ODB Grade Report: Baylor vs. West Virginia

That's about how we all feel right now, Coach. - Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It's Art Briles' world, college football fans. You're just living in it.

Mark Seymour --

I've reached the point, to be completely honest, where I don't know what else to say about this team. I've given you my general thoughts on the experience, which was amazing. I've talked about the numbers, which are incredible. And I don't know how much good it will do for me to give everyone on the offense As or A+s, almost everyone on the defense Bs or B+s (except Ahmad Dixon, who gets an A), and the special teams Cs or worse. I still have a few things:

The confidence with which Art Briles' quarterbacks play year-in and year-out, regardless of their experience (Petty) or their overall level of talent (Florence), will never stop surprising me. Sure, Robert Griffin carried himself like a baller because he was one, basically from the time he got here until the time he left. But Petty, who had everything to prove coming into this season and almost no history, does exactly the same thing. The immediate example that comes to mind of what I'm talking about from the QB position was the third down on the last drive of the first quarter. Petty had just thrown two incomplete passes, and Baylor faced its longest third down of the day. Our first three and out of the season seemed likely. Was Petty rattled? Not in the least. He found Antwan Goodley for a 30 yard completion to the boundary and we were in business again.

The confidence to make plays like that is born of preparation: the knowledge that you've done what you're about to do a thousand times in practice and that the people around you upon whom you rely will do their jobs, without fail. Seeing something happen the way it should over and over again, as our offense has, breeds the expectation that it will happen again, exactly the same way. You're going to be successful because success-- especially on offense-- is what this system is about. There is no room for disbelief in Art Briles' world.

Part of that success comes from a group that has been cited around here recently (and rightfully so) as underappreciated: the offensive line. From last year to this, we brought back basically two starters, with another to return right about now at full strength, and a few wild cards. We knew we had depth of contributors, but we didn't know how well they'd perform when asked to shoulder the entire load. Spencer Drango, Cyril Richardson, and Troy Baker were known quantities, especially Cyril. Desmine Hilliard, Stefan Huber, and Kelvin Palmer were all much less so. To say they've performed admirably would be to delight in understatement; they've been amazing. Just ask WVU's Head Coach Dana Holgorsen and DC Keith Patterson, who both talked extensively after the game about our OL's ability to move the line of scrimmage down the field on every single play. Patterson went on:

"We got whipped everywhere. We tried every coverage, every set. We tried moving our anchor points, we tried zone pressure. But you’ve got to give Baylor credit—they physically whipped us. It seemed like absolutely nothing worked."

That's not a new idea, though it might seem that way to people who don't look at Baylor Football closely these days. Briles' offense isn't successful just because we have fast players and skilled QBs. Everything starts up front, with a unit that has gained talent and experience every single year our current staff has been here, without fail. Phil Bennett said before this season that this offensive line was the best he'd ever seen. I didn't believe him at the time. I'm starting to now.

As far as the defense goes, I was very impressed in this game with Dixon's play, a continuation of a very strong season on his part. Say what you want about the idea that he played at all with the potential Sword of Damocles that is his legal situation; I'm not going to get into that. Briles decided he should play, so he played. And he played extremely well. Running down that screen play in the first quarter on third down was as athletic (and aware) a play as we've seen from a defender in a long, long time.

I'll come back later and add more specific thoughts; I'm just too wrapped up in everything right now to get my thoughts in order. As I said, if I had to give grades, everyone on the offense gets an A. Lache Seastrunk, Antwan Goodley, and Tevin Reese get A+s. Bryce gets an A because of the one interception where he just didn't see the safety. That kind of thing is going to happen, and it's a testament to the confidence I'm talking about that it didn't derail the offense at all.

I was proud of the defense and the way they played as a whole. Things turned out about as I predicted, with the safeties and linebackers playing extremely close to the line to stop the run and cut off short passes, showing no respect for Clint Trickett's ability to do anything except haunt their dreams.

Prashanth Francis --

Offense

QB - A-. Bryce Petty did not have a perfect night, but it wasn't too far off. 17/25 for 68% completion rate is very good but not astounding, nor is a 2 TD : 1 Int (+1 rushing TD) outing; 13.9 yards per attempt is wonderfully absurd, though. I think he had just enough mistakes to have something to work on this week. Perfect. A third of the way through the season, I think it's time to start talking about whether or not Petty is better than the very high bar that Nick Florence set last year. Petty's QB Rating will come down over the course of the year as Baylor faces tougher competition, but given that he's currently #1 at 229, he has some room for error. While I would still give Florence the edge in decision making, and perhaps in rushing, Petty's remarkable arm strength and ability to accurately find receivers at all levels has me leaning towards Petty's corner. What a lovely problem to have.

RB - A+. Bryce Petty is deservedly getting a lot of praise for Saturday's game, but don't lose sight of the fact that Baylor rushed for 468 (!!!) yards on 62 (!!!) attempts for 7.5 (!!!!!) yards per carry. Lache was the headliner, despite once again not getting time in the 2nd half, and I continue to feel fortunate to watch him suit up in the green and gold AWW YEAH BLACK AND CHROME GOLD. My favorite play of the game was his 80 yard dash to the end zone, capping off a stretch where Baylor scored 3 touchdowns on 3 offensive plays. The OL is opening holes for him, but he's making the most of his opportunity.

It was great to see Glasco Martin (not Martin Glasco, CBS) back in form. A thought occurred to me during the game: In the past, Baylor offenses would sometimes bog down in the red zone, despite having comprehensive offensive stats that were elite. There's pretty good evidence that what happens in the red zone isn't always a perfect correlation to what happens on the rest of the field. Glasco Martin was not needed for the first games. Glasco Martin does not fill the box score the way that Lache does. But as Baylor transforms from Big 12 Darkhorse to Big 12 Favorite, unsung players like Glasco Martin will likely play a big role in getting tough wins. Glad to have him back.

Shock Linwood is a very nice looking young back, but I just can't stop myself from being disappointed whenever he's on the field. With the very real possibility that this is Lache's last year, I want every chance possible to watch the LacheShow. Every carry that Linwood gets is one that could have gone to Lache. Looking past my selfish desires, it is very comforting to know that Baylor has RB depth that can put up this sort of 14 carries for 126 yards (9.0 ypc) type performance.

WR - A+ for Goodley and Reese. There are a lot of arguments for who has the best WR pairing in the country. Other programs have duos that were more highly recruited and may hold higher draft slots, but it's hard for me to see how any program has a pair of WRs that are better fits for their program than Baylor does with Reese and Goodley. While I fear that one day we will encounter a team that has physical DBs who can knock Reese off of his game, the combination of Reese's home run threat and Goodley's physical style means that Art Briles has the tools to break down virtually any defense in the country. Clay Fuller's sure hands, despite some slightly errant throws, give Petty the type of security blanket that every QB loves. I'm not sure how much we'll see from the young guys like Coleman and Rhodes once Baylor gets into the thick of conference play, but I'm glad they're getting experience now.

OL - A. One of the major matchups I was excited about for this game was WVU's front seven against Baylor's OL, heretofore a nasty, mauling unit that relished chances to take on defenders, gobble them up, and look for a second helping. While WVU brought more talent than previous opponents, the result was the same. The Baylor OL completely dominated the WVU front. They relatively infrequently relied on double teams and used the extra blockers to take on the WVU LBs. It's harder to judge pass blocking because of the speed at which the ball leaves the QB's hands in the Briles system, but the results have been good. The general concept of having rugged mammoths who punish in run blocking and are capable in pass blocking continues to work, especially because of offensive plays that pull guards to deceive LBs into thinking rush.

I'm including Najvar in this group because he was relied on mainly as a blocker. His blocking on the weak side was generally quite good, while his run blocking the strong side was not always up to that high of a standard. Baylor used him in a unique formation where Petty was lined up in shotgun while Najvar was in a typical fullback position. I do not envy the linebackers and safeties that have to quickly decide between defending rush or pass.

Defense:

DL - B+. Another of the matchups about which I was excited was the Baylor DL vs WVU OL, specifically with regards to the pass rush. The WVU rushing attack (predictably) stalled again, with 118 yards on 34 carries (3.5 ypc), but this was not at all surprising given how much run support the linebackers and safeties were providing. It was clear that stopping the rush was a priority for Baylor. WVU's pass blocking against OSU had a mixed performance that saw their starting QB get pounded, but still have enough time to throw deep balls (generally unsuccessfully). I was hoping that Baylor would show itself to be clearly better at the pass rush than OSU, but they didn't quite get there. They had great success at generating pressure with blitzers, but the increased talent level of the competition showed in that the Baylor DL did not dominate the way we had seen them dominate non-conference competition. It was not a bad performance by any means, but the ability of the Baylor DL to generate a pass rush will be a very important factor to keep an eye on moving forward. Also, ROLL. DAMN. TREE.

LB - A. Excellent as usual. Hager is the best LB as shedding blockers and his skill in this area appeared to befuddle the WVU interior OL at times. Lackey's leaps in blitzing ability from the end of last year have stayed constant and Sam Holl continues to troll Mark. Baylor may one day have more athletic playmakers are LB, but right now it's fantastic to see above average Big12 caliber play from the LB spots. I'm still a bit concerned that elite offenses will figure out a way to get Hager in coverage or Holl to repeatedly take on OL, but that hasn't happened yet.

CBs - Goodson B+, Morton B-. Again, we return to our dilemma. Based on the tape, our DBs struggled to sit in the WRs hip pockets on deep throws and it could bode ill against elite offenses. Morton's height gets exploited a few times a game at this point and his speed hasn't been so impressive that it entirely negates the height issue. And yet, Baylor left their starting CBs on islands for much of the night and WVU was unable to take advantage of less than stellar play. With Dixon frequently focused on rush defense and Burt covering a WR (in tandem with shallow coverage by Holl), the CBs knew that they were getting little help against an offense that couldn't run the ball and needed to score a lot of points. The results on paper show some long passes given up, pass interference calls of varying levels of correctness, but yet another performance where few points were given up by the starting defense. Keeping in mind what Baylor is asking them to do and the fact that they have quite a bit of room for error (thanks offense!), I have a hard time giving out C's.

S - B+. Excellent in run support, Dixon once again made his presence known to the opposing offense. But we also saw a repeat of Burt being significantly better in coverage. With slightly increasing levels of concern about Dixon's ability to work with KJ Morton to cover the deep passes, I'm starting to wonder if Burt and Dixon shouldn't flip sides to team Burt with KJ Morton. Even accounting for this concern, Dixon's ability to provide run support from the safety position was integral in preventing the WVU offense from finding its groove until after the starting defense left the field. #TheCouchesWereSaved #SaveTheHooker

K - #KissTheBiceps...but maybe after you work on your FG kicking.

P - I hear his #Swaghili is coming along nicely. He should be adequately prepared to serve as Kanye's interpreter at the end of the year.

Peter Pope

Note: I'm only going to be grading the First Team for this week's grades.

QB: A -- Bryce Petty was, once again, spectacular. Sure, he gave up an interception and he threw 8 incomplete passes. But in two quarters plus one drive, he completed 17 passes for 347 yards and 2 TDs, plus he added another 49 yards rushing and a score. The Baylor offense is operating at an absurd level of efficiency, and Petty is at the center of that. He was asked to do a little more complex things last weekend, and he succeeded with flourish.

RB: A -- Seastrunk: 15 carries, 172 yards and 2 TDs. Glasco Martin: 63 yards on 12 carries and 2 scores. Shock Linwood: 126 yards on 14 carries and a TD. Lache's 80-yard run was a thing of beauty. I am running out of superlatives.

WRs: A -- Yeah okay, they dropped at least four balls. Do they deserve to be docked for that performance? No, not really. Goodley continues to be impressive. Tevin Reese is Houdini, magically catching balls that appear overthrown. Clay Fuller had a much more active role in the offense this weekend, it seemed like, catching four for 55 and being an active participant in the offense early. This corps of receivers is scary good.

OL: A+ -- The unit getting the least amount of attention is the one probably deserving of the highest praise. Holgorsen gave the O-Line the credit it deserved: "I've never seen a team establish the line of scrimmage like they did," Holgorsen said. "We've been pretty proud of how we have been playing defense for the last five games, but you can't play defense when the line of scrimmage is five yards backwards every single time they play. They ran the ball the same way most of the time. They never changed anything." I don't think there's really a better way to sum it up than that. Thanks, coach.

TE: A -- Jordan Najvar looked great in his return after missing the ULM game due to the fractured transverse process. He had one catch for 18 yards and had a solid blocking game also.

DL: A -- 118 yards total rushing. No rusher had over 100 yards. They controlled the line of scrimmage and harassed Trickett all day long. I'm now officially out of superlatives.

LBs/Bear: A -- I haven't had the chance to rewatch the game in as much detail as I'd like so that I can better evaluate the defensive side of the ball, but what I did see impressed me. Lackey's stop on their 4th-and-2 (or whatever it was) was amazing. I'm not sure the type of game Sam Holl had, but there was one play that I remember that he had great coverage on. I'll have to go back and look more closely, but I was really impressed with this unit.

CBs: B- -- Some may feel that a "B-ish" grade is too high for this performance, and I struggled with whether to make this a B- or C+, but the coverage was actually fairly good, but for the PI calls. There were one or two plays where they were simply beaten, but for the most part the issue remains the head turn. And man, it was an issue Saturday night. There were several balls that had they turned to, they would have intercepted fairly easily. A couple of the PI calls seem to be related to that as well, since the WR would adjust to the ball and the corners would plow right into the back of the receiver. But, they benefitted from a solid pass rush and an inaccurate QB. Let's hope they can get their acts together going forward.

S: ?? -- As I mentioned previously, I haven't reviewed the game again in depth to view the performance of the safeties. I will update this grade once I have. The work of our safeties is largely overshadowed in my mind by the play of the corners... But once I've had a chance to view the game again this evening, I'll update this score.

Special Teams: B -- Levi, Levi, Levi. Never call fair catch at your 10 yard line, then back up for the ball. Situational awareness, man. C'mon. Stork also kicked a ball out of bounds (which was partially his fault for going so high with it that the wind caught it) and missed a field goal. The wind WAS pretty bad, though, which definitely could be an explanation for all of those plays. Hopefully if we encounter that kind of brisk wind in the future they'll have learned from these miscues.

-----

Feel free to share your own grades for the team as a whole or the individual players, should you choose, in the comments. It's a wonderful time to be a Baylor Bear; enjoy it!

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