I'm still trying to figure out how best to go about my typical Thoughts post this week, since I've procrastinated on it enough that it's now Tuesday and we played 5 days ago. I posted some of my reactions in a couple of different threads, most notably yesterday's about our returning WRs (in the comments). I'll probably post a few more in this thread as I watch the game, particularly the second half.
Here's what I said yesterday in case you don't want to click over:
- Bryce Petty was outstanding on Friday night. Better than I think anyone could have reasonably hoped for. He had three great throws that I wanted to highlight: 1) on the sideline to Cannon while moving to his right in the first quarter. That’s an NFL throw. 2) the back-shoulder fade that Lynx dropped. Outstanding timing throw that was right there. Lynx had alligator arms because he thought he was going to get jacked. 3) TD pass dropped by Hall. Petty was again moving to his right and still delivered the ball 40 yards down the field exactly where it needed to be. Hall thought about scoring before he caught the pass, so he dropped it.
- Kyle Fuller had a lot of trouble with the Buffalo NG in run blocking in this game. I’m going to go back and watch if he might not be a bigger problem in that area than I thought. I’m guessing that could be our big problem inside.
- OL was great overall in pass protection. We still haven’t given up a single sack all season.
- With a more deliberate pace from Buffalo, we saw a lot of substitutions early from Baylor, including switching between the 4-3 and 3-4 in the middle of drives. We ran more 3-4 this game than against Northwestern State by a lot.
- Javonte Magee ran with the 1s quite a bit starting in the 2Q. He replaced Blackshear, giving us Palmer-Billings-Magee-Oakman across the front four. That group is so quick together that it was really hard to run on them.
- After the long pass to Cannon ~3:00 to go in the first half, Bryce moved out to his right and then eventually threw the ball away because nothing was there. On that play, we lined Armstead up at TE on the left side of the field, and he did absolutely everything he could not to go downfield at all. It was funny because he’s obviously thinking like a tackle despite being an eligible receiver on that play. Go watch it again. You’ll see what I mean. He didn’t have anyone to block and just strafed sideways. That play starts at 1:08:56 in the above video.
- Finally saw some tempo from Baylor at several points, especially right after a first down. Buffalo had no answer. That’s where our best runs came outside of the two TDs that were just vintage Baylor trap plays.
- We went 10 quarters to start the season without allowing a TD. That’s pretty incredible.
- The only way to stop Cannon, like Reese, is to keep him from getting to full speed before Bryce releases the ball. That’s really tough to do when he lines up in the slot, since you rarely have a physical CB lined up over him there to jam him at the line. What you can do, and Buffalo did, is use a LB to redirect him immediately off his route. That was what happened on Petty’s first incomplete pass. Petty expected him to be in one spot and he wasn’t because the Buffalo LB pushed him off his line. He’ll learn with experience how to get back where he needs to be.
Having thought about it for another day or so, I stand by everything I said above and want to add a few more things.
- Tre'Von Armstead needs to work on his pad level when blocking out of the backfield. He gets out-leveraged by linebackers far too much for a guy with his size and strength. Part of this, I think, is due to the fact that we put him in a 2-point stance a lot of the times and then send him into the hole. I wonder if he wouldn't have a better pad level coming from a 3-point stance. He looks fine when lined up on the line, and I think that might be why.
- Someone asked me in the thread if I have any more major "concerns" after having watched the game a couple of times. My answer: not really. Even with a couple of lapses, Baylor looked legitimately good on defense in the first half Friday night. Very good. In the second half, all the typical culprits for below average defensive play reared their ugly heads: attempted arm tackles, guys dipping their heads, not running through plays, etc. etc. I attribute all of those things to a lack of focus after going up 35-0 against a Buffalo team that wasn't going to roll over and quit. Had we played the full game with the intensity of SMU, Buffalo might never have scored. But we did'nt, and that's something that can and will be addressed going forward.
- Bryce Hager missed a couple of tackles in this game on tight ends or receivers where he went for the interception or fumble strip instead of making a sure tackle. That's fine against Buffalo, but it won't be against others. I didn't expect to see that from an experienced player like him.
- Jamal Palmer could have had a strip-sack on his sack had he gone for it. Joe Licata had no idea he was there and carried the ball like a loaf of bread. He just went for the sack instead.
- I hate to pick on Ryan Reid because I think he's probably as good or better than K.J. Morton and Joe Williams were as soon as 2013. But with Xavien Howard across from him, he's going to get a lot of balls thrown his way, especially in a league that has a lot of good #2 or #3 WRs. I won't hold the almost-TD on Buffalo's first drive against him because it was just a blown play, and I don't know which of the two players (Orion Stewart being the other) was in the wrong.
- After watching it again, I'm more impressed with Aiavion Edwards' play on the pass that bounced off his head than I originally thought. It was a wheel route out of the backfield, not the kind of situation where you really want a LB covering a player down the field, but he actually kept with the RB pretty well after losing a step initially and was in position to make the tackle should the pass have been completed. Bennett gave him a talking-to after the fact about turning his head to look for the ball.
- I rewatched the Buffalo TD off the screen hoping to see the supposed hands to the face penalty the refs waved off. I didn't. That was just a busted play for the defense combined with a good call by the offense. By that point, Buffalo realized that our guys were basically just going through the motions and would rush the QB regardless, and they took advantage with a tunnel screen, the type of play where recognition by the DL/LBs is everything.
- I was more impressed with Blake Muir and Troy Baker in this game than I have been in a while. Both of our long TD runs came pulling Baker as the lead blocker in the exact same play that Lache ripped Kansas State apart with in 2012.
- Really can't say enough about our pass protection at this point. Petty moved well considering his injury, but the offensive line kept the pocket very clean, as they have all season. I dare say we've improved in that regard over last year, but it's hard to know with the caliber of defense we've played and Seth Russell's mobility being a factor in the second game.
- We'll talk more about this going forward, but I honestly believe our passing offense might be better than it was a year ago, and that's without Corey Coleman, Antwan Goodley, or Clay Fuller having caught a single pass this season. Part of it is the OL giving our QBs time in the pocket, part is the arrival and impact of freshmen K.D. Cannon and Davion Hall, and part is probably our competition. But I'm very confident in where we are in the passing offense and its potential to be a decisive weapon this year.
- That's good, because I'm not nearly so confident in the running game at this point. Yes, all three teams we've played thus far have stacked the box to stop us. Yes, that won't be able to continue against teams with more hope to actually beat us. But those teams will also have better athletes across the board, meaning they might not have to dedicate as many resources to achieve the same goal. Even though the stats weren't necessarily there this week, I felt like this was our best running effort to date just based off getting a few of the longer runs we're more accustomed to seeing. Like I said, though, Kyle Fuller did not have a good day on Friday night, and I'm going to go back to see if that's a recurring problem this season.
I'll add more in the comments as I watch the game again. Feel free to share your thoughts, as well!