Since almost everyone watches the football games that would read this, I’m going to switch to offering a list of takes on Baylor’s 38-24 win.
1) Dave Aranda’s aggressiveness is correct:
The key factor in deciding if Dave Aranda’s too aggressive on fourth down—or in other spots—is deciding how the situation changes if he adopts a more conservative mindset. The reality is that if he’s not aggressive, Baylor’s never in the spot the “play more conservatively” folks want.
On 4th and 6 from the Baylor 43, Aranda goes for it. The Bears gain 20 yards. On 4th and 4 from the six, Gerry Bohanon threw a pick, which gives BYU the ball at the 20. If he kicks a field goal, then sure, Baylor has three points. But if Baylor scores, it has more points than making two field goals in that spot.
Even after the pick, Baylor ended up near the spot it would be by punting (offense has the ball at the 20). If you’re so conservative that you want to kick field goals on 4th and 4, then you probably are going to advocate punting when Aranda went for it. So Baylor was only in a position to debate that idea—whether to kick or not—because it went for it. You only put yourself in that spot by being aggressive.
Before halftime, Aranda elected to onside kick. The Bears got it. On 4th and 1, Bohanon was unable to extend quite far enough on a sneak, and BYU took over. Once again, the Cougars did not score. Some protested, “Just take the points!”
Once again, going for it was the right call. Baylor’s been effective on fourth downs, especially fourth and shorts. It’s fair to say Baylor should have handed the ball to Abram Smith—more on him below—but going for it gave Baylor a chance to really put BYU away before halftime.
The important thing is about correct systematic decisions. If a basketball coach takes more threes, sometimes his team will miss them. If you decide you’re going to eat healthier, occasionally you might buy a batch of bad vegetables and get sick. But it doesn’t change that over time, the correct decisions will work out more often than not.
Last year, Aranda foolishly punted from the Texas 30. I, and most of you, excoriated him for that decision. Aranda quickly admitted that was wrong. Then he decided to get more aggressive.
I’m even beyond the analytics in advocating for aggressiveness on fourth. I think there’s an even bigger positive than the numbers show for going for it more and onside kicking. It’s deflating for the defense if you recover an onside kick or if you stay on the field by converting.
Even up 31-17 at the half yard line, Aranda could have sent the field goal out to make it a three score game with 3:55 left. But Baylor’s likely to win either way. The Bears need to be able to gain one yard in back-to-back plays. Aranda has established the framework for Baylor: the Bears will go if it’s debatable. Smith took it in to make it 38-17. Or 17-38 in a fitting tribute to the Final Four:
I can confirm that Baylor is indeed Fetty Wapping Houston pic.twitter.com/U986MS0epr— Kendall (@kendallkaut) April 3, 2021
It’s within the Overton window to say Aranda should be less aggressive. But it’s that aggressiveness that’s put Baylor in these good spots.
2) Dillon Doyle is a true two-way player:
Travis Roeder thinks he might be an NFL fullback.
Doyle caught a touchdown pass and ran one in as a fullback. At Oklahoma State, Abram Smith credited him for freeing up a hole for a long touchdown.
In the fourth quarter he picked up a sack (one of five for Baylor on the day) to put BYU at 3rd and 22. The Cougars settled for a field goal after.
I was impressed by Doyle when he met with the media following the loss in Stillwater. He was solemn, but understood where the Bears needed to improve. They have.
He’s a unique weapon on both sides.
3) The running game is real and spectacular
Smith finished with 188 yards on 27 carries and added three rushing touchdowns. He’s great at breaking tackles, and if there’s a small gap, he rushes through it.
What makes Abram special is very similar to what makes Breece Hall great (they are different in many other ways but similar in this): his feet move in sync with his eyes. No wasted steps. So nimble, and when he makes a decision his body is fully in sync with it— ODB (@OurDailyBears) October 16, 2021
Smith will continue to get the bulk of carries at running back. Trestan Ebner has immense value, especially in the passing and return game.
And Ebner’s valuable in the running game. In the fourth quarter, he notched 37 yards on third down to extend the drive against the Cougars. He also picked up the first down running wide on 3rd and 6, which extended the drive that ended with a Baylor touchdown. Ebner finished with 11 carries for 95 yards.
4) Gerry Bohanon recovered well from the first drive:
Bohanon had his first interception of the season. He missed the linebacker in the end zone, leading to a BYU interception.
He responded nearly flawlessly. In the third quarter, his strikes to Tyquan Thornton was an RGIII-esque throw while he called the game in the booth.
Through seven games, Bohanon has exceeded even the wildest expectations from Baylor fans.
5) Bowl eligible:
After one coach tweeted out the infamous “Six after six” with money bags in 2016, several folks claimed that man didn’t exactly earn a paycheck the rest of the way.
These coaches have earned their salaries. Grimes’ offense is world’s better than last season’s. Aranda and Ron Roberts have the defense playing well. With how the COVID season would always make it tough for a new staff, it’s okay Baylor didn’t have that offensive staff last year, but it sure is nice to have them this year and hopefully for many more.
6) Press man coverage has to improve:
Raleigh Texada and Kalon Barnes are put in some tough positions to allow the Bears to bring extra pressure and stop the run.
But the duo had some trouble in one-on-one coverage (Barnes did a nice job breaking up a pass in the fourth quarter though). That’s going to happen—a QB wants to attack that coverage—but the expectations are rising in Waco. And to contend for a Big 12 title, Baylor’s got to do a better job.
7) BYU belongs in the Big 12:
The Cougars want to be here. They were excited to play in this game. Both the president and athletic director traveled to Waco. Bob Bowlsby made a stop too.
We’ll miss playing Texas and Oklahoma. We’ll enjoy a lot more of the people from BYU more than a lot of the people from Texas.