(7-4, 4-4) Rank: NR/RV
(9-0, 6-0) Rank: 4/4/5
Just a few things I'm thinking about the aftermath of Baylor's 9th win of the 2013 season:
- Winning tonight set up the Game of Games in the 2013 Big 12 Conference season next week in Stillwater, where our undefeated Baylor Bears will play the 9-1 (6-1) Oklahoma State Cowboys. ESPN's College GameDay has already announced that they will be in attendance for the event, which should be the biggest game (to date) in Baylor history. A win keeps Baylor in the driver's seat for the Big 12 Conference, while a loss clears the way for OSU to take the crown pending their Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma. The more I watch them play, the stranger OSU's loss to West Virginia early this season becomes. Had that loss not occurred, they'd probably be ranked even higher than we are, and it would be a matchup of two undefeated top-5 teams. Even with a loss on their ledger, I'm betting the Cowboys will be in the BCS top 10 announced tomorrow night. Everyone will be watching that game in about 143 hours. I'm already nervous.
- Texas Tech deserves enormous credit for the way they started this game. I said in my preview articles that Tech needed a hot start combined with Baylor misfires early to have a chance to win. They got both, as Baylor punted on two of our first three possessions and Tech scored on all three of theirs. Baker Mayfield got the start, his first in over a month, and played extremely well throughout the game. I said on twitter that he's basically a poor man's Johnny Manziel, and the similarities in the way he plays in KK's offense are undeniable. Play after play, it seemed like Baylor's defenders had him bottled up only to see a pass threaded through to a waiting Tech receiver or a bomb launched over the top. The combination of Mayfield and TE Jace Amaro early in the game was particularly devastating, as they realized early that we intended to cover Amaro with MLB Bryce Hager, and that was not a good plan for us at all. The Red Raiders were eventually done in by a combination of turnovers and poor defense, though they would tell you vociferously that the officials played an enormous role. We can talk about that more in a minute.
- With that Tech start in mind, I was impressed but not altogether surprised with Baylor's ability to roar back and take the game. To that end, the Levi Norwood punt return while the score was 20-7 was absolutely huge. Baylor was reeling a bit at that point on offense and needed a huge play. Levi gave it to them on one of the more electric plays we've seen all year. The next time we saw the ball, after K.J. Morton's amazing interception (defensive play of the year?), Baylor took the lead at 21-20 after Bryce Petty hit Antwan Goodley for a 31-yard TD. I can't say for sure the Morton pick and Petty TD don't happen if Norwood doesn't take that punt back to the house, but I can say that the punt return changed the scope of the game. That he added two offensive TDs after that punt was why I chose him as my Player of the Game overall.
- Speaking of Morton, my choice of him as the defensive MVP for this game seems entirely justified after looking at the stats. Morton finished with a team-high 9 tackles, 3 for loss, a forced fumble, the aforementioned interception, a sack, and 4 passes broken up. That's a tour de force game for a defensive back, regardless of the plays where Tech throw on him. Tech threw on all of our secondary players tonight. Morton has proven himself a force in the running game in recent weeks, something we're definitely going to need off the edge against teams like OSU and Texas that will try very hard to run on us.
- As for the defense as a whole, after giving up ~300 yards in the first half, they stiffened considerably in the second, holding Tech to just half that. The official box score from Baylor gives Tech 454 yards, well above Baylor's season average but below what I thought they'd get after the first 30 minutes. After running 61 plays in the first half, they ran just 27 in the second to average 5.2 yards per play for the entire game. Considering 239 of that came on their first three drives of the game, I'll take that defensive performance for the game. I really will. The only thing I can't figure out is how we managed to not recover 2 of the several strips on Mayfield. Things would have really gotten out of hand had we gotten those. It's good we got them, though. That always seemed like something other teams did but Baylor couldn't figure out for whatever reason.
- Now let's talk about the officials for a moment. I saw one play where I thought at the time the play happened that Texas Tech got hosed: the fourth down run by Baker Mayfield that came up short and really didn't. The official on the far side of the field apparently couldn't see the ball when Mayfield's knee actually touched the ground, then the angles the review booth had were insufficient to overturn the call. I thought at the time that he got it and that it was a bad call, and I still think that now. I do not, however, think that Texas Tech lost because of that call, as their fans apparently do. We won by 29 points and ran up 675 total yards. 340 of those yards came on the ground, mostly to our third and fourth-string RBs. That call wasn't why you lost the game, even if it was a bad call. What wasn't a bad call was the lack of a targeting penalty on Ahmad Dixon for the hit on Jace Amaro near the goalline. Not every call that looks violent or hurts a player you like is targeting, especially when the defender's shoulder hits the offensive player's shoulder as it clearly did.
- Moving to the offense, I can't really put into words how impressed I was tonight with the combination of Rashodrick Linwood and Devin Chafin. Before tonight, neither had started a game for Baylor in their brief careers. More than a few people, myself included, wondered if they could shoulder the load with Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin sidelined. They did that and more, combining for 40 carries for 288 yards and 3 TDs. Linwood's 188 yards is a season high by a Baylor back in 2013, and it was his first collegiate start ever. That's pretty incredible.
- It's good we had them, too, since Bryce looked so off early in the game. His inconsistency in the vertical passing game, along with a couple of key drops and strong play by the Texas Tech defense, contributed significantly to yet another lackluster start by the Baylor offense. Of course, he ended up going 17-31 for 335 yards and 3 TDs, so I can't complain much. For the second game in a row, Petty had 5 total TDs, pushing his season total to 34 (24 passing, 10 rushing). As I said in the post-game, RGIII's school record of 47 is clearly within reach with 4 games left this season, though (probably) the two best defenses on our schedule are yet to come.
- Projecting to tomorrow's rankings, Baylor is all but assured the #4 spot in the BCS by virtue of USC turning once-beaten Stanford into twice-beaten Stanford. I'm thankful we won't have to hear about all those ranked teams they've beaten again this year. The real question will be whether Baylor passes the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes, who struggled mightily on defense today against the 3-6 (before today) Illinois Fighting Illini. Ohio State ended up winning the game 60-35, but needed 16 fourth quarter points to finally pull away. Anyone who tells you tOSU "dominated" this game (or anything similar) either didn't watch it or is a liar. The hope for Baylor fans is that voters saw that game and will elevate the Bears in their rankings. The earliest projections we have look favorable to that effect.
- For those at the game, there was a point on the broadcast where Gus Johnson mentioned that he apparently spent some time in Waco at one point in his life. Why this is important is that he also mentioned his favorite eatery while he was there, a place he actually called his favorite restaurant anywhere. It was Luby's. This caused quite a sensation on twitter, as you can imagine, as people reacted to: A) the fact that he said Luby's and not George's or something that is actually a Waco staple, and B) the way he described it as some kind of hole-in-the-wall place that nobody knows about. It's Luby's. LUBY'S!
- I didn't get to see much of the crowd tonight on the broadcast, so I'm hoping everyone who went can fill us in on how Baylor Nation showed up. Also, be sure to call in to That Good Ol' Baylor Phone Line tonight with your thoughts from the game, Gus Johnson's weird fascination with Luby's, or anything else! (774) 25-SICEM!
A Favorite Tweet from Tonight:
Cyril Richardson for Outland. Seriously.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) November 17, 2013
A Baylor OL winning the Outland might be as impressive a feat as the Heisman. Ok, not really, but it would be pretty awesome.
Before anyone asks, I haven't seen anything on injuries from the game. Bryce Hager left and was replaced by Aiavion Edwards. He did not return. Ahmad Dixon and Terell Burt both left and returned to play the rest of the game. I don't believe K.J. came back into the game, but he looked more shook up than actually hurt to me. I'll keep you guys posted.