Baylor opened conference play with a 31 to 24 victory over Iowa State. Don’t let the angry Cyclones fans fool you — this game was not as close as the final score suggests. Here’s a breakdown of what the stats say.
When Baylor was on offense
Baylor QB Blake Shapen had his most impressive game of the season on Saturday, especially when you take the quality of opponent into account. He was accurate, connecting on 73% of his pass attempts, while not settling for check-down completions, with an above average 12.5 yards per completion.
Shapen accomplished this with a less-than-stellar pass blocking afternoon from Baylor’s offensive line. While the line limited Iowa State to 2 sacks, that’s 2 more than the Cyclones had against Southeast Missouri State and 1 more than the Cyclones had against Iowa. Based on PFF’s weekly grades, this was the worst performance by Connor Galvin and Gavin Byers of the season.
Offsetting the offensive line play (relative to the elite standard we have for them), were the wide receivers and tight ends. PFF lists only one drop in the game, a 100% contested catch rate, and an average depth of target of 20+ yards for both Gavin Holmes and Hal Presley. As a team, Baylor almost doubled their receiving touchdowns on the season with 3.
It’s a good thing that Baylor had success through the air, because the rushing attack was uncharacteristically inefficient. Iowa State held Baylor to their lowest non-sack rushing yards per carry (3.3) on 39 carries. Richard Reese led the way with 78 yards on 21 carries, and Sqwirl Williams’ 10 carries and 36 yards accounted for most of the remainder. Neither back had a 20+ yard run, making this the third game this season Baylor has failed to register an explosive run.
As with pass protection, the offensive line also struggled in run blocking. Both 2.2 line yards per carry and a 23% stuff rate allowed are in the bottom 25th percentile of the country (and the worst of the season for Baylor). Jacob Gall and Micah Mazzccua had their worst games of the season, per PFF, though it’s worth mentioning that “worst games of the season” for this group simply means an average performance as opposed to an excellent one.
A lot of this sounds negative, but keep in mind that Iowa State is a good defensive team. They were 8th in the country in defensive FEI going into this game, and Baylor’s 31 points are more than the Cyclones have allowed all season...combined.
When Baylor was on defense
Baylor held Iowa State QB Hunter Dekkers to a season-low 64% completion percentage and forced two interceptions (their first of the season!). Unfortunately, Baylor’s defense was somewhat susceptible to explosive passing plays, as 17% of Iowa State’s completions went for 20 or more yards. This buoyed their yards per completion to 12.3. Both are above average for Iowa State as a team and nationally.
One area where Baylor’s defense really stood out was rushing the QB. They sacked Dekkers a season-high 4 times and on 10% of his drop backs. Bryson Jackson led the way with 2 sacks and 4 hurries by himself.
Baylor really excelled in run defense. The Bears held Iowa State to 3.7 non-sack yards per carry but an anemic 1.9 line yards per carry, which is in the bottom 10th percentile of the country. Why such a discrepancy between yards per carry and line yards per carry? 43% of Iowa State’s rushing yards came on one 37 yard carry, and the offensive line only gets full credit for the first 3 yards. Excluding the one long run, Iowa State had 2.1 yards per carry.
Another stat worth mentioning was Baylor’s stuff rate of 30%, which is just outside the top 10th percentile in the country. This means that almost a third of Iowa State’s rushes were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. Given this success, it’s strange that Baylor’s defense struggled in run defense on 3rd down — Iowa State converted all three of their rushing attempts on 3rd and 1.
Dave Aranda talks about the defense playing their 1/11th part, and that absolutely bore out here. No player had more than 3 run-blocking tackles per PFF, and 11 players had at least 1. Overall, AJ McCarty led the team with 7 tackles, Devin Lemear had 5, and Devin Neal and Matt Jones each had 4. 15 players recorded at least one tackle This was a solid all-around effort for the entire defense.
Data courtesy of CollegeFootballData.com and Pro Football Focus. Calculations performed by author. All statistics exclude garbage time.