Baylor Gets Dismantled by OU, 53-24
The Baylor Bears ended the 2010 regular season with three disappointing losses. The Oklahoma Sooners came into Waco and left no doubt as to their collective intent – they wanted to attack the Bears as aggressively as they could on both sides of the ball. The result was a disappointing 53-24 loss for the Bears in front of a very disappointing FCS crowd of 36K+ (with a larger percentage of those people being Sooner fans).
The Baylor defense was kept on its collective heels all night long by the aggressive, up-tempo Sooner offense. The quick passing game, utilizing combinations of outside receivers, inside receivers, and running backs tore up the Baylor defensive scheme. It appeared that the Bears were surprised by the collective speed of the Sooners and didn’t make adequate adjustments until midway through the second quarter – much too late to keep the Bears in the game.
The starting defensive tackles were Phil Taylor (98) and Nicholas Jean-Baptiste (90). Phil Taylor continues to be one of the most (if not the most) productive of the Bear defenders. Taylor accounted for 7 total tackles and one pass broken up. He continually gave terrific effort, even though the quick passing game of the Sooners gave the Baylor defensive linemen very few opportunities to get quality pressure on the Sooner quarterback. Phil was often the second man in on swing passes and wide screens – this is very impressive for a guy of his size. One of Phil’s most impressive plays of the evening was his defeat of a double team and a solo tackle on Finch at the line of scrimmage. Phil spun out of the double team (don’t really like this tactic) and crushed the little Sooner running back. By the way, this wasn’t the only time Phil was able to defeat a double team. There was no run off-tackle to his side that he didn’t defeat the reach of the center – to not double team him is a grave error. He tore up the Sooner offensive line all night long. Phil even forced a throwaway by Landry, pursuing the OU QB all the way to the sidelines when the DE lost contain. After the safety, Phil tore through the Sooner guard and absolutely drilled Jones just as the pass was thrown. I wish he would come off the ball like that every time, he would be illegal. His backup, Dominique Jones (97), appeared to be a little slow out of his stance, but you have to be pleased with the way he demonstrated the ability to fight back to get leverage. This young man is a true freshman playing in a “big boys” position where athletes usually have to be a little more physically mature to survive, much less thrive.
Nicholas Jean-Baptiste accounted for 5 tackles. NJB fought off a Sooner double team and had an opportunity to stop Murray on the Bear goal line, but inexplicably whiffed on the tackle (following the Buerck fumbled punt). Nick, overall, played much too high for most of the evening. Zac Scotton (96) continues to struggle with the change to defensive tackle. He is having a real hard time denying the guard’s inside release to level two on plays going away from him. This means that the backside linebacker’s ability to fill the cutback lane is severely compromised. Zac is still very good in pursuit. He uses his athletic talents well. He was once able to run Murray down from behind on a 15+ yard gain. This type of effort can make a big difference. Scotton, also, made a solid play on the Bear goal line when he stretched with a reach block, but came back under it when the OU back had to cut up, making the play for little or no gain.
The defensive end starters were Tracy Robertson (13) on the strong side and Gary Mason, Jr. (10) on the weak side. Robertson had a quarterback hurry to go with his 2 tackles on the evening. Tracy Robertson was THE notable exception to the lack of quality play at the Baylor defensive end position. Robertson contained the Sooner run most of the evening. It was obvious that the Sooners had much less success running to his side. He is very tough against the wide run. When you get a defensive end that forces the outside play back to the inside, you get opportunities at kill shots for the support defenders. It makes guys like Byron Landor much more effective. Robertson was, also, responsible for a solid hit on Jones late in the third quarter for a QB hurry, but he picked up a roughing the passer penalty just a few plays later.
Gary Mason, Jr. had one of the few high points for the Baylor defense when he was able to snatch a Landry pass out of the air and return it for a 21-yard interception return. This was truly a terrific play. It is extremely difficult to knock a pass down, much less catch the pass, as you rush the quarterback. Mason’s play gave the Bears their best field position of the game to that point. It could have led the Bears to getting ahead early (START FAST) in the game (but it was not to be). Mason continues to struggle with outside contain against the load block of a running back. He kept getting caught inside of the block and was much too easily cut on the play. This leaves the linebackers and perimeter defenders in a difficult support situation.
Tevin Elliot (18) continues to struggle against the run, as well. Tevin had difficulty determining the difference between the load and the kick out block. He appeared to be too easily kicked out on off-tackle plays, making the hole much too big for the inside linebackers to defend. Elliot improved on playing the waggle this week, containing Landry and forcing a quick throw to save the sack. In the 4th quarter, Tevin made a great inside move on a toss sweep to his side. He redirected and forced a hold (that was not called) by the Sooner tackle. He has excellent quickness and redirect ability.
Terrance Lloyd (11), getting his first significant action in quite some time, was much too easily cut by the load blocks of the OU running backs. He opened the flood gates on Murray’s 14-yard touchdown for the Sooners’ second score of the game. Terrance appeared to improve at containing the run to his side as the game progressed. At the end of the first half, Lloyd drilled the OU blocker and forced the outside run to bubble back for a negative yardage play. This might have been the only time one of the Bear defensive ends played the load block well.
Given the fact that the Sooners got man-handled by the Aggies the previous week, it appeared that the Sooner game plan was to throw it very quickly. It probably didn’t matter, as the Bear’s pass rush was (for the most part) non-existent. The Bear defensive line was stuck in an absolutely square position to the Sooners’ offensive linemen for most of the evening. Defensive linemen must rush edges of opponent’s – you can’t get through the middle of a blocker.
The starting linebackers were Antonio Johnson (7), Chris McAlister (31), and Earl Patin (33). Antonio Johnson accounted for 5 tackles (4 of them being of the solo variety when he was matched up with Sooner perimeter players in the open). It was Antonio that was first victimized by the speed of Murray on the first Sooner touchdown. Antonio tried to drop under the outside receiver’s route and then break on the ball thrown to Murray (even though it appeared that everyone on that side was in man-to-man coverage). OU is as good as you will see at working vertically with the running back off of the swing route. Murray ran just past the diving Johnson and was never stopped on the play. One of Antonio’s best plays came on the play previous to the Murray touchdown. Johnson came off the edge on a blitz (effectively disguising it until the last minute). He recognized a jailbreak screen to the wide receiver and came off of his blitz to stop the play for very little gain. This is something that not many LBs can do. Overall, Antonio was absolutely the most effective linebacker on the field for the Bears. He recognized offense much more quickly than any of the other linebackers. In fact he played across several Bear linebackers, passing them in pursuit of the ball.
Chris McAlister (31) got the start at middle linebacker. McAlister had two tackles, one of those for a loss, and a fumble recovery with a 4-yard return after a great hit by Dixon. McAlister continues to be very unsure on filling the holes. Often he resembled a “blocking dummy” because he just stood there waiting for the lineman to drive him off the ball. He is much too soft against the run. Rodney Chadwick (26) got a few snaps at middle linebacker, but looked very slow to recognize plays. He was very slow at pulling the trigger. More than once, Antonio Johnson (from his strong side LB position) passed Chadwick in pursuit of an off-tackle play – not good. Chadwick was, also, slow to redirect against the underneath passes of the Sooners. This allowed Murray to get openings that quicker redirecting linebackers might have been able to limit to 4 or 5-yard gains. Chadwick did a good job of getting under a vertical seam effort by the Sooners at the end of the first half. It resulted in a tipped ball that was not successfully tracked down by the Bear safeties.
Earl Patin started at the weak side linebacker position. Earl had 4 tackles with one of those being for a loss. Earl’s play has improved, but he still is not pulling the trigger on tackles. He catches the ball carrier much too often, instead of attacking him. Elliot Coffey (4) made a return to the lineup. He seemed a little rusty, not quite ready to pull the trigger on what he was seeing, but he is definitely the best player at the weak side linebacker position. Coffey was much too soft in support on the second score of the game (Murray off-tackle for 14-yards). To be fair, the Sooners caught the Bears in man-to-man with Landor rolling to the middle of the formation, so there was no quick secondary support to that side, and Chadwick took at least two false steps the other way prior to recognizing the play was away. Coffey does a very good job of slipping blocks of guards and getting to the ball carrier. He is hard for offensive linemen to block. LeQuince McCall (19) showed good awareness, redirecting back to make a play on a Murray cutback effort.
The starting corners were true freshman Tyler Stephenson (27) and Mikail Baker (5). Stephenson was targeted by the Sooners for most of the evening, accounting for 4 tackles and 1 pass broken up. His pass broken up at the Baylor goal line demonstrates the kind of ability Tyler has at breaking on the ball – he might have been able to intercept it. He’s just struggling to do it every down. On an additional positive side, Stephenson did a terrific job of fighting off a block and making the play on a screen pass to Murray to stop the Sooners’ opening drive of the game, setting a 4th and 3 (leading to Gary Mason, Jr,’s interception). Stephenson continues to struggle with his footwork against out-breaking routes. Even though the Bears allowed him to play more man-to-man (something that should work in his favor), Tyler was often beaten by the quick Sooner outside receivers on out routes. Because of this, Tyler is having trouble with vertical routes, as well. He’s trying to get better at breaking on the underneath routes, so when the Sooners went vertical, he got called for an obvious pass interference.
Baker, a guy that you would have to say has been a pleasant surprise for the Bear secondary this season, had 4 tackles on the evening. Several times, early in the contest, Mikail had the opportunity to contest in-breaking routes of wide receivers, but was hesitant to commit. The Sooners are very good at double move routes off of quick routes, so it is understandable that a corner might be careful. But Baker usually has good instincts regarding these kinds of routes. On Saturday, Mikail appeared to be playing it very safely. He gave up a touchdown on a play action dig at the Bear goal line. Either he expected inside help or he absolutely misplayed the receiver – it was wide open. Antareis Bryan (3) had a very bad night. He looked clueless as to how to play a cut-block by a receiver. He struggled with defending the bunch formation. Antareis showed no interest at all in coming up and forcing the action when they were lead blocking on him. He appeared to be a step slow in play recognition all evening. His footwork on redirect was sloppy. Chance Casey (9), seeing his first significant action is quite some time, struggled with the redirect when he had a vertical receiver. He was much too slow recognizing an “out” threat from an inside receiver. This allowed the Sooners to drive him deep and throw the underneath route in front of him much too easily. Chance made the best play by a Baylor corner on the bubble screen. He easily and quickly defeated the stalk block and made the solo tackle on the OU receiver. He has really improved his play against this offensive play. He was the most aggressive corner at attacking the slant. Overall, the Baylor corners are much too soft against slants and posts, as well. They must be more aggressive.
The starting safeties for the Baylor Bears were Byron Landor (14), at strong safety, and Tim Atchison (8) at the free safety position. Byron Landor as the Bears’ leading tackler with 10 total tackles. Byron had trouble finding his “fit” several times when the Sooners ran at him in the off-tackle hole. He needs to be quicker in support when he gets run reads from the Sooners. On the other hand, Byron is absolutely terrific at filling the backside cutback position in the defense. He is very patient and willing to pull the trigger when he sees his opportunity. He has made a lot of plays for the Bears fulfilling this important role. Byron did get caught plugging a couple of times on play action in front of him that resulted in slants/posts being thrown behind him. He needs to be better on his recognition of run or pass.
Tim Atchison had 6 tackles for the Bears. Atchison had an opportunity to make the play on Murray’s touchdown following the fumbled punt by Buerck, but whiffed on the tackle (as had NJB). While NJB was coming off of defeating a double team, Tim has no such excuse. Tim was victimized by Stills when he caught Atchison jumping the corner route. Stills turned it into a vertical and scored. Replay shows Stills pushed off, but Atchison was beaten badly. Tim made an excellent play on the Bear goal line when LeQuince McCall force the OU back to bubble and Atchison was able to make the play behind the line of scrimmage for a 2-yard loss.
Mike Hicks (17) played a lot in the nickel package and at free safety. Hicks is a hitter but continues to struggle against the corner route. He needs to improve on his ability to route-recognize and get his footwork more efficient to improve his break on this route. Hicks whiffed on a tackle in the 4th quarter when the Sooners threw a swing pass in front of him. Ahmad Dixon (6) made a terrific stick of Finch, forcing a fumble in the 4th quarter. It is hitting ability like this that has many calling for increased playing time for this highly recruited player.
You have to question the game plan of the Bears regarding the utilization of underneath coverage on the Sooner quick passing game. The Bears appeared to be a step slow all evening in covering swing passes targeting the Sooner running backs (especially to Murray). In addition, the exchange of coverage responsibilities between inside linebackers and perimeter defenders was not made quickly. This allowed inside seams for the Sooners to exploit time-and-time-again. The Murray pass appeared to have caused the corners and safeties to be very slow to jump in-breaking routes by the Sooner wideouts, leaving intermediate curl routes open for Landry to exploit all evening long.
Additionally, it appeared the inverted wishbone (3-back) attack featured early by the Sooners caught the Bear defense totally by surprise. The Bear linebackers appeared to have their keys all messed up by this formation. They were very late in play-recognizing for most of the first half. The Bears, also, struggled with defending the bunch formation. This is a formation that they have seen all year. The Sooners carved the Bears up using a variety of easily executed plays out of this attack.
You have to be concerned about the Baylor defensive mind-set concerning sudden change, as well. When Krys Buerck (15) fumbled the punt on the 6-yard line, the defense was much too soft on defense with their collective backs against the wall. A situation like this gives your defense an opportunity to display its tough-mindedness. Instead, the Bears allowed the Sooners to walk right though them. Two tackle whiffs on this play are inexcusable. By the way, Buerck has been terrific at punt receiving for his entire career at Baylor, but he surly should have either fair caught the ball or let it go.
Something that really has to concern the Baylor faithful is the lack of understanding of the rules governing substitutions against the hurry-up offense of the Sooners. The rule states that if the Sooners substitute, the Bears have to be given the opportunity to substitute in a timely manner. The side judge blows his whistle in short, repeated bursts indicating that the umpire should get on the ball to allow the defense to substitute if the offense makes a change. Repeatedly, when the Sooners were stopped on first down, our defense tried to substitute a pass defense group, even though the Sooners did not change any personnel. This resulted in two penalties for illegal substitution and required the use of timeouts to cover other instances of unwise substitution by the Bears. This is not good leadership.
It is sad to say that the only thing that kept this game from being a total massacre was that Bob Stoops started holding back and slowing down his offense late in the 3rd quarter.