In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described obscenity—in the context of pornography—by saying“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced... [b]ut I know it when I see it... .” I could say the same thing about a competent offensive scheme and the execution thereof; I can’t tell you all the x’s and o’s that make an effective offense, but I know it when I see it. And we are seeing it in the 2021 Baylor Bears with Coaches Grimes and Mateos at the helm of the overall offense and the OL, respectively.
If it was not already apparent from the outset this season—and it should have been—due to the score, the lack of big plays, or whatever, it absolutely should be now: Baylor’s offense is leaps and bounds better than a year ago and probably better than any we saw in Matt Rhule’s tenure. The offensive line is barely recognizable; what was a major weakness has turned into a strength, having been PFF’s #1 OL each of the first two weeks. So, too, is the running game. With something like 970 rushing yards through the first three games, Baylor has already exceeded the entire output from last season (813) in nine (by a lot, and the difference kept going up while I wrote this post). Both Abram Smith (16 carries for 122 yards and a TD today) and Trestan Ebner (12 carries for 72 yards today) have more yards through three games (366 and 317, respectively) than Craig Williams, our leading rusher, did all of last year (197). Along the same line, the entire team accounted for 8 rushing TDs in 2020; Baylor scored its 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th of the season today, and Smith by himself has five. In the passing game, Gerry Bohanon (19/23 for 269 yards and 2 TDs today) has 5 passing TDs against no interceptions through his first three starts, RJ Sneed’s 128 receiving yards today put him at 260 for the season, and Thornton, who had just 159 in 2020, already has 180. On the whole Baylor is averaging something like 8.13 yards/play (1,682 yards on 207 plays) this year. Last year it was 4.44!
I could keep going, but you get the point. This is a different, far better offense with far better potential, particularly if Bohanon continues to improve as he gets more experience, something you would absolutely expect him to do. He’s shown all the tools you need to run this offense, might be a robot in terms of reacting to pressure, and has solidified his hold on the QB job. I know Travis is positively giddy watching him play, and Baylor hasn’t even really tried to use him as a runner yet away from the goalline. And though you’d be right to point to our first three opponents as less-than-stellar, there is tremendous value in doing what you should do against lesser opponents. Just ask Ohio State how they feel right now about that Tulsa game. And if you can point to poor performance against bad teams as negative harbingers, you should be able to point to good ones, too. The only real negative so far has been turnovers, and that definitely needs to get cleaned up. Overall, this is an offense that is imposing its will on people.
The defense, on the other hand, seems to have lost a step from last season, particularly on the line. LSU transfer Siaki Ika, who missed last week due to undisclosed violations of team rules, has underwhelmed thus far, having trouble staying on the field in the other two games. Garmon Randolph played for the first time today. Terrel Bernard doesn’t seem quite like himself. Defensive stats tend to lag, so we don’t know the official tally yet, but I believe we have a total of 6 sacks this season, maybe 5. We won’t play many QBs as fast as Jason Bean, but keeping contain was an issue, particularly in the first half. This should all be correctable, and if you have faith in anything at this point, it should be our defensive staff, but these are issues. Thankfully, I feel pretty good about them.
Before I finish things up here, I want to talk about this specific series between Baylor and Kansas, or at least the last 12 games, all of which Baylor has won. These are the scores since 2010:
2011: 31-30 (look at you, Turner Gill!)
That’s an average (rounded) score of 48-11.
A lot of things change in life. Baylor has had three head coaches during this time, the conference has realigned twice, we’ve rebuilt at least twice and had two seasons of 2 or fewer wins, but one thing has remained constant: we do not lose to Kansas in football. Some. schools. do, but we don’t.