidified again as the errors became less and less frequent.
Although their blocking improved as the game wore on, we still saw a lot of plays held for 1 yard or less. I must give credit to OU's defense here as their scheme was really well thought out. Let's look at how they were able to stop the BU run game early on:
Here's Baylor's base zone read play employed on a 3rd and three. The offensive line is blocking to the right and isolating outside linebacker Frank Shannon (#20) as the defender Petty is going to read. Shannon closes in on running back Glasco Martin, forcing Petty to keep and dive up the middle. Petty might have made the first down but for Dominique Alexander (#42) who is waiting for him at the line of scrimmage. Alexander, instead of following the line to his left (like most linebackers would do) was eyeing Petty from the get-go, stayed unblocked and made the first down saving tackle.
Mike Stoops also had some well designed blitz packages:
OU is sending five defenders while Baylor is in a five-wide formation. Baylor has five blockers to take care of the pass rush, but the OU linebacker (#20) gets an uncontested run at Petty. The nose tackle attacks the A gap between center Huber and right guard Hilliard, forcing a double team. The right defensive end, Tapper (#91), slants in to attack the opposite A gap, garnering the attention of Cyril Richardson. Middle linebacker Alexander (#42) blitzes the left B gap and is picked up by Drango, leaving OLB Shannon (#20) a free shot at Petty. Luckily Petty is able to get the ball off quick enough and doesn't take the sack, but the result of the quick pass is a one yard gain. If Petty had been forced to go to his 2nd option, that would have been another sack for the OU defense.
This is not only a well executed overload blitz, but it also takes advantage of Baylor's pass blocking scheme for that game. In order to account for #19 Eric Striker, OU's best pass rusher, the offensive line consistently slid protection to whichever side Striker lined up on. So as the line focused their protection to the right, where Striker was, OU attacked on the left while Striker fell back into coverage.
We briefly lost Cyril Richardson in the third quarter for three plays after
hurting his arm briefly getting injured on a run play. Instead of being replaced by depth chart back-up Laquan "Man Mountain" McGowan, we saw redshirt freshman Kyle Fuller play in relief of Cyril. Fuller played well in his limited action, helping the offense to gain 29 yards in three plays (two run, one pass). Guessing why Fuller replaced Cyril rather than McGowan would be pure speculation on my part, so I'm just glad Fuller was able to step in without the offense missing a beat.
The line (plus TE's) scored out to a 91%, pretty good despite the poor start to the game. Each lineman scored over 90%, except for Hilliard, and the tightends scored out at 84% collectively. Hilliard had some trouble locating and blocking defenders in space. That has been a problem for him most of the season, but one that should correct itself with maturity and experience.
I've been impressed with the overall consistency from our blockers. No defensive system has been able to completely disrupt Baylor's blocking scheme this year. A good sign as they work toward that first Big 12 championship.