Things didn’t start out exactly as you might hoped as the Bears, missing 3 OL starters, not having had the benefit of spring practice for a brand-new coaching staff, and not having played a game after 3 different cancelations of would-be openers, gave up a TD on Kansas’s opening drive to go down 7-0, but 31 straight points later the game was hardly in doubt. On the same day that saw Texas Tech put up 56 on Texas in an overtime loss, Mike Leach introduce the SEC to the Air Raid in its purest form by beating the reigning national champions by double-digits at home, two different SEC games go into the half with scores of 7-5, and Oklahoma lose a stunner to Kansas State after going up big in the second half, the Bears are 1-0. Dave Aranda is officially the first non-interim (meaning non-Grobe) Baylor coach to win his first game since Chuck Reedy in 1993!
Offensively, Baylor looked mostly out of sync in the first half, largely because of the aforementioned missing starters on the OL and lack of game time against people not also wearing green and gold. Brewer got a little banged up in the second quarter and never really got the opportunity to air it out before the game got out of hand, meaning Tyquan Thornton was completely absent. But on the bright side, we had zero turnovers for the entire game, Trestan Ebner looked like every bit the weapon we expected him to be with four total touchdowns—one rushing, one receiving, and two on kickoff returns (tying him for the career record for kickoff return TDs among Baylor players based just on this game)—and nearly 300 all-purpose yards, and John Lovett showed why he’s led the team in rushing each of the last two years. Both of them also got the chance to take snaps out of the wildcat, something I don’t think anybody expected. You have to think Baylor OC Larry Fedora has been waiting for a chance to pull that out since getting roasted by it in 2015 in the Russell Athletic Bowl by Johnny Jefferson, who some say is still running.
Before we move on, a brief gif interlude of Ebner’s second return TD, which made him the first player in Baylor history to have two return TDs of any type in the same game (h/t to David Kaye on Twitter for that info):
Defensively, Baylor gave up a TD on the first drive of the game (that was elongated by a roughing-the-passer penalty, one of several personal fouls) and then little else the rest of the way. After that opening drive, Kansas’s offense went turnover-on-downs, punt, punt, punt, turnover-on-downs, punt, punt, punt through the end of the third quarter when it was 31-7. Jalen Pitre, the One That Stayed, and Terrel Bernard were the brightest spots on that side, but Arkansas State transfer William Bradley-King did exactly what we expected him to do in the pass rush on third downs, and the defense on the whole bottled up the Kansas offense admirably until well past the outcome was decided. I was pleased with their performance overall and blown away by Bernard, who was all over the field the entire game. We don’t have his official stats yet, but he had to have had a dozen tackles and at least one sack—the one that caused the safety. This one:
I can’t wait to see the official stats for tackles-for-loss and sacks for the entire team. It’s going to be quite a few. The participation report will also be interesting since it seemed like we were rotating quite a few players through on defense based on down and distance.
Overall, if you wanted to look for places where Baylor absolutely must improve in order to beat the non-Kansas teams of the Big 12, one jumps out: penalties. Baylor had 8 for 95 yards in the first half and though they managed not to have any in the second, that’s not going to get it done against better teams, particularly when you’re extending offensive drives by roughing the passer and the like. Another is the offensive line, which I would expect to improve immediately once the 3 missing starters from today’s game return. But mostly it’s the penalties and overall offensive efficiency, and those things should get better as the team gains experience in actual games. If you wanted to look for places to be extremely excited, besides the aforementioned Ebner and Lovett, I doubt there’s going to be that many games where Brewer finishes with just 24 attempts for 145 yards, and some of our best weapons (Thornton, Josh Fleeks, etc.) didn’t get a real chance to show what they could do. This battle station isn’t even fully operational yet.
Congratulations to Dave Aranda for the first win of his head coaching career and to and to the rest of his staff for the first win of the 2020 season and their (for some, current) tenures in Waco. Barring something happening between now and then with testing or contact tracing, the Bears will take the field in Morgantown against West Virginia for their next game next Saturday!