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Thoughts on Baylor’s Season-Opening 56-17 Win Over SFA

You can’t win ‘em all unless you win the first one.

NCAA Football: Stephen F. Austin at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this since it’s been a little while, but I finally decided on the tried-and-true approach of starting with the general and then going to the more specific.

  • It’s a familiar refrain to say that you can’t really tell much by a game against a team like SFA, but that’s not really true. When we lost to Liberty, for example, it portended a long season, exactly what we got. Tennessee saw the same thing happen to them today (YOU JUST HATE TO SEE IT) and should feel the same way. The reality of the situation is that expectations typically exist for a reason, and up-and-coming teams like Baylor coming off of bowl wins are expected to dominate FCS schools like SFA. We were favored by about 43ish, and we won by 39. We did pretty much exactly what we hoped that we would do going in. I predicted 51-17 on Twitter earlier in the day.
  • The ESPN+ telecast was terrible. I thought about leading off with this but didn’t want to start on a negative note. It was really, really bad. There was virtually no crowd/stadium noise (which made the atmosphere seem much more subdued than I’m sure really was), the announcers were probably about the Z Team for ESPN, and at one point they put Bo Brewer’s picture on the screen for Charlie Brewer. I don’t really care all that much about $5/month, but the Facebook Live broadcast last year was better (and free!).
  • You know what wasn’t terrible? The uniforms and field design! Both are part of the United rebrand, and I approve wholeheartedly. The green blended with the grass somewhat, but green tends to do that. I thought the atmosphere/stadium and team both looked great. If only ESPN+ wasn’t so awful...
  • The Baylor Line was apparently humongous even for the first game of the season and hilarious in that there was a huge pile-up on the field. Great job filling your role, Class of ... 2023? Really? Wow.
  • Offensively, there’s not much more you can ask for than 500ish total yards (especially when you play backups as much as we did), about 10 yards/pass and 7 yards/rush, and no sacks. There is some room for concern with the offensive line not exactly blowing SFA off the ball (Rhule was apparently not thrilled about pass protection, too), but it looked more like interior problems than exterior, which could be a result of having Jake Fruhmorgen playing his first game at center, Sam Tecklenburg moving to guard, and Prince Pines coming in at the other guard. They may need some time to gel in actual game action. Play-calling wise, as much as I love having our RBs involved in the passing game, I wish we’d seen a little more downfield action. I also hated the two first-half punts from inside/around plus territory.
  • Defensively, things appear much improved even given the opponent. The longest SFA play of the day was just 35 yards (remember that we led the country in plays of 40+ yards given up last season), and the second-longest was 34. If you take out SFA’s 11-play, 75-yard TD drive from the first half, the Lumberjacks ran 51 other plays for 202 yards, which yields an average of 3.96 yards/play. And that includes the last garbage-time drive where they gashed our third and fourth-string defense because I’m just too lazy to take it out, too (although I can tell you that it was under 3 yards/play before that drive because i was typing this paragraph when that happened). On the whole we gave up 5.3 yards/pass on 16/30 passing and 3.7 yards/rush on 32 carries (it was 2.4 yards/rush before the last drive). If you want negatives you can cite that we forced just one turnover—an interception by Blake Lynch—and had just three sacks (although the latter isn’t bad at all relative to last season, and if they want 40 on the season, 3/game gets to 39 counting a bowl).
  • The coaching staff said they wanted to play a ton of players, including freshman, and they did so. Gerry Bohanon and the second-team offense (at least in terms of skill players, the first-team OL may have stayed in a bit longer) came in after the first drive of the third quarter, at least 6 different true freshmen (that I counted, we’ll know from the game notes exactly how many got in) played, 7 different players rushed the ball, and 9 different players caught it. According to Rhule after the game, 34 players made their college debuts tonight. That’s pretty incredible.
  • Our special teams were actually quite special, in the good way! We blocked a punt and a field goal, had decent returns, and more touchbacks from a freshman kickoff specialist in Noah Rauschenberg than it seemed like the entirety of last season.

Now for some individual stuff:

  • I went into this game with one son—my boy William, who is almost 8. I came out of it with three having formally Twitter-adopted Blake Lynch and Trestan Ebner. Lynch was everywhere in the first half at LB, showing skills in coverage and run support and picking off a pass early in the second quarter. Trestan Ebner had 2 carries for 32 yards rushing and was only limited in yardage by the fact that both scored TDs, as well as 5 catches for 40 yards and another TD. Three TDs sounds like a pretty good day, particularly if you only play about half the game.
  • I feel like we didn’t see Peak Charlie Brewer today but didn’t really need to. He finished 21/31 for 199 yards and 3 TDs in 2+ quarters of play, but he had at least two passes that could have been intercepted and weren’t, missed Denzel Mims on a wide-open TD on a double move, and checked down early and often rather than try to push the ball down the field (granted, some of that may have been intentional so as to not give too much away). It seems like a luxury when you can get QB play like that and think “yeah, but he wasn’t as good as he could be.”
  • James Lynch may be the best defensive lineman we’ve had in a few years. He’s versatile, disruptive, and relentless. SFA’s left tackle is going to have nightmares about him for weeks. I’m not sure the 3-man front is a perfect fit for him, but he was awesome nonetheless.
  • I see you, Gerry Bohanon. You didn’t get a ton of chances to throw, but I see you. Congrats on your first-career TD. You’ve got something, and I think it’s going to work. Same for Josh Fleeks when he got in late. We have an embarrassment of flex RB/WRs.
  • You wouldn’t know from watching him that RJ Sneed missed an entire year due to injury. He finished as Baylor’s leading receiver in an extremely balanced team performance with 5 catches for 57 yards and 2 TDs, one of which was as impressive a catch and foot drag as you’ll see. He’s an electric player and could end up our #2 option behind Mims this season.
  • I like having Chris Platt in all of our lives. He almost had a truly spectacular TD catch despite being interfered with on the play, and I was so hoping he would come down with that ball.

There will be more, I’m sure, when the official stats come out. For right now I’m going with Ebner as the Offensive MVP and James Lynch as the Defensive MVP. Give me your thoughts in the comments as we celebrate the successful beginning to the 2019 football season!

PS. The SEC had itself quite the day, didn’t it? At least you tried, Tennessee (lost to Georgia State), Mizzou (losing to Wyoming with 3+ minutes to go), South Carolina (lost to Mack Brown in his return to UNC), and Ole Miss (lost to Memphis). Mississippi State also didn’t look all that great against ULaLa, and Arkansas beat someone called Portland State by 7. Schadenfreude? Yes.