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ODB Grade Report: Baylor vs. Buffalo

I'm now sitting down, watching the Next Big Thing in the NFL, which is coincidentally the Already Huge Thing we've come to know in CFB. And now that Chip Kelly is in Philadelphia, who is left as the Best Offensive Mind in The Land (of CFB) ... our own Art Briles.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

139-16 in two games. That's where Baylor is right now. Sure, our competition hasn't been great, and we have yet to begin conference play. But the schedule you have is the schedule you play, and you can't ask much more from a team than average scores of 69.5-8. Even if you completely outclass your opponent, it's never so simple as just rolling the ball out on the field. At some point, you have to actually run your offense and have an offense run against you. So far, this team has done both of those things just about as well as we could have possibly expected, even in our wildest dreams. So well, in fact, that we've hit the O/U in our first game in margin of victory and very nearly did it again in our second.

Me (Mark C. Moore)

QB: A+ -- I don't know if I've ever given this grade out before, but I'm doing it now. Bryce Petty has been amazing in the short season thus far, and all he did on Saturday was post a 99.7 on ESPN's scale of 1-100. He had three incomplete passes, two of which went to the boundary and should have been caught in bounds. The other was a bit short but could still have been caught. What I'm saying is, Petty was very nearly perfect against a FBS team.

I don't know how you could look at Petty's performance this season and not be extremely excited. He's done exactly what you hope to see against inferior competition: dominated. The only negative, and it doesn't have anything to do with him, is that he hasn't gotten the reps I would have hoped to see because of the blowouts. When he's played, he's been Griffin-esque.

RBs: A -- The image of Lache Seastrunk trucking that hapless Buffalo defender and then scampering to the endzone might be my favorite yet of this young season. I don't know how many times, and in how many different ways, I can laud his development. He looks night-and-day from where he was as a high school recruit, when every play went outside (whether it should have or not), and he was all sizzle and little steak.

Glasco Martin suffered a bit of a setback with his ankle injury, but thankfully, the combination of Rashodrick Linwood and Lache has been more than good enough to make up for it. We'll get Glasco back at full strength for conference play (and probably ULM before that), when we'll need the thunder. That's when you'll see the fully-operational Baylor offense pound people into submission over four full quarters. So far, we've almost been deprived of it simply because Briles is a classy gent who refuses to scorch the Earth.

WRs: A -- Tevin Reese, outstanding. Antwan Goodley, outstanding. Each provides something the other lacks: Reese, blinding speed, Goodley, incredible strength. Add Jay Lee to that group, though he doesn't deserve it just yet, and you have the full complement of WR skills represented. In this game, both Goodley and Reese went over 100 yards receiving, both of them primarily through long TDs where they ripped the defense to shreds, and were then pulled because the game was out of hand. This week won't be the last one where that combo absolutely kills an opposing defense. Reese's touchdown was the stuff of beauty, and the kind of play that should have served as a warning to all about what was about to befall the Buffalo defense. Nobody laid a hand on him through to the endzone. He is pure speed.

Robbie Rhodes didn't have the best day in relief of those two, but he's still learning. The fact that they believe in him enough already to give him reps with the first team says everything, I think. You can see the potential.

OL: A -- Got a little help from the refs when a few holds (most of them probably on Khalil Mack) weren't called, but for the most part, fantastic. Mack, Buffalo's defensive superstud, had something like 4 tackles in the entire game, and I can't recall a situation where he affected dynamically anything Baylor tried to do offensively.

DTs: B+ -- Even though we lost starter Trevor Clemons-Valdez to injury (he should return for ULM), this group managed to build on last week's game and look significantly better, to my eyes. Buffalo's rushing offense is no joke, and I was concerned about how Beau Blackshear, TCV, and Suleiman Masumbuko might look. I was pleased. Terrell Brooks even got into the game in the second half and managed to play meaningful reps with the second team. That will be important for our depth.

DEs: A -- Very strong once again. The pass rush wasn't as good as I hoped it would be early in the game, but Terrance Lloyd got on the board with his first sack of the season and Chris McAllister continued his strong early-season play. Shawn Oakman is an incredible weapon to bring off the bench, and he managed to pad his TFL total with 2 more. Jamal Palmer recovered a fumble after Oakman's gigantic paw stripped it from the RB's grasp.

LBs: A -- I thought all three, especially Sam Holl, were outstanding. In a very short sample, the move of Holl down to the NB spot has paid off handsomely, allowing him to play closer to the line of scrimmage and not have the same coverage responsibilities. In this game, he led the team in tackles with 9, tackles for loss with 2.5, and even registered a sack for good measure that forced the fumble Bryce Hager took to the house. Eddie Lackey had probably the quietest 8 tackle, 1 TFL game in history.

S: B -- Buffalo could actually throw the ball down the field, and that fact apparently hit our DBs as a bit of a shock. Ahmad Dixon had a decent day, and it seemed like Buffalo threw away from him for the most part (possibly because their only receiver, Alex Neutz, was on the other side of the field, not because of fear), but Terrell Burt had a long day helping with Neutz. The good news was that when he was caught out of position, he managed to recover sufficiently to very nearly make the play. The bad part of that is he was caught out of position, to begin with.

CBs: C -- They still miss Demetri Goodson, and it shows. Neutz tore them up down the field, and he was all Buffalo had. How we didn't account for him is a mystery. My guess is that we baited them somewhat to try, keeping our safeties closer to the line purposefully to stop Branden Oliver, and that opened things up over the top. That exposed Joe Williams and K.J. Morton a bit, the former more than the latter. Xavien Howard played decently well in his first real game action, snagging his first career interception, but on the whole, this unit has to be better. Considering it was their first real test of any kind this season, I'm confident they will be.

Crowd: C -- I've gotten a few emails about this, so I felt compelled to respond. Yes, the crowd in the second half was sparse, at best, especially on the student side. Yes, I commented on twitter at the time that I wasn't very happy about that. Art Briles did the same after the game.

That being said, I'm willing to give our crowd a mulligan on this one because of one thing: the heat. When the game started, it was 120 degrees in a giant concrete bowl with nothing but direct sunlight raining down. Last year, we didn't face anything like that for the entire season, the first two games starting at 6:30 and 7:00, respectively, and the temps being far more bearable. It's not hard to understand how people might decide that they don't want to sit and watch a blowout on metal bleachers so hot you could cook eggs. Had I been there with my family, I probably would have done exactly the same thing.

I want our team to have the crowds they deserve cheering them on, so I'm not excusing anyone from leaving early, nor am I saying that Briles is at all wrong to be a little incensed by it. What I'm saying is that I understand why it happened, and I'm not willing to condemn our fans for it on the whole, even if looked pretty awful on TV.

Peter Pope (pbpope)

QB: A -- I'm really not sure how to nitpick Bryce Petty's play when all he did was go 13 of 16 for 338 yards, two touchdowns and added another on the ground. His TD was not designed; it appeared that he improvised after bobbling the snap a little bit and, not wanting to risk a bad transfer, kept it and rolled into the end zone. I liked seeing that kind of snap decision from him. Football Study Hall reported he earned a 300.0 efficiency rating. His release was quick, his throws accurate. Gone were those glimpses of holding onto the ball too long that we saw against Waffle House. On his three incompletions, one was on him, I think, where he underthrew Tevin Reese in the end zone. The other two were sideline passes that were both nearly caught; Robbie Rhodes JUST stepped out of bounds on the near sideline early in the game, and Tevin Reese bobbled a ball as he stepped out in the 2nd Quarter. Seth Russell added another 114 yards, going 6 for 9 in mop up duty. Seth did a little too much to try and make plays, but he's young and has plenty of time to learn and grow.

RBs: A -- Lache Seastrunk continues to show his maturity as a runner. He knows when to dance and when to power, and we saw a little bit of both to great effect on Saturday. His day was done by halftime, and while some around me at the game wished that he'd come back out for one more series to bolster his Heisman campaign, I think that 150 yards on 17 carries with 3 TDs in one half of play is plenty. It's clear that Glasco Martin is still recovering from his ankle and they're serious about easing him back into play; he had only 1 carry for 7 yards. Shock Linwood added another 76 yards on 12 carries and 2 TDs, but it seemed like he had more than that to me. He is exciting to watch, and is going to be a big factor in this offense once Thunder & Lightning move on to the next level.

WRs: A- -- Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley both had fantastic days, each catching four passes and scoring a touchdown apiece. Reese had 130 yards and Goodley 124 in remarkably mirror-imaged days. Both had long TD runs that were spectacular. Reese looped around his defender after catching the ball and then hit the jets, leaving everyone behind. Goodley's touchdown was equally impressive, splitting defenders and kicking it into another gear, sprinting past the 50 yard line and leaving the defenders in his dust. Goodley is such a powerful receiver, displaying such strength with his size, but to see that speed is really impressive. The only knocks were a few dropped passes. Robbie Rhodes has some maturing to do, also; he took a really bad route on a play in garbage time where Russell tried to find him in open space. He turned the wrong way, then turned back but the ball was over his head at that point. Had he made the right turn to start, he would have had it and had open field in front of him. Jay Lee had a quiet day, not catching a pass until the second half in mop-up, but did have a TD negated by a holding call. The catch on that play was impressive in that he was well-covered, and the TD he actually scored was very nice.

OL: A -- Having only played one year of football, I'm still working on training my eye to observe what's happening with the "big uglies" up front. But on a day where your first team offense doesn't have more than one third down per possession, ALL of which were converted, I'd say that your offensive line is having a pretty good day. Did you even hear Khalil Mack's name called? The first team destroyed the front line of Buffalo's defense, imposing its will all afternoon and not allowing a single negative play. Keeping this grade from being an A+ is the second team. Things got a little rougher when the second team came in during mop up time, giving up a whole four plays for a loss, some of which aren't entirely the fault of the line. It was a dominating performance all around.

TEs: A- -- I don't have a whole lot to say here, other than it was good to see the TEs get some touches this week. Their blocking remained solid as far as I could tell. Monk had a couple of nice catches after Jordan Najvar went down. When Najvar took that hit, we were hoping he simply had the wind knocked out of him, but they helped him out of the stadium. Instead of heading back to the locker room, they made for the nearest exit and got him out of there. I really hope he's okay.

DTs: B+ -- Like the OL, I'm still training my eye to look at defenders specifically when watching the game back instead of watching the ball. It took the defensive tackles a little bit to get their feet underneath them, it seemed. Buffalo had success up the middle early, but like Waffle House, that was quickly corrected and the D-Line shut down the run in excellent fashion for the rest of the day.

DEs: A- -- Terrance Lloyd had a much better game. Chris McAllister remained solid, and Shaw Oakman is still a frigging tree. They got pressure on the quarterback and got to him a couple of times. Even on the flea flicker they very nearly got to him. All in all, I thought it was a solid effort by the DEs.

LB//NB/Bear: A -- Great outing by the linebackers and the Bear back. Hager stumbles 91 yards for a TD and basically forces Baylor to use a timeout so that he can catch his breath and get back out on the field. Sam Holl seems to be relishing his switch to the "Bear" position. He had one of the best games that I can remember from him. Incredibly solid outing.

S: B -- Ahmad Dixon didn't have a spectacular day, but he did block an extra point, so there's that. Terrell Burt got burned by Alex Neutz a couple of times in coverage. On the flea flicker, he ran right into Neutz, bumping him backwards into perfect position to catch the ball. There's definite room for improvement.

CBs: C -- Man, Joe Williams and KJ Morton were used and abused by Neutz all day. He routinely beat them, getting the inside position on them when he wanted and getting behind them basically all day long. I was surprised that Buffalo didn't target Williams and Morton more often, to be perfectly honest. But, in their defense, they were hardly tested at all last week against the Waffle House, playing mostly in run support. They've got time for improvement with the open date, which is a good thing because they need it.

Special Teams: B+ (Aaron Jones: A) -- Aaron Jones had another spectacular day. Multiple touchbacks. Controlled kickoffs. It looked to me like there were a couple that he intentionally let go short to see what the special teams could do. The coverage was pretty great, too, preventing any major returns and mostly stopping the returner short of the 25 yard line. Special teams also blocked an extra point. But multiple stupid, undisciplined penalties keep the unit from getting highest marks. Eliminate personal fouls after the play and they're a much improved unit over last season.

Prashanth Francis (Prashanth Francis)

QB: A -- I mentioned last week that it was hard to figure out how to 'adjust' Petty's stats for the quality of the opponent. While I prefer statistical/objective measures, the numbers at this point in the college season aren't very useful. However, Buffalo had more talent than Waffle House and the offensive stats were just as absurd. While it's important to temper expectations heading into conference play, Baylor's offense performed at a level and looked similar to the most elite offenses of the past decade. Petty is almost certain to struggle at some point this season, but I'm fairly confident now that his average performances are going to be good enough to win a lot of games this year.

RBs: A -- SEASTRUNKING! LACHE SUPERIOR! I don't know your punny adjective of choice, but Lache continues to show the maturation and progression from his first year to his second that we saw glimpses of in Week 1. Petty has been impressive for his relative lack of mistakes and absurd stat lines, but Lache has been other worldly to watch this year. A downside to the 'thunder and lightening' style moniker that Glasco and Lache picked up is that it puts both of them into far more restrictive boxes than is warranted by their talent and on field performance. Glasco has much more speed than a(n Old) Jerome Bettis/Javorskie Lane type RB and Lache has a lot more power than a CJ Spiller/Jamaal Charles type RB. I can't wait to see the production that comes when teams start respecting the passing game more.

Also, for all of the talk about Lache being selfish this off-season, it was great to see how he caught up with the DBs chasing Tevin Reese in an attempt to help block. Throw in his excitement for his Baylor brothers on the sideline and it all adds up to a fairly narrative-busting day. Too bad most of the narrative-builders didn't see it.

WRs: A -- Once again, we saw Tevin Reese make exceptional plays from the WR position - making me wish I could go back and project great things for him. And as impressive as his speed is, it's the incredibly intimidating presence of Antwan Goodley with which I was most impressed. I don't think Goodley is going to be able to outrun Big 12 CBs the way he did against Buffalo, but I'm confident that the toughness will translate. WRs with that level of physicality and toughness are a rare breed and I'm glad we have it to pair with Reese's speed.

Robbie Rhodes and Terrance Williams had oddly similar nights for very different teams. Young guys making young guys mistakes while still showing the size/speed combination that doesn't worry you about their futures. You just hope the future arrives quickly.

OL: A -- Loved what we saw from the first team OL. They faced a tough, aggressive front 7 on Saturday, and while they benefited from how quickly Petty was getting the ball out, they still appeared to relish run blocking/pancake making and gave Petty enough time on some of the longer developing plays. One more game against an undersized, quick front 7 before they get to go up against some Big 12 beef.

TE: B+ -- It was nice to see them used a bit more in the passing game, but all I could think of when I saw Monk rumbling down the field was this:

DTs: B+ -- It was clear that Baylor's primary defensive goal on Saturday was to stop the Oliver-based rushing attack. Given that Buffalo rushed 49 times for 83 yards - a stunning 1.7 ypc - I think it's clear that their mission was accomplished. Buffalo needed to rush effectively not only to open up their passing game, but also to control the clock and keep their defense off the field. Baylor was (once again) willing to place a wager on their offense running more efficiently at a faster pace than their opponent. They (once again) won that bet. I noted improved performances at DT here, with a combination of solid holding of their ground against an OL that had success at times against OSU and some excellent negative plays. I'm not sure if Masumbuko will be able to maintain that level of play, but getting even average play out of our DTs likely means that this defense is a lock for one of the best in the conference. And that's in no small part because of our....

DEs: A -- In a young season full of good signs and development, I think that the improvement at DE is probably the most important. It was not a given that we would get the same level of performance out of Chris McAllister, but instead we've gotten great play out of him and Shawn Oakman (ROLL. DAMN. TREE.) and better than expected play from Palmer and Lloyd. The ability to generate a pass rush without relying on blitzes is going to be key to allowing Phil Bennett to call his preferred zone schemes with the back 7 players in order to generate turnovers.

LBs: A -- Sam Holl had his best game in a Baylor jersey - a type of game that I did not think him capable of having. Major kudos to him and his continuing role closer to the line of scrimmage. Lackey and Hager were also excellent.

S: B -- I think it's best to ignore the flea flicker for projection purposes. Even ignoring that play, though, I'm concerned about the communication between our safeties and our CBs in coverage. Much of the time, it's hard to tell as an outsider who is supposed to providing tighter coverage, but it certainly needs to improve. Given that Buffalo basically had one deep threat and a QB with an unimpressive arm, it's borderline shocking that they weren't able to do a better job containing Neutz. Still, the run support and TE coverage was generally good and Neutz was the primary responsibility of the...

CBs: C -- Come back, Dmitri, you're our only hope!*

*But, seriously, Xavien, if you want to develop into a Big 12 caliber CB overnight, please be my guess.

Special Teams: A - You know what this thing needs? MORE STORK BICEPS KISSING!