No matter how any of us saw Baylor’s season unfolding, none of us saw it beginning like this. We’ll start with the good, cover the bad and discuss what comes next.
There wasn’t much. The Bears lost to Liberty—a good but not great FCS team. The Flames were better than I thought they’d be. That’s still not close to what the Bears should be.
John Lovett- The freshman stepped in after JaMycal Hasty left the game with a leg injury. Lovett rushed for nearly 100 yards and had two big touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and broke off a nice 34 yard run. With Hasty out for several weeks, per David Smoak, the Bears look like they have a good replacement in Lovett.
Chris Platt- Three receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. With the Bears reeling, he showed his top end speed and hauled in a 75 yard touchdown. I think he needs to be the full time No. 1 target going forward.
Anu Solomon’s deep ball- Baylor needed big plays all night. Solomon delivered. He stayed in the pocket and took a lot of shots. He hit receivers in stride. There’s hope with him leading the offense.
Defensive line- Stephen Calvert threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns. The Bears failed to pressure him. K.J. Smith, Ira Lewis, Bravion Roy and Brian Nance form the team’s best position group. The lack of pressure against an FCS team is alarming. The Flames started the game with a 36 yard run too. I can’t remember a great Baylor unit failing to alter a game like that.
Secondary- Maybe we should have understood the injuries would matter more. Davion Hall, Grayland Arnold and Jameson Houston were injured. Taion Sells is suspended for the first three games. Travon Blanchard is gone. But the Bears who played did not get the job done. They made basic mistakes like failing to find the ball. Blake Lynch had nice moments. He also struggled to make the proper play. Antonio Gandy-Golden was awesome; the Bears couldn’t stop him.
Drops- Nearly everyone was guilty of this. Solomon gave the receivers a lot of chances. They failed to take advantage throughout the game. Baylor dropped too many passes last year. The team has not improved in this area.
Defense- The earlier areas cover this, but the Bear’s strength should be the defense. Taylor Young and the men on the line remain. Phil Snow was great at Temple. The Bears will have to dial up more blitzes and count on corners who can press. Liberty converted 10 straight 3rd downs. That side of the ball had a disastrous night.
The pick six- Baylor scored 45 points against Liberty. That should have been more than enough. Early in the second half, Solomon tried to throw to a location with the Flames in press coverage and a safety up high. Even in the best case scenario, Baylor might have gained seven yards on that pass. The worst case happened though, and Liberty intercepted the pass and ran it back for a touchdown. Solomon played well. If the defense had a mediocre day, that would have been enough. But if Solomon doesn’t make that throw, maybe the Bears win.
I predicted Baylor would go 6-6 and finish 7th in the Big 12. That seemed on the low end of most predictions. Now that seems wildly optimistic. This could just be one game, but sometimes one game resets everything. The Bears are young and struggling in the secondary. The defensive front was unable to get any pressure.
This team is already depleted in many places. True freshmen and walk-ons are playing a significant number of snaps. This could still get worse.
Maybe this was just an awful week. Matt Rhule and his staff won the American last year. They might be able to make meaningful adjustments. Maybe the rotations will change—K.J. Smith could return to defensive end, and the best players could play more snaps, as opposed to rotating guys out. Maybe the team can dial up some pressure as defensive backs return and the unit can press.
I’m worried this team is not going to win many games. You can feel however you like if that happens. I want the Bears to go 15-0 every season. But if the season goes as poorly as possible, I’ll still be rooting for Baylor. No matter how bad this could go—and it could go very bad—I still choose to Sic ‘Em.