An old staple of our game coverage here on ODB was a “Morning After” post, typically on Sundays, where I would put together information about the game the night before, including links, notes, tweets, highlights, and a few thoughts on how everything played out. In preparing this one, I couldn’t find a good example of what I wanted to do here, so we’re going to create from whole cloth and see how things come out. Let’s start with ODB’s own coverage of the game:
NOTES FROM THE BOX SCORE:
QB Blake Shapen—17/20 passing for 214 yards, 2 TDs
QB Kyron Drones—5/7 passing for 100 yards
RB Richard Reese—9 carries, 62 yards, 2 TDs
RB Qualan Jones—6 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD
WR Monaray Baldwin—2 carries for 46 yards, 1 TD AND 4 catches for 84 yards, 1 TD
WR Hal Presley—3 catches, 56 yards, 1 TD
Defensively, there was a ton of rotation, so there was a 4-way tie for highest tackler on the team (with 4) between Devin Neal, Matt Jones, Brayden Utley, and Al Walcott. Jaxon Player led the way with 1.5 tackles for loss and a half a sack (that he split with Gabe Hall). Alfonso Allen had his first-career sack, as well.
THOUGHTS ON THE GAME:
MCM—I wanted to start by giving a shoutout to our incredible Class of 2027 (the new freshmen) and their older counterparts for showing up, being loud, and staying through the entirety of Saturday night’s game. The student section was as full for a first game as we’ve seen it in quite some time, and I applaud Baylor, as well, for opening up the entire Line section (which was nearly full anyways) to students almost immediately. We did not have the same issue with the wings of that section being empty and Baylor not letting them fill.
Staying on the game experience for a second—in case you weren’t there for the game, Baylor brought in a DJ (DJ Elusive) that is located on the Berm itself and (apparently) handles all the in-game music for the stadium. He did a great job, in my opinion, but the relationship between the DJ and the Golden Wave Band was ... a work in progress. At different times they almost seemed to be in competition with each other, although I’m sure that wasn’t the case. It just seemed like the respective roles had not yet been worked out, and neither was sure what the other was supposed to be doing. I’m sure they’ll work it out.
Regarding the on-field product—you will recall where I said before the game that in a matchup like this, where one team is so obviously superior to the other, there’s not a lot you can learn. I still think that is true. Albany is the worst team we will play this season, probably by a lot. That being said, the experience of playing a team wearing someone else’s jerseys isn’t meaningless, and I have #thoughts:
- This game was a lot more about BYU than it was Albany. I do not agree with the idea that we were running a basic offense; in fact, it seemed like the opposite was true. Because we are still trying to figure out our best packages and who fits where at the skill positions, it seemed like we were intentionally not running the base offense but instead trying things out to see what worked. I had to remind myself of that when I thought about the relatively disappointed rushing offense in the first half. That’s also probably why Shapen threw so many times in 2+ quarters. Just keep that in mind.
- Blake Shapen passed his first test as the anointed starter with flying colors, finishing 17/20 passing for 214 yards and 2 TDs. Both of those TDs were things of beauty, particularly the throw to Hal Presley—Presley’s first-career TD reception—that, when thrown, I did not expect to be caught. Presley did a fantastic job getting his feet down considering where he caught the ball and how fast he was moving to do so. But on Shapen, I’m not sure how what else you could have expected; he looked good moving around the pocket, threw several strong deep balls including the two TDs, and moved through his progressions well when he needed to.
- Kyron Drones, Shapen’s backup, also had an excellent game beginning in the third quarter. He led the Bears to four second-half touchdown drives and had two particular good throws of his own—one to Jaylen Ellis for 50 yards that went more like 65 yards in the air and one to Drake Dabney that went down to the 1-yard line. Drones showed off his exceptional arm strength and ran for a TD late.
- The offensive line was, frankly, disappointing, particularly on the right side. Gavin Byers, the starting RT, had a very tough game against an underwhelming Albany line, and I saw a couple of plays where Grant Miller got beat at RG. They weren’t alone, and the entire unit needs to get better as soon as this week against BYU. It may have been part of the game plan to get Shapen going early, but Albany actually outrushed us in the first half of this game. I would have lost a lot of money betting on that.
- The defensive line seemed very strong, as we expected. Siaki Ika didn’t get that much time in the game, but Gabe Hall and Jaxon Player both played really well. One negative was QB contain—the one TD aside, Albany’s best offensive plays came from their QB breaking contain in desperation. That is to be expected in the first game of the season with the defenders pinning their ears back and just rushing, but it’s something to work on.
- The jet sweep with Monaray Baldwin (or whoever, but mainly Baldwin) is such an incredible weapon that it has to be accounted for in every opponent’s game plan. It’s the kind of thing that keeps DCs up nights and forces them to spend practice time preparing for, because Baylor is probably going to run it 2-3 times a game, and all it takes is one guy messing up and letting Baldwin get the edge, and he’s probably gone. Very few players in the country, much less the conference, are going to be able to catch him straight-up.
- I’d like to see more decisiveness inside from Taye McWilliams if he’s going to be the feature back in this offense. We’ll see plenty of Sqwirl Williams because he’s such a weapon, but the offense needs a bellcow back, and Taye has all the tools to be that guy. The problem is that he seems to want to bounce outside every play at this point, and Qualan Jones is better in that particular role.
- Also, Richard Reese has a little something. Not sure what his role ends up being long-term, and he was going against a tired Albany team in the second half, but he looked really good.
All-in-all, not much to complain about from a 69-10 win where we outgained the other team by 350-ish yards, but there are a few things to work on. It was a fun game to attend, and I was very happy to see some of the ODB folks before the game!
My “He Got That Bear In Him” Player of the Week Award Winner: Monaray Baldwin.
PBP—I concur with Mark’s sentiments pretty much in their entirety, but also want to give a shout out to the Freshman Class. They showed up and stayed. With their upperclassmen counterparts and a good chunk of the remaining fans heading for the exits, the Line stayed remarkably full until the final whistle. That was excellent to see. Mark is also absolutely right in applauding Baylor (and the stadium staff) for allowing student to fill down into the empty portions of the Line section immediately. That was something that took AGES last year, and it was an eyesore on TV. Kudos for starting the year off right in that regard.
Also, I enjoyed the introduction of the DJ. That has been a thankless job for years, and hiring a professional to take care of the music will hopefully go a long way towards stabilizing that aspect of the in-game atmosphere. I am confident that they’ll get coordination issues sorted out between the band and the DJ fairly quickly.
- 14 Rushes, 49 yards. That’s the first half rushing stats, minus sacks (SIDE NOTE: Box Scores really need to stop including sacks as a part of the rushing statistics. That makes no sense). The rushing attack was clearly lackluster in the first half, with (as Mark pointed out) the right side of the offensive line being responsible for some, an early tendency to move east-west by McWilliams, and a DE reading a Monaray Baldwin jet sweep to perfection. The Bears only attempted four rushes in the second quarter. But they immediately made their point to start the second half, ripping off a 6-play, 80 yard drive to start the second half, all of it coming on the ground. They ended up finishing with 259 yards rushing on 41 attempts, for 6.3 YPC (including sacks, because I don’t want to spend any more time doing math). While the running game wasn’t spectacular, I’m not particularly worried about it just yet. Talk to me next week.
- Midway through the second quarter, I mentioned to NickOso (who sits next to me) that it felt like instead of deliberately bringing a vanilla offensive scheme, they were purposefully throwing it in order to get their receivers much-needed experience before the BYU game. Perhaps the coaches felt like it was more important to get that experience for the receivers before heading to Provo. I’m okay with that.
- While it felt like McWilliams some “happy feet” out of the backfield in the running game, it was good to see him utilized in the passing game. Both he and Qualan Jones caught balls out of the backfield. That’s going to be an appreciated element to this offense as the receivers find their footing.
- Seeing Gavin Holmes run a punt back for a touchdown gave me ALL of the warm feelings. He has had some of the worst injury luck in his career at Baylor. Whether or not he has a major role in the offense as a receiver this season, it was wonderful to see him have an impact on this game, and I think he’s able to provide stable leadership to a room that’s heavy on talent but light on experience. Aranda confirmed in today’s presser that he is a leader in the room.
- The defense played fairly vanilla, but there was a TON to like from that unit. Albany struggled to move the ball all game long, finding the end zone only once, and on a drive that started on a short field. I really liked what I saw from both Devin Neal and Al Walcott. Go through Travis’s review thread to find the play where Neal absolutely destroyed the QB’s momentum on a scramble. It was impressive.
- Defensive containment on a mobile QB is going to be important. That was where most of Albany’s success came on Saturday. I fully expect the staff to be working on edge discipline and preventing the QB from breaking containment going forward.
BAYLOR - ALBANY REVIEW THREAD! We have football!— Travis Roeder (@Travis_Roeder) September 4, 2022
Alb starts with G-lead power & backside RPO. Walcott forces the give to the RB. New inside backer Matt Jones reads his keys perfectly here, he has the C gap. Gabe plays too high here against the double, needs to anchor down. pic.twitter.com/bAee9NwudR
Start here and pack a lunch for an in-depth review of the entire game from our old friend Travis Roeder.
it’s 56-10 in the fourth quarter… and the baylor line is just… still all here?— locked on baylor drake c. toll (@drakectoll) September 4, 2022
these freshmen are nuts. pic.twitter.com/JGoDF4815K
The Baylor Line is still out here. pic.twitter.com/nbFITKA4RE— Darby Brown (@darbyjobrown) September 4, 2022
Per Dave Aranda, 30 total Baylor players ran more than 20 MPH in Saturday’s game.— locked on baylor drake c. toll (@drakectoll) September 5, 2022
That’s actual insanity.
A young Baylor fan challenged Monaray to a quick game of Rock-Paper-Scissors after the game, and he won, so Monaray gave him his arm sleeve.— Mandy Bruce Sherman (@boombie02) September 4, 2022
As a mom, these moments are just as special as the big plays on the field.
Person > Player@Monaray2x @BUFootball pic.twitter.com/SLLizTORj8