Trench Warfare: TCU

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Your weekly look at the performance in the trenches by Baylor's offensive line, one of the best in the nation this year. How did they perform in the second game since losing Spencer Drango?

Baylor barely escaped with a win Saturday. TCU did an excellent job of disrupting plays, limiting gains, and forcing negative plays. Baylor scored its second lowest offensive points total of the season (20) and was held to 370 total yards, a season low. As good as the TCU defense played, a lot of the offensive ineptitude can be attributed to poor execution by Baylor, and the offensive line was no exception.

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 PALMER CYRIL HUBER HILLIARD COLBERT BAKER TE GAIN RESULT
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 8
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 11
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 13
PASS 1 0 0 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 9
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 -1
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 7
RUN 1 1 0 1 1 1 1
RUN 0 0 1 0 1 0
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 13
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 -1
PASS 1 1 0 1 1 7 PENALTY
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC FG
RUN 1 0 1 1 1 8
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 7
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 5
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 14
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 0 1 INC
RUN 0 1 1 1 1 7
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 3
PASS 1 0 1 1 1 1 INC
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 9
RUN 1 0 0 1 1 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 18 TD
RUN 1 0 1 1 0 1 0
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 9
RUN 1 0 0 1 0 2
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 7
PASS 1 1 1 1 0 1 INC
RUN 0 0 0 1 1 1 1
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 12
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 3
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 0 -2
RUN 0 0 0 0 0 7 FG, PENALTY
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 2
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC PUNT
PASS 1 1 0 1 1 -4 SACK
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 1 3
PASS 0 1 1 1 0 INC PUNT
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 14
PASS 0 1 1 1 1 4
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 0 1 1 0 1 PUNT
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 TD
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
RUN 0 INC HUBER BAD SNAP
RUN 0 1 1 1 0 3 PUNT
RUN 1 0 1 0 1 -4
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 3
PASS 0 0 1 1 0 1 -10 PENALTY, SACK, PUNT
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
PASS 0 0 1 1 1 26
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 6
RUN 1 1 0 1 1 -1
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 5
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 33 TD
PASS 1 1 0 1 1 1 11
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 0 INC
PASS 0 0 1 1 1 0 INT
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 20
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 3
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 -9 SACK, PUNT
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 9
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 3
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 10
RUN 0 0 1 0 1 0 1
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 4
PASS 1 1 1 0 0 INC MISSED FG
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 5
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0 1
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 INC PUNT
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 3
RUN 1 1 1 1 0 0 0
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 1 4 PUNT
SCORE 77 73 78 79 39 36 33
TOT PLAYS 88 88 89 88 48 40 39
% 88% 83% 88% 90% 81% 90% 85% 86%
PASS BLOCK ERRORS 4 5 3 1 3 4 2 22
RUN BLOCK ERRORS 5 8 7 7 5 0 4 36
PENALTIES 2 2 1 1 1 0 0 7
PASS PLAY ERRORS 15
RUN PLAY ERRORS 21

It should be noted that Kelvin Palmer, our season long starter at right tackle, played the whole game at left tackle. Also, Pat Colbert and Troy Baker split time at right tackle throughout the game. Placing Palmer at LT appeared to be a two-fold move. First, it was to give Petty better blindside pass protection. Colbert struggled in pass protection against OSU last week and Palmer has much better technique and agility than Colbert in that regard. Secondly, it seems that the coaches wanted to see if Baker was ready to get back in as a starter. Playing in exclusively garbage time, Baker had yet to fully prove himself ready to take back his old spot at RT.

Baker gave a strong enough performance, I think, to warrant a start at RT against Texas. Although he struggled a bit in pass pro with four pass block errors and a sack surrendered, he didn't miss any run blocks and looked almost 100% healed from his injury. He definitely outplayed Colbert, grading out at 90% to Colbert's 81%, and was the only lineman to not have a penalty called on him.

Palmer was adequate at LT, performing slightly worse (88%) than his season average (91%). A slight drop-off in performance is to be expected when switching from one side to the other, especially at tackle, so not too much to worry about there. What does worry me is him and Cyril Richardson getting used to playing next to each other and communicating better.

Often it looked like Cyril Richardson and Palmer weren't on the same page, failing to pick up blitzers and call out stunts properly. Chemistry and trust is an often overlooked aspect of playing offensive line. A play can go to hell rather quickly if they can't play as a unit and it takes time for a line to gel properly. There will need to be marked improvement by saturday if we don't want to see a repeat of this:

The right defensive tackle and defensive end run a twist against Palmer and Cyril. The DE slants in and attacks the "B" gap while the DT runs around to the "C" gap. It is a simple stunt designed to cause confusion of assignment between the guard and tackle and and they execute it perfectly. It did not help that Cyril and Palmer handled the exchange terribly either. Cyril should have recognized that his guy was looping on a stunt and come down harder toward Palmer to seal off the slanting DE. Palmer should have made sure Cyril was in position before moving off to take on the looping DT. If Petty had been forced to hold onto the ball any longer, #93 would have been right in his face might have had a sack.

TCU called a ridiculous amount of d-line stunts against Baylor and probably because they worked. I don't know if Defensive Coordinator Dick Bumpas figured out our play calls or was incredibly lucky, but he called for stunts that would put an unblocked defender right where Baylor wanted to go on a lot of plays.

Here we have Baylor running a halfback draw up the middle for no gain. The two defensive tackles slant to their left while the left DE loops to the right. Right where Lache Seastrunk was trying to go. Pretty much the best play the defense could have called to stop that run. DE's intended mark just happened to be where Baylor was attempting to run. There wasn't Baker could do about it because even if his assignment was to follow the DE (which it wasn't), he would have never made it there in time.

Another perfectly called stunt, similar to the last one. Simple dive play stymied at the line of scrimmage by a stunting defensive line. Again the DTs slant to the left while the left DE loops around to the right. And again the DE is right where he needs to be to stop Lache in his tracks.

DRANGO CYRIL HUBER HILLIARD PALMER TE COLBERT BAKER 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% 94%
KU 91% 91% 93% 89% 93% 88% 91%
OU 94% 93% 95% 87% 92% 84% 91%
TTU 95% 95% 97% 94% 87% 87% 93%
OSU 89% 90% 94% 96% 88% 88% 91%
TCU 83% 88% 90% 88% 85% 81% 90% 86%
TOT AVERAGE 92% 90% 91% 90% 91% 87% 85% 90% 90%

It comes as no surprise that on the day of Baylor's worst offensive performance of the season the blockers had their worst day game too. With all the defensive stunts and line shuffling going on, the offensive line never seemed to get comfortable. There was only one drive all game with zero blocking errors and that drive still ended with a sack (the one where Petty held onto the ball too long) and a punt.

They did manage to shore things up a bit in the 4th quarter when Briles wanted to pound TCU with Glasco Martin and run out the clock, going twelve straight plays without an error after Petty threw his interception at the end of the 3rd quarter. But then they missed nine blocks in the final nine plays of the game.

Most of the linemen performed below their season average as did the tight ends as a group. Cyril had his worst game of the year scoring out at 83%, 7% points below his average. He had the most run and pass block errors of any blocker and had two penalties called on him. He missed a lot of downfield run blocks which is something he's been struggling with all season: blocking defenders in space.

With the last game of the regular season looming, that Baylor gets to play in the comfort of Floyd Casey should be a relief for players and fans alike. It's no secret that our guys play better at home than away. Any advantage Baylor can get will be welcome as they fight for at least a share of the conference title and possibly an outright title and Fiesta Bowl invite if OSU loses to OU.

Sic 'Em Bears and Boomer Sooner!

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