In the third quarter, Iowa State outgained Baylor 184-(I think) 15 and averaged about 10 yards a carry in not only overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit actually taking the lead at 31-24. They ultimately held on in the fourth to win 38-31 after yet another furious rally fell short due to a missed read (to a wide-open Fleeks in the corner of the endzone) that would have tied the game. But this game wasn’t lost when we basically punted on an entire quarter—it was lost, once again, when we decided not to make a QB change away from Charlie Brewer.
After the first two series for the Baylor offense where we went up 14-0, you might have thought “He’s back! Eat it, Brewer haters!” and started filling that drafts folder to shove my nose in it. Turns out that early success was just as much fool’s gold as those fourth-quarter comebacks have been the last three weeks. Aside from the first TD after the long reception by Atkinson where he had to wait for the ball to get to him, we had a short field, a defensive TD, then nothing.
From the point where we went up 14-7 and not including the drive to end the half (although I probably should), Baylor went seven drives before our next offensive TD. Those drives:
- 2 plays, 2 yards—Brewer INT
- 10 plays, 29 yards—Punt
- 3 plays, 4 yards—Punt (muffed)
- 4 plays, 2 yards—FG
- 3 plays, -2 yards—Punt
- 3 plays, 9 yards—Punt
- 5 plays, 7 yards—Punt
That’s not going to get it done, and there’s no amount of grittiness, moxie, or whatever word you want to insert that will keep your defense from getting ground into dust by a team with big TEs, an all-world RB, a veteran OL, and a QB that can run. You need to keep the ball and sustain drives (or, ideally, score points of your own), and we didn’t. This isn’t a new problem; in every game we’ve lost, you can find a similar stretch as long or longer. In the one above, ISU scored 28 points.
I could not possibly respect what Charlie Brewer has done for this program more. As a freshman he helped show the signs of life that got people to #TrusttheProcess. As a sophomore he helped lead Baylor to a bowl win over Vanderbilt the year after going 1-11. However you feel about whether we won because of Brewer or in spite of him late last year, as a junior we went 11-3 with a loss in the Sugar Bowl. If I recall correctly, 11 losses to 11 wins in two years had never happened before. He’s given everything he has to this program a thousand times in a thousand different ways. I completely understand why people want to believe that he’s the best option. I understand why he’s beloved.
But Brewer was always the kind of player that lived on the margins, that needed to put his body out there for that extra yard or hold on to the ball a second longer so the WR could get open and he could fit it in. There was a reason we were his only P5 offer, and he flipped from SMU. And three years later, primarily due to injuries, those margins are gone. Now he’s holding on to the ball too long and taking sacks, short-arming open receivers when you attempt to go vertical, staring down his first read time after time, and checking down constantly because he knows he can’t get the ball where it needs to go. He was never great at reading defenses, and he hasn’t gotten better. There is no system that can overcome those deficiencies.
I recognize that this team is far from perfect—our OL is patchwork at best, we’re missing two of our three best RBs, we’ve been COVIDed out of more practices than probably any team in the country, and our first-year Head Coach continues to make baffling decisions on when to punt or when not to, when we should try to score or just take it to the half, etc. We have a Frankenstein’s monster of an offensive system with a titular offensive coordinator and a passing-game coordinator that have never worked together and apparently want to do different things. But that’s why we’ve been calling it a Year Zero all along. The point should be to build for the future and figure out what you have and what you’re going to do with it.
We have at least two players on this roster—Gerry Bohanon and Jacob Zeno—that are more physically talented than Brewer and (notwithstanding potential transfers) have significantly more time left in Waco. One of them should be the QB of the future here. But you won’t know which—or if—unless you give them the chance to try. So far Bohanon has seen the field twice and Zeno may or may not be on the sideline at all (I’m exaggerating for emphasis; I’m sure he’s there). You might argue in response that you don’t know they’ll be better than Brewer, but let’s assume they are, then we just lose by more? What if they’re better? Let’s find out.
Baylor is now 1-4 on the season having lost 4 in a row and only beating Kansas. We have a bad Texas Tech team coming up and then finish the season with Kansas State, Oklahoma in Norman, and Oklahoma State; all of them could be ranked. We should have already done it, but now is the time to be looking to the future; we should be figuring out where we are going, not rewarding the past. I don’t know how or why you could look at these games and think this is what we need to be doing at the quarterback position, the most important on the field.
Before I hit post on this one, I want to recognize a few things from this game that were, in fact, good. First, Kalon Barnes has earned Jules Winfield’s wallet. I hope he decides to take advantage of the free eligibility year to come back and play without a giant club on his arm. He’s one of the best corners we’ve had in years. Second, if there is an award for Most Improved Player in CFB and Jalen Pitre doesn’t win it, that award is forever tainted. Third, I can only hope against hope that Sqwirl Williams comes back healthy and quickly. He brings an explosiveness that we clearly lack. Fourth, Trestan Ebner continues to be amazing. The team as a whole has continued to fight, continued to play hard, and this game was better than last. If you want an upshot, it’s there.
We’re all Baylor Bears here and we all want the same thing: success for a program we can be proud of. I hope we all remember that.