Trench Warfare: Texas Tech Edition

Ronald Martinez

Your weekly look at the unsung heroes of the Baylor machine: the Bears' offensive line.

It may surprise you to find out that the offensive line had their second best performance of the year Saturday against Texas Tech.  But knowing that Baylor had its sixth 60+ point performance of the year, maybe you shouldn't be.  Despite the early deficit and Petty's early struggles to find his mark, the line started out strong dominating Tech's defensive front for most the night.  That's not to say they didn't have their problems, but more on that later.

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."

The Results:

PLAY DRANGO CYRIL HUBER HILLIARD PALMER TE GAIN
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 26
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 0
PASS 1 1 1 1 0 1 INC PENALTY
PASS 1 0 1 1 1 INC PUNT
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 4
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 1 17 PENALTY
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 40 TD
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 31 TD
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 5
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0 1
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 15
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 0 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 14
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 11
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 PENALTY
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 9 MISSED FG
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 9
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 14
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 9
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 1 3 TD
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 FUMBLE LOST
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
PASS 1 1 1 1 0 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 58 TD
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 3
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 3
PASS 1 0 1 1 1 8
PASS 1 1 0 0 1 -5 SACK
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 0 12 PUNT
RUN 0 0 1 1 0 1 4 PENALTY
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 10
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 27
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 1 6 TD
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 7
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 7
PASS 1 1 1 1 0 1 INC
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 23
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0 47 TD, PENALTY
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 3
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 1 1
PASS 0 1 1 1 0 -7 SACK, PUNT
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 1 -1
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 48
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 5
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0 4
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 3
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0 5
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 TD
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 11
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 5
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 2
RUN 0 1 1 1 1 1 2
RUN 0 0 0 0 0 0 -1 TO ON DOWNS
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC DEFENSIVE PENALTY
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 10
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 4
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 7
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 11
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 14
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 10 TD
SCORE 75 75 77 74 69 55
TOT PLAYS 79 79 79 79 79 63
% 95% 95% 97% 94% 87% 87% 93%
PASS BLOCK ERRORS 1 2 1 1 3 2 10
RUN BLOCK ERRORS 2 1 1 4 3 5 16
PENALTIES 1 1 0 0 4 1 7
PASS PLAY ERRORS 8
RUN PLAY ERRORS 11

Kelvin Palmer, as most of you know, underperformed against TTU.  He lead in pass block errors and penalties and had the second most run block errors of any linemen.  If not for those early false start penalties called on him, he actually would have had a great start to this game as he didnt make a blocking error until the 29th offensive play.  Unfortunately after learning the snap count, he started missing blocks.  His first missed block, unfortunately, was on the Bryce Petty fumble.  The defender was able to run around Palmer's block and made the tackle that caused Petty to lose the ball.  This gave possession to Tech near our endzone and led to a Tech touchdown.

Many people on the GDT, myself included, were calling for Palmer to be pulled for last year's starter, Troy Baker, at halftime.  We did not get our wish, but Palmer redeemed himself later in the game by only committing one error in his last twenty-two plays.

Like I said earlier, the line really dominated the line of scrimmage saturday.  I would say better than they have all season.  There were holes big enough for freight trucks to drive through and they did this by straight-up over powering the competition.

Baylor is in its version of the Strong I-formation with TE Jordan Najvar lined up on the left and Tre'Von Armstead, normally an offensive lineman, lined up as fullback behind Spencer Drango and Cyril Richardson.  The play develops to the weak (right) side as a dive with Tre'Von Armstead pulling right to seal off the outside edge.  See how far Huber, Hilliard and Palmer end up downfield?  They take the entire left side of the defensive front on a tractor ride five yards (or more) downfield springing Rashodrick Linwood for an eight yard gain right up the middle.  That is, as they say, good ol' fashion power football.  And don't worry about that flag, it was for defensive offsides.

Even in Baylor's base formation the O-line was able to get great push off the LOS (as seen above).  This was a simple dive play again.  Notice how there is a wall of green jerseys surging downfield taking all the tech players with it like a tidal wave sweeping up everything in its path.  Shock isn't even touched by a defender until he's six yards past the LOS.  This is how you gain 340 yards rushing with your 3rd and 4th string runningbacks (albeit very, very good running backs), by controlling the LOS and keeping the defenders on their heels, literally.  If they can block like this when Lache Seastrunk gets back from injury, Baylor would never need to throw a pass ever again.

Further proof that this was the best run blocking performance of the season, the O-line committed fewer run blocking errors than in any other game so far.  In the 79 snaps the starting line played together, they only had 11 plays with run block errors or about one for every seven run plays.  The previous best was against ISU where they averaged one on every six plays.  Our pass block errors were a little higher than normal, but nothing I would get too worked up over.  The penalty numbers are also inflated a bit because I penalized all three linemen on the last false start penalty, even though Palmer was the one the refs singled out for it.

DRANGO CYRIL HUBER HILLIARD PALMER TE AVERAGE
WOFFORD 91% 85% 89% 87% 87% 88%
BUFFALO 89% 91% 91% 86% 97% 91%
ULM 93% 89% 86% 89% 84% 88%
WVU 96% 88% 96% 90% 93% 92%
KSU 89% 93% 86% 86% 84% 88%
ISU 94% 97% 91% 95% 97% 93% 95%
KU 91% 91% 93% 89% 93% 88% 91%
OU 94% 93% 95% 87% 92% 84% 91%
TTU 95% 95% 97% 94% 87% 87% 93%
TOT. AVERAGE 92% 91% 92% 89% 90% 88% 91%

So except for some correctable mental errors, this was probably the line's best performance so far this season when you adjust for opponent strength.  I liked the physical play of the line, that they kept playing well and didn't panic when Baylor got down 20-7, and the decrease in run block errors.

Next up is Oklahoma State, who may be the toughest test of the regular season for Baylor's blockers.  Let's hope for another great day from them, we're gonna need it.  Sic 'Em Bears!

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