Every Opening Drive of the Art Briles Era

USA TODAY Sports

I think I've officially lost my mind.

Because there's almost nothing else left to think about at this stage in the game, I found myself pondering this afternoon whether there is a pattern in how Art Briles calls plays in the opening series of games, and if we might be able to draw from this pattern, should it exist.  Here's what I was able to put together, and it may require some explanation.

I was drawing from the game reports on BaylorBears,com, most of which aren't extremely detailed in terms of what actually took place.  A short legend:

RX -- A run for X yards. R-X means the play went for negative yardage.
PX -- A pass for X yards. Negative yardage denoted the same way.
Pinc -- An incomplete pass.
SX -- A sack, by definition a play for negative yardage.
FlagX -- A penalty on Baylor for X yardage. 
(FlagX) -- A penalty on Baylor's opponent for X yardage.

Now for a few very specious conclusions based almost entirely on the smallest of sample sizes, beginning with the obvious.

  • Baylor has now played 63 games under Art Briles' leadership, meaning we have 63 opening drives.  Of those 63, 26 began after Baylor kicked off to the other team.  Art Briles clearly prefers to receive the opening kick.  SHOCKING. In the last two years, we've played 26 games.  We have received the opening kick 19 times.
  • Contrary to what is probably the popular belief, in his Baylor tenure, Art Briles prefers to lead off the game with a pass almost 2/3 of the time, with 41 passes on our first play compared with 22 runs.  That number has equalized somewhat in the last two years, with 12 runs to 14 passes in our last 26 games.
  • While Kendall Wright was at Baylor, he was targeted the most of any player on our first offensive play of the game, with 17 targets on 50 first plays.  That's 34%, quite a bit for any one player.
  • We have attempted a pass on the first play of the game against Texas every year that Briles has been here.
  • We have more punts (24) than touchdowns (19) on our first drive of the game over Briles' entire tenure. The ratio is 9:8 in 2011 and 2012.  If you include FGs, we've scored points on 28 of our 63 opening possessions and turned the ball over 9 times (3 on downs).
  • The vast majority of our passing plays to open games are of the shorter variety, probably designed to get the QB an easy completion and set up a manageable second down.  Even the passes that were incomplete were, for the most part, short.  We have not yet set up on the first play of any game and thrown it deep (>20 yards), although we've done it several times on the second play, most notably against Texas in 2011.
  • Baylor averages a little over 42 yards per drive on the first drive of the game.  Considering that number includes several 3 and outs (9 by my count), I'd say that's pretty good.  We've gone 3 and out on our first possession only twice in the last two years (KU 2011 and UT 2012). 
  • We are 14-5 in games in which Baylor scores a touchdown on our first possession.  Baylor has lost two games in the last 5 seasons at Floyd Casey Stadium in which we scored on our first possession.

Based on all this, if I were Wofford, I would expect for Baylor to throw a short pass on the first play of the game.  I'm going to say it will go to Antwan Goodley.  If we score on that drive, we'll probably win.

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