Baylor had a ton of cringe-worthy moments in this one, most of them involving the offense, but at the end of the day, the Bears emerged with a 20-point win over SMU at home to move to 2-0 on the season. Rice is up next, but before we get there, we've got a ton to work on.
The good, the bad, and the ugly of this game can be summarized as follows:
- THE GOOD -- Special teams (aside from punt return flags), particularly the kickoff and punt coverage; the defense in the second half; Davion Hall and Orion Stewart, specifically; J'Mycal Hasty coming in and providing burst late when SMU was tired; and general resiliency from a team that saw adversity in the first half (along with more than a little luck) and was able to respond to blow the game open in the second half.
- THE BAD -- People will hate that I say this, but Seth Russell, particularly his accuracy on deep passes; our wide receivers' hands on the passes they could have caught down the field; the offensive line, in terms of creating running lanes for the first three quarters of the game; and the run defense, generally, in allowing exactly 5 yards per carry.
- THE UGLY -- Penalties, where I'm sure Baylor leads the world again, and the way the team looked from the opening whistle to halftime. They weren't ready to play the game from the beginning and could have been down 14-0 had the defense not held SMU to field goals early. Of course, if we're talking about luck, SMU got a little bit of their own when Blake Lynch fumbled into the endzone in the second quarter, so maybe it evened out.
Really, I view this as two games played on the same day. In the first half, Baylor looked listless on offense and reactionary on defense. SMU was able to simultaneously stop the interior run and keep Baylor on its heels, meaning we needed redzone bailouts to keep the game close. The only sustained drive we mounted prior to the half took three fourth-down conversions to keep going and ended in a fumble into the endzone. I actually named Chris Callahan our first half MVP, if you can believe it.
After the half, though, the opened things up with a TD to Blake Lynch, the defense provided a real spark through two interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD on that side, and Phil Bennett's defense was able to start making SMU one dimensional, as we've seen them do countless times before. Baylor started punishing Ben Hicks and getting the ball back quickly, and it started looking more like a typical Baylor game, even if it took a really long time to get to that point. We even got to see some vintage Seth Russell on a dazzling scramble TD where he looked more like he was gliding than actually running.
As I mentioned above in my "Good, Bad, and Ugly" list, there's a lot of things that will need to get fixed cast in sharp relief in this game. First and foremost, in my opinion, has to be the offensive line. I have faith that Seth will get his part under control, but the offensive line has to get better. And it wasn't a depth issue so much as penalty and assignment issues. SMU was able to get way too much penetration to disrupt our read plays, and theirs is far from the best OL we'll face. It might not be in the top 6 or 7. Second would be penalties, which not only erased a punt return TD from Tony Richardson, but also constantly put us behind the sticks. I'll have to go back and count how many 1st or 2nd and 15s we had, and those are hard enough to pick up when the offense is clicking. Today, it wasn't.
- Pooh Stricklin (shoulder) and Ryan Reid (high ankle sprain) both left the game early with injuries and did not return. We haven't heard anything yet about their prognoses.
- Blake Lynch is becoming a weapon at IR and could have had an even bigger game than he did if Seth had hit him on a couple of longer passes. He also should have had the TD that was fumbled into the endzone.
- Pat Levels is a missile at the NB position. When Travon Blanchard comes back, we're going to be really set there.
- I've never been so happy to be wrong about anything as I am that Davion Hall is a natural safety. His interception in the endzone was a special play, and with him and Orion Stewart on the field, Baylor has a strong pair of safeties. He's still inexperienced, but he's obviously learning quickly.
Box Score (courtesy of ESPN.com)
|3rd down efficiency||5-17||8-22|
|4th down efficiency||0-0||4-5|
|Yards per pass||5.2||5.4|
|Yards per rush||4.6||5.0|