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Trench Warfare: Northwestern State

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Grading the offensive line's performance in their second win of the 2014 football season.

Ronald Martinez

I apologize for the delay getting this one out.  As I write this I am flying cross country due to a family emergency.  My grandmother has suffered three strokes over the course of two weeks and I’m taking my family, specifically my daughter, so that she can see her great grandmother.  If you are of the praying type, yours would be appreciated greatly.

Well, Baylor fans, we had another week of football and another victory for our Baylor Bears over the Demons of Northwestern State University.  Let’s take a look at how the burly men up front did.

Thanks to a suggestion by user Hidden Bear, I've decided to sort out the individual run blocking and pass blocking scores for each position so that it would be easier to see which phase of the game a player either excelled or faltered.  At the time of me writing this, the only available replay of the game against NWSU is missing the end of the first and all of the second quarters, so this analysis will be much shorter and definitely not as accurate as it would be if FOX’s D squad were more prepared for rain.

As a reminder, this is how I score the players:

When run blocking, did the player (1) block someone (2) create solid initial contact and push the defender back and (3) did they sustain their block?  When pass blocking, did the player (1) block someone (2) create solid initial contact and maintain the pocket and (3) sustain their block?  If they did all three then the player was awarded a score of "1".  If they blocked effectively enough to keep the defender away from the play but not well enough to earn a full point, then they were given a half point.  If they missed a block or got beat by the defender, they were given a "0" (zero).

Here are the grades:

PLAY DRANGO MUIR FULLER HILLIARD BAKER TE's GAIN
RUN 1 0.5 0.5 0 0 -1
RUN 1 1 0.5 0.5 1 1 5
PASS 1 0.5 1 1 1 23
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 50 End of 1st series (TD)
RUN 1 0.5 1 0.5 0 1 2
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 0.5 0 1 1 1 1 29
RUN 1 0.5 1 0.5 1 0.5 -2
RUN 0.5 0 0.5 1 0.5 1 2
RUN 0.5 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 1 3 End of 2nd series (TD)
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 15 Tre'Von in for this play
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 81 End of 3rd (TD)
RUN 1 1 1 0.5 1 1 5
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
RUN 1 1 1 1 1 0 13
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 INC
PASS 1 1 1 1 1 1 3
PASS 0.5 1 0 1 1 INC End of 4th (punt)
RUN 0.5 0 1 1 0 0 2
RUN 1 0.5 0 1 1 1 12
RUN 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 9
RUN 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 0 0
RUN 0.5 1 0 1 1 1 4
RUN 1 1 0.5 0.5 0 1 7
RUN 1 1 1 0 1 1 2
RUN 1 0.5 1 1 1 0.5 4
RUN 1 1 1 1 0.5 0.5 4
RUN 1 1 0.5 0.5 1 5
RUN 1 0.5 1 1 1 1 2 End of series (TD), last series with starters

Here are the results:

VERSUS  NWSU
DRANGO MUIR FULLER HILLIARD BAKER TE's TOTAL
Average Score 87.9% 72.4% 77.6% 77.6% 81.0% 82.0% 79.8%
RB Score 86.8% 65.8% 71.1% 65.8% 71.1% 73.5% 72.3%
PB Score 80.0% 85.0% 90.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 92.5%
Run Block Errors 0 2 2 2 4 3 13
Pass Block Errors 0 1 1 0 0 0 2
RUN BLOCK SCORE
GAME DRANGO MUIR FULLER HILLIARD BAKER TE's TOTAL
SMU 67.6% 75.7% 66.2% 71.6% 64.9% 60.0% 67.7%
NWSU 86.8% 65.8% 71.1% 65.8% 71.1% 73.5% 72.3%
TOTAL 77.2% 70.7% 68.6% 68.7% 68.0% 66.8% 70.0%
PASS BLOCK SCORE
GAME DRANGO MUIR FULLER HILLIARD BAKER TE's TOTAL
SMU 90.2% 85.4% 90.2% 89.0% 91.5% 88.9% 89.2%
NWSU 80.0% 85.0% 90.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 92.5%
TOTAL 85.1% 85.2% 90.1% 94.5% 95.7% 94.4% 90.9%
GAME TOTALS
GAME DRANGO MUIR FULLER HILLIARD BAKER TE's TOTAL
SMU 79.5% 80.8% 78.8% 80.8% 78.8% 73.7% 78.7%
NWSU 87.9% 72.4% 77.6% 77.6% 81.0% 82.0% 79.8%
TOTAL 83.7% 76.6% 78.2% 79.2% 79.9% 77.8% 79.2%

The line improved their overall run blocking average from 67.7% (vs SMU) to 72.3% (NWSU), their pass blocking average from 89.2% to 92.5% and their overall average from 78.7% to 79.8%.  Considering the level of opponent, though, I would say that an increase in performance was to be expected despite how terrible SMU looks at the moment.  What you probably noticed was that there was a 4.6% jump in run blocking, a 3.2% jump in pass blocking yet only a 1.1% increase in the overall score.  That is due to the lopsided number of run plays to pass plays shown in the replay.

There were only 29 available plays to grade: 10 passing and 19 running.  With nearly double the amount of run plays to pass plays, the score was heavily weighted to that phase of the game and held down the overall score.  I will admit that the trend of pass blocking outperforming the run blocking has been consistent this season as well as last season, so these might be close to the actual full game scores.

With individual performances I saw much better effort out of Spencer Drango in the run game.  He was more assertive and aggressive than last week and played closer to the level of the All-Conference player we expect.  His pass pro was not as dominant as I would have liked, but I’m sure he would have graded out better if I was able to see the 2nd quarter.

Blake Muir had a large drop in his run block from week one.  He graded out at 65.8% almost a full 10% lower than last week.  He didn't miss many blocks, but he was lackluster when it came to moving defenders off the line of scrimmage and opening run lanes.  His pass blocking was still good, however, scoring out in the mid 80's as he did last week.

Kyle Fuller improved his run blocking score by attacking the 2nd level well.  In the run game he and one of the guards would usually double team the nose tackle and then one would scrape to pick up the linebacker.  When it was his responsibility to scrape off to the LB, Fuller was good at disengaging and locking onto his target in space.  Muir and Hilliard were not as competent in this regard.  When he was responsible for the nose tackle by himself, he again struggled to move the NT off the ball.

Desmine Hilliard, like Muir, had a bad week two in the run game.  He had trouble getting to the second level in time, found it difficult to locate defenders when pulling and had a hard time moving down linemen off the ball by himself.  His one saving grace was executing a perfect ten for ten in pass pro.  Granted it was only ten snaps and would not have been if I was able to grade all the first string snaps, but he was stout against the pass rush and kept his head on a swivel when not immediately engaged.

Troy Baker was also perfect in pass pro which shows his knee injury from a year and a half ago has not limited his lateral quickness.  He turns his hips a little too quick for my liking but he uses his hands to control the defender around the quarterback like a pro.  It’s not all great for Baker as he had a subpar day run blocking.  He definitely improved from week one but there were times where he was beat across his face by the defensive end who would stop the play at the line of scrimmage or close to it.  This cannot happen going forward if Baylor wants to commit to the run.  He definitely needs to get stronger so that his initial hit stops the defender’s momentum and allow Baker to get proper leverage.

Gus Penning got all but one of the first string snaps at tight end.  Tre’von Armstead did come in for one play but was immediately replaced by Penning.  He did really well as a blocker, improving on Armstead’s blocking numbers in both areas.  My only concern was that there were run plays where he ran out as if he was running a pass route.  I don’t know if that was by accident or by design so I gave him the benefit of the doubt that that was what he was supposed to do and was not just being very very confused.

Well my baby is driving my wife insane on this plane so I guess that will have to do for now.

Sic Em Bears!