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Baylor Football Wins the Sugar Bowl: 12 Stats that Decided the Game

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Also known as “12 Reasons Why Cody’s Voice is Still Gone”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Sugar Bowl - Baylor v Ole Miss Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Your Baylor Bears are the Sugar Bowl Champions! A game that defied most expectations, there’s so much one could write about. So in honor of Baylor’s first-ever twelve win season, I decided to quadruple the length of my typical post with twelve stats that tell the story of the game.

How Ole Miss kept it close

Baylor won 21 to 7, but the game wasn’t fully in the Bear’s control until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. With 12 minutes left, the score was tied at 7 all. Here are a few reasons why Ole Miss was able to keep it close until the end.

40 passing yards

Ole Miss held Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon to 7 completions on 17 attempts and 40 total yards passing. A 41% completion percentage is the worst of the season for the Bears, and 40 yards is the lowest since a 56-7 shellacking by Oklahoma in 2000. Even the Wild Bear offense in the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl had 111 passing yards.

Bohanon is not entirely to blame for the poor showing. While watching live, I counted a couple drops by receivers, including one play where Tyquan Thornton was hit in the numbers with the ball deep down field, and he couldn’t haul it in through the minor pass interference.

5 penalties > 7 penalties

Ole Miss had more penalties than Baylor (7 to 5), but all of Baylor’s penalties had a big impact on the game, and only one of Ole Miss’s did. Of Baylor’s penalties, three were holding penalties that led to three and outs, one was an illegal block on an excellent punt return by Trestan Ebner, and one was a pass interference on Ole Miss’s single scoring drive.

Ole Miss? Delay of game before a punt, false start (led to a missed FG), false start (followed by a first down), grounding on a sack, personal foul on a punt return (three and out Baylor), defensive offsides on a kickoff (three and out Baylor), pass interference (three and out Baylor).

5/7 on 4th down

The only thing Ole Miss had going for them on offense was the ability to stay on the field. The Rebels went 6 for 22 on third down conversions but 5 for 7 on fourth down. Baylor was a respectable 7 for 15 on third down conversions but 0 for 2 on fourth down. This helped keep time of possession close, 31:36 to 28:24, with Ole Miss holding the ball slightly longer.

14 7-7 score

Ole Miss lost the turnover battle 3 to 1 (more on this later), but they intercepted Bohanon at a key moment in the third quarter. Following the Rebels’ first (and only) touchdown, Miles Battle intercepted a pass to a wide open Thornton in the end zone. Instead of a 14-7 Baylor lead, Ole Miss had the ball and momentum in a tie game.

49% of plays

Ole Miss ran 99 plays in the game, and 48 of them were on Baylor’s side of the field (49%). Baylor only ran 67 plays, and 25 came on Ole Miss’s side (37%). Early in the game, it was even more lopsided. The Bears didn’t cross midfield until their fourth possession. In the Rebel’s first four possessions, an incredible 79% of plays were on Baylor’s side. Points scored on those possessions? 7...for Baylor.

How Baylor was able to win

If it weren’t for the aforementioned factors, Baylor would have run away with this game (literally). In my statistical preview, I argued that Baylor would win if they played good run defense, scored in the red zone, and kept Ole Miss from scoring in the red zone. Your Sugar Bowl Champions did all that and more.

279 rushing yards

Baylor’s rushing attack was essentially their only offense this game, and despite being one dimensional, they still exerted their will on the ground. The Bears had 279 rushing yards and 6.8 yards per carry, a YPC that would lead the country if maintained for an entire season. Tank-in-human-form Abram Smith had 172 yards rushing himself (6.9 YPC), and Ebner added an efficient 36 yards on 6 carries.

In the biggest play of the day, freshman Monaray Baldwin took it to the house on a 48 yard jet sweep (credit TEs Drake Dabney and Ben Sims for killer blocks). To put into context how unexpected this play was (to everyone except Travis Roeder), Baldwin came into the game with 1 catch for 7 yards and 4 rushes for 39 yards. Baylor fans sure know Baldwin’s name now, and they should remember it for next season, too.

I think my friend’s soon-to-be-born baby’s first and middle name was changed from Abram Woods to Abram Woods-Baldwin in the middle of the game.

Baylor’s running game was particularly impressive in short yardage situations. Baylor ran the ball on third / fourth and short 5 times during the game, and the Bears earned a first down 4 of those times. An 80% power success rate is really good — it would be 14th in the country if maintained for the whole season — and an improvement on Baylor’s 73% in other games.

0 sacks allowed

Bohanon didn’t have his best game passing, but he, along with the offensive line, did a phenomenal job avoiding sacks. Ole Miss did not record a single sack, and Pro Football Focus only credits their defense with 5 quarterback hurries all game. It goes without saying that a sack rate of 0% would be the best/worst in the country for an offense/defense.

1/1 in the red zone

Baylor made it to the Rebel’s red zone only once, but they made the most of their lone opportunity. Bohanon and Smith ran 3 times for 7 yards, and Bohanon passed the ball for a first down to Smith and a touchdown to Thornton.

43% opportunity rate allowed

Baylor’s run defense was great this game. The Rebels earned 4.7 non-sack yards per carry on 44 attempts, which isn’t horrible on face, but it was feast or (more often) famine.

Ole Miss had an opportunity rate of 43%, which is far below their season average of 53%. Opportunity rate is the percent of running plays that get at least 4 yards, and it’s used as a measure of how well the offensive line “does their job”. 43% is really bad; throughout an entire season, it would be 111th in the country. Credit Sugar Bowl MVP Terrel Bernard (17 tackles), Garmon Randolph (8 tackles), Dillon Doyle (7 tackles), Siaki Ika (5 tackles), and Brayden Utley (5 tackles) for dominating the Rebel offensive line.

By stopping Ole Miss from establishing the run, Baylor forced the Rebels to drop back and pass with their backup quarterback. This contributed significantly to the next two stats.

3 interceptions

Baylor forced 3 interceptions this game, almost doubling Ole Miss’s interceptions for the whole season. The first (by JT Woods) came on the second play of the game against starting QB Matt Corral, energized the Baylor crowd in attendance, and stopped Ole Miss from getting out to an early lead. The second interception was batted at the line by Matt Jones and turned into a 96 yard touchdown by Al Walcott, Baylor’s only points in the first half. The third interception (second by Woods) put Baylor immediately in the red zone and lead to seven more points.

10 sacks

Ole Miss attempted to pass the ball 44 times, and they were sacked 10 times (Corral was sacked 3 of those times). A sack rate of 23% is simply incredible. The highest rated team in the country, Oklahoma State, only sacks the quarterback on 12% of passing attempts. If maintained for a season, giving up a 23% sack rate would make an offensive line the second worst in the country.

0/3 scores allowed in red zone

Ole Miss reached the red zone on three possessions. On their third possession of the game, the Rebels got a false start penalty at Baylor’s 16 yard line, and Corral was sacked on back-to-back plays. On their fourth possession, Ole Miss ran three plays within Baylor’s 20: rush for 3 yards, pass for 0 yards, and touchdown pass...to Baylor’s Al Walcott. On their tenth possession, with the game still tied, Ole Miss made it to Baylor’s 17 yard line but had to settle for a 35 yard field goal attempt (and miss).

Despite gaining 322 total yards, Ole Miss only scored 7 points. The most important stat of the game? 21 to 7.