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Baylor vs. North Carolina -- The Morning After -- Highlights, Links, Notes, Tweets

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After the ups and downs of an injury-plagued late-season run, the Baylor Bears finished 2015 in style with a dominant victory over #10 North Carolina.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH F
UNC(11-3, 8-3) 7 10 14 7 38
BAYLOR (10-3, 6-3) 14 14 14 7 49

Box ScoreQuotesNotesUSATSI Gallery Photo Gallery

Orlando, Fla. - Attendance: 40,418

Post-Game Coverage from ODB:

Post-Game: Baylor Bulldozes North Carolina 49-38
Tweets of the Night: Baylor 2 Kings 2:23-24s UNC

The Big News:

After going in to the game as 3-point underdogs and with the possibility of 3 straight bowl hanging over their heads, the Baylor Bears threw down an impressive 49-38 win that was far more dominant than the final score looks (even though it looks pretty good) over a top-ten team.  Faced with continued uncertainty at the QB position with Chris Johnson, Briles and co. were forced once again to reconfigure their offense entirely before facing the Tar Heels.  That offense responded with a season-high 756 yards on 102 plays and an all-time bowl record 645 yards rushing.  Art Briles cemented himself as perhaps the preeminent offensive mind in college football, RB Johnny Jefferson emerged as possibly the next great Baylor freak, and defensive coordinators everywhere now have another legitimate reason to stay awake at night trying to prepare for Baylor's dynamic offense.  This is an offense, as Rodger Sherman points out, that has, in successive years, now set all-time bowl records for passing yards (against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl) and rushing yards (last night).  No matter what you try to do, Baylor's offense will destroy you.  It's what the Bears do.

I've heaped praise on Briles in the aftermath of what might be his best coaching performance of all time, but one group that I want to make sure doesn't go unappreciated is the offensive line.  Led by All-Everything LT Spencer Drango, who I'm pretty sure earned himself some money last night, the OL had UNC's defensive front on their heels almost from the beginning, and by the early second quarter, you could tell Gene Chizik's boys didn't really want any more.  But they got it.  I think this Tweet from ESPN says about everything that needs to be said, but I'll add a few more Thoughts below:

You didn't misread that; Baylor's RBs/ball carriers averaged 5.7 yards before contact on our 76 designed runs.  That's 433 yards rushing before the defenders even touched our backs.  It was an incredible performance by the big guys up front.

Players of the Game:

RB Johnny Jefferson -- 23 carries for 299 yards and 3 TDs, 1 pass for 24 yards
LB Aiavion Edwards -- 17 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FF

I could add a few here if I wanted to.  4 different Baylor players averaged at least 6.0 yards per carry, led by Jefferson's 13.0. Of those 4, only Lynx Hawthorne lost a single yard on any one play, and he lost just 2.

Thoughts on the Game:

  • Once again, my pre-game predictions for how this one would go proved woefully inaccurate.  Where I thought Baylor would utilize the WildBear only sparingly or as a short-yardage weapon with Chris Johnson back from his concussion (and UNC apparently agreed), the Bears went to it on our first drive of the game with Lynx Hawthorne.  It became basically the base offense the rest of the way with RBs rotating through the QB spot, and the "normal" offense with Johnson became the niche.  Kendall Briles said after the game that they realized what was working and decided to stick with it, but even having the option to change things so radically is pretty insane, and a testament to the work they did over the last 3 weeks to prepare.
  • Speaking of Kendall Briles, I want to reiterate something from above that our friends on the mothership pointed out: he's now coached two bowl games, a loss and a win.  In those two bowl games, his offense has set all-time records for passing and rushing yards.  We can quibble with individual play calls or stylistic choices, but you can't argue the results.  Baylor finished the 2015 season as just the third team in history to average 600+ yards of offense, and that's playing 3 different true QBs, several games in inclement weather, and ending the season running an offense more suited to 1915 than 2015.  Baylor went over 8,000 total yards in a season for the second time in program history, led the nation in yards and points per game, and finished second in yards per play (to the same UNC team we played last night).  Kendall Briles is still growing into the job he has, but he deserves a lot of credit for what this team was able to accomplish against pretty long odds. 
  • One thing last night's game did, or should have done, is dispel any notion that Briles and Baylor run a finesse or "Air Raid"-style offense.  I say "should" because there's always idiots out there willing to push an agenda.  Baylor finished this season with an unofficial school record 4247 yards rushing, nearly 1,000 yards more than the previous record set in 2013 (3,376). Barring something absolutely insane happening where Oregon rushes for a million yards on TCU, the Bears' 326.7 yards/game on the ground will finish tied for second in the country with Navy (who runs the triple option) behind only Georgia Southern, a team that literally doesn't do anything except run.
  • This game won't go into the annals of Baylor history as a fantastic defensive effort, but I want to point out that going into it, North Carolina was averaging 7.33 yards/play, #1 in the country.  Phil Bennett's group held them more than a half-yard short of that average last night, and that's including the late TD drive where it was pretty obvious we had basically stopped caring.
  • By my calculator math, the 2016 Baylor Bears will bring back (barring transfers) 100% of our passing yards from 2015 and 97% of our rushing yards (including 6 of our top 7 rushers).  Receiving yards are a different story because Corey Coleman and Jay Lee are leaving, obviously, but I'm not tremendously concerned there considering how well we've recruited.  Where I am slightly concerned is the offensive line, due to the fact that 4/5 from this year's group are seniors, and we'll have to replace them.  Look for Blake Blackmar, Branton Autry, Maurice Porter, Dominic Desouza, Rami Hammad, and JUCO Malcolm Pridgeon (if we can land him in this class) to try to fill that void.
  • Before anyone asks, I have no idea how much or if we might see the #WildBear again in the future, when Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham return next season and the offense reverts to its record-setting "normal" self.  But as I said before the RAB, part of me believes strongly that we've discovered something here that could be very useful to us in the future, particularly in situations where we want to be more deliberate and slow things down.  Last night's amazing success just confirmed that.  It would be a shame if we abandoned this offense completely, particularly with how perfectly suited Jefferson seems to be for it.
  • It's hard to put into words how much I loved watching that game last night.  As I tried my best to beat into people's heads, UNC was a quality opponent.  They gave #1 Clemson everything the Tigers could handle less than a month ago while playing for the ACC Championship.  And Baylor just crushed them offensively without having to resort to trick plays or anything even somewhat underhanded. Our coaches out-schemed them and our players out-played them, and it was wonderful to see.  With everything that has happened this season, it was just about the perfect way to send off what is now the best senior class in Baylor history.
  • 10 wins in 3 of the last 4 seasons ... not too shabby.

LINKS LINKS LINKS LINKS LINKS LINKS:

Last year, Art Briles' Baylor broke bowl season's passing record. This year, the rushing record - SBNation.com
The Bears can never again be labeled a one-trick, soft offense by people who've never actually watched them.

Jefferson's 3 TDs Lead Football Over UNC, 49-38, in RAB - Baylor Official Athletic Site
Johnny Jefferson rushed for three touchdowns and a bowl-record 299 yards, and No. 18 Baylor ran past No. 10 North Carolina 49-38.

Baylor's historic rushing game beats UNC in Russell Athletic Bowl - College Football - SI.com
Baylor set an all-time bowl record for rushing in its 49-38 win over North Carolina in the Russell Athletic Bowl behind the running of Johnny Jefferson.

Fournette got to face the country's worst run D, and even that couldn't overshadow Baylor - SBNation.com
Baylor's offensive line stole the show in the Russell Athletic Bowl, paving the way for more than 600 rushing yards in a unique 49-38 win over North Carolina. Really, if you like yards and points, the Tuesday bowls were for you.

Five questions for the Baylor Bears in 2016 - Big 12 Blog- ESPN
The Baylor Bears will lose a lot of its best players, but others will be back, including quarterback Seth Russell. A playoff run is certainly possible.

Baylor notebook: Jefferson shines in ‘Bearcat’; turnover script flipped; bowl mark even - WacoTrib.com: Baylor Bears Football
ORLANDO, Fla. — Relying heavily on the Wildcat formation, Baylor set a FBS bowl record with 645 yards rushing in its 49-38 win over North Carolina on Tuesday night.

Baylor plows way to bowl-record 645 rushing yards in 49-38 Russell Athletic win - WacoTrib.com: Baylor Bears Football
ORLANDO, Fla. — Somewhere Pop Warner and Jim Thorpe are sharing a toast.

TWEETS TWEETS TWEETS TWEETS TWEETS TWEETS:

Considering the size of the Tweets of the Night post last night, I'll try to limit these to just a few.

This one isn't strictly about the game, but I wanted to post it, anyway.

#SicEm. Have a great Wednesday, everybody!