Originally Posted by ftblbob5
I want to apologize to all the Baylor fans for the tardiness of my posting of this analysis. I have to admit to procrastination of this task. It has been a full 3 weeks since the game and I am just getting around to completing the defensive analysis.
Some of this was planned because I didn’t want the piece to get swallowed up by the meltdown threads after the game. But most of the blame it mine because I just kept putting other things in front of this task because it was not a fun video to watch. The Bears didn’t play well at all and it’s not fun to see them play like this.
Game Analysis: Fiesta Bowl – Baylor vs. UCF
In front of a crowd of 65K+ (heavily weighted with 20-25K Baylor fans that made the trek to Glendale, AZ for the game) the Baylor Bears were shocked by the UCF Knights in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, 52-42. Coming into the game, the Bears were 17 point favorites over the champions of the lightly regarded American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East). From the opening possession it became obvious that the UCF Knights were serious about what they planned on doing in the game. The Bears appeared to be beaten to the punch for most of the evening on both sides of the ball. In the end, the Bears couldn’t overcome the self-inflicted damage and the consistent play of the opponent.
You have to ask why the Baylor Bears weren’t more prepared for the turf situation in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Remember that Baylor chose not to workout at the stadium on Tuesday on the day prior to the game because they wanted to save time since the workout would have required a substantial commitment of a cross-town bus trip to the stadium and back to the resort. It is not a given that the Bears would have discovered a footing problem prior to the game had they worked out at the stadium, but it might have given them a clue that there was a possible problem. The announcers of the contest indicated that they had asked the turf manager of the stadium about the footing problems the teams were experiencing. The turf manager indicated that the NFL teams didn’t have any problems because they wear the appropriate cleats. This begs the question: why didn’t the Bears do the appropriate research regarding what actually was the BEST cleat to wear on that particular turf. While the slipping problem wasn’t the only factor leading to the Bears’ weaker performance, it didn’t help.
Baylor’s defense made huge strides in 2013. They became the best defense in the Big XII (statistically), but the Fiesta Bowl against UCF indicated that the Bears still have a long way to go before they are ready to play effectively enough against a balanced attack with quality running backs, an accurate quarterback, and big receivers.
The biggest concern is the difference in the level of play in the defense when it plays at home in the familiar confines of Floyd Casey Stadium as compared to how they play on the road or in neutral stadiums. When the Bears play at home, they set a frenetic pace and attack the ball with abandon. They believe that the defensive line will get to the quarterback, allowing the secondary to play with a lot of confidence. This means that the defensive backs are very aggressive at home and jump most of the intermediate and short routes, believing the opposing quarterback won’t have time to get the ball any deeper than that. Blitzes are much more successful because the power and the speed with which the attack is initiated is superior to what we see on the road. Even in the neutral stadiums (Tech and UCF), we didn’t see the Baylor defense play at the same intensity and speed we saw when the Bears played at home.
One of the most concerning issues that was highlighted in this game is the inability of the defensive line to disengage from the UCF offensive linemen. With the exception of the first two possessions of the game, the defensive line did at least a decent job of maintaining the line of scrimmage. But these young players were not able to get a release move to enable them to get off the block so that they could make the tackle. This issue has to be a huge concern moving into this spring and next fall. Billings, Blackshear, and Bonds (along with most of the rest of the defensive tackle group) have demonstrated that they can sustain the line of scrimmage against even the best offensive lines they saw this fall. But when it came to getting off of the blocks against good people like UCF (and OSU, TCU, and Texas), these young men struggled to make plays.
In addition, the defensive line as a whole, struggled to finish the job and get the sack in their pass rushes against these same teams. In the passing game, the defensive line had the same problem of not being able to make the move that would free them up to get quality contact on the quarterback. The line didn’t maintain their rush lanes consistently, either. When the defensive line gets out of their rush lanes, it leaves throwing lanes and, worse, open avenues for mobile quarterbacks to scramble downfield for large gains.
In both of these areas, the defensive line was better than they have been in recent years. But they still aren’t good enough at these important portions of the game to make consistent plays against the best offensive lines. For the most part, it appears to be a technical problem rather than physical strength, speed, or quickness. The defensive line looks to need some real quality, focused work on their hands and hips (the hallmarks of quality defensive linemen).
On the first two possessions of the game, the Knights were very successful at doubling the 1-technique (usually Beau Blackshear – 95) and getting great movement that pushed the line of scrimmage back into the linebackers, making it difficult for the linebackers to play downhill to the ball. In instances like this, it is important for the nose tackle to, at the least, not be driven off the ball (even if it means just falling down and grabbing grass). Running at the defensive interior manned by Blackshear and true freshman, Andrew Billings (75), the Knights found enough running yardage to pound the ball very effectively down the field. On the Knights’ 2nd touchdown, they ran right at the freshman from Waco High (Billings), who came off much too high and got driven back across the goal line by the all-conference guard from UCF. On a jet sweep, Blackshear got knocked to the ground. Even though the perimeter of the Baylor defense played the play very well, the UCF wide receiver was able to cut the play up inside because there was not a nose tackle working flat down the line of scrimmage. As the game moved into the 2nd quarter, it appeared that Andrew Billings found his stride and became the immovable object that we have seen for most of the last portion of the season. Billings wasn’t able to get great push (like we saw against the all-conference guard for the Longhorns), but he did hold the line of scrimmage quite effectively from the mid-point of the 2nd quarter. After the first few minutes, Andrew Billings was (by far) the most productive DT for the Bears. The true freshman from Waco High School had 10 total tackles, one was a tackle for a loss, on the evening. On 3rd and 2 with just over 2 minutes to go in the 1st half, the Knights rolled true freshman DT, Byron Bonds (96) up on a tackle-guard double team. They placed the Allen product on his back 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Chris McAllister (31) had real trouble with the big right tackle of the Knights. On one of the big plays on the 1st possession, Chris was stunting inside and the big tackle drove one of the Bears most consistent defenders downfield 5-7 yards, opening a big hole on the backside of the play for Storm Johnson (8), UCF’s big, fast running back, to “storm” through for a 23-yard gain down to the Baylor 11-yard line. On a similar stunt, Terrance Lloyd (11) got crushed down to the inside by the UCF left tackle, opening a big hole that allowed Johnson to score from 11-yards out, capping the opening drive of the game for the Knights. On the 3rd Knight possession of the game, Coach Bennett brought in the 2nd group of defensive ends, Shawn Oakman (2) and Jamal Palmer (92). Overall, these two young men were much more productive than their older counterparts. On the 1st play, Oakman knifed in from the right side and made a play on the Knight running back in the UCF backfield. This was the best defensive play of the game up to that point (and it wasn’t even a close contest – there just weren’t any other plays that deserved positive mention). Shawn did a great job of beating the UCF left tackle on an inside rip move, with a linebacker coming from the outside. But like so often happened in this game, the UCF quarterback unleaded the ball accurately to a short side outlet for a solid gain. While Shawn was very dynamic, he continues to struggle to maintain outside leverage. Often he will peek inside on what appears to be an inside run, only to allow the back to jump cut and bounce outside of his position for a sizeable gain. This is probably one factor in the continuing debate regarding who should have been playing the DE position. Jamal Palmer made a nice play on an inside zone when he came flat down the heel line and caught the backup running back behind the line of scrimmage. On the 1st play of the next UCF possession after the Bears had closed the score to 14-13, Jamal Palmer did a great job of working flat down the line of scrimmage, raking the ball out of the running back’s arm. This created a fumble, which the ever-alert Sam Holl (25) recovered and returned to the UCF 19-yard line (this was the 3rd turnover created by the Bears in the 1st half. Palmer’s running mate, Shawn Oakman got good penetration at the playside defensive end position and forced Johnson (the UCF back) to bubble around the lanky Baylor DE. This allowed the fleet Palmer to run down the back behind to the line of scrimmage for a play that could have placed the Bears in front for the first time. Byron Bonds (96), also, demonstrated excellent down the line pursuit on that play. Both Oakman and Palmer met the running back a couple of yards in the backfield when UCF tried to run at the weakside on a 2nd and 2. Oakman did a great job of caving down from the backside and the playside tackle absolutely whiffed at the too quick Palmer. As dynamic as Jamal is, the young DE doesn’t hold up very well when he is asked to stunt inside against a run block. Jamal must get stronger if he is going to be an every-down DE next fall. On a big 2nd half play by UCF, Bortles made big yardage on a quarterback draw. Bonds did a poor job of getting off the block of the guard and WLB, Brody Trahan (15) did a poor job of redirecting back to the play. Both of these lapses gave the Knights a big first down at the Baylor 18-yard line.
Chris McAllister got a quality speed rush on the opening play of the 2nd Knight possession, but he got to the quarterback just after he had launched the ball for a big gain. This kind of pressure was much too infrequent in the contest. Shawn Oakman used a quality inside rush to force a pass that was thrown much too quickly and short of the intended target. Jamal Palmer lost outside contain on the quarterback, but the ball was thrown over the head of the running back that had scrambled behind the linebacker coverage. When Bortles slipped on his drop, Suleman Masumbuko (93) tried a swim move (not a good choice for a shorter player) and allowed himself to be ridden out of the rush lane. As Sule was pushed upfield, his body kept Palmer form being able to get to the UCF quarterback. This made it possible for Bortles to step up in the pocket and complete a long pass down the Knight sidelines on what should have been a sack. Byron Bonds did a great job of freeing himself up for a big hit on Bortles. The true freshman got over-extended and just bounced off the big quarterback, allowing Bortles to step up into the pocket and complete a pass to the running back for a big first down that basically sealed the game for the Knights. Bonds has to close these opportunities out when he gets the chance. You can’t come at big quarterbacks like Bortles with a love tap.
Terrance Lloyd jumped offsides and made contact on the 3rd play from scrimmage. This was just the first in several unforced errors by the Baylor Bears on this New Year’s Day. On the 50-yard touchdown on a bubble screen by Rannell Hall (5), Terrance recognized the play almost immediately and followed the ball outside. If Terrance had gone flatter down the line of scrimmage, instead of slightly upfield, he would have made the play for no gain. Because Lloyd ran a slightly curved path to the ball, he arrived just a chiggers’ track too late, freeing up the cutback lane for the explosive Knight wideout. This score allowed the Knights to increase their lead to 21-13.
Eddie Lackey (5) has played terrifically all year. But against the Knights of UCF, the play of the inside linebackers was not up to the level that Baylor fans have come to expect. Obviously, it hurt not being able to reclaim Bryce Hager (44). The hope was that the month long layoff might make it possible for the Austin Westlake junior MLB might be able to get back on the field. This was not to be. Instead, Eddie Lackey had stay at MLB and Brody Trahan (15), the senior from Dickinson High School and son of one of the most respected coaches in Texas, continued to play the WLB position. Against UT, on several occasions, the Bears deployed Brody Trahan when the Horns went to trips with 3 wideouts to the field. Against the Knights, the Bears reverted to their base adjustment (meaning that Lackey deployed to the inside receiver in the trips formation and Brody Trahan stemmed to what was essentially a middle linebacker position). When Lackey was in the MLB against Texas, the run defense was stronger inside than it was against the Knights. Just a thought, during the preparation for the bowl game, the staff might have held out hope that Bryce Hager might be able to play. Because of this, they chose to stay with their base trips adjustment. When Hager was not able to take the field, this left Trahan as the remaining inside linebacker to trips.
I’m sure that the Knights had noticed that the Baylor linebackers had a tendency to ignore the run threat of the quarterback. KU, KSU, OU, OSU, and TCU had been able to spring their quarterback for significant gains when the Baylor linebackers got too focused on the running back. Even though UCF had not used their quarterback as a run threat to a significant degree, the Knights took advantage of this tendency with great success on the first two possessions.
On the second play from scrimmage, Brody Trahan took too long of a look at the running back and allowed a 29-yard gain into the Baylor end of the field for the opposing quarterback. You just HAVE to take care of your responsibility. Later on that possession, Trahan came free on a stunt of the backside of an inside zone play, but didn’t even come close to slowing down Johnson, who ran through Brody’s tackle attempt for a 23-yard gain down to the Baylor 11-yard line. The WLB has to make that play for a 1-yard loss. On the very next play, Baylor got caught slanting into the short side against a tight end to the wide side. This left the Bears in a very vulnerable position and Eddie Lackey couldn’t come up with the tackle. Johnson bulled into the end zone, virtually untouched until he got to the goal line.
After the first possession, it appeared that the Baylor linebackers settled down slightly. Brody Trahan did a good job maintaining the squeeze on the backside of the inside zone, coming up with the tackle on the cutback at the Baylor 14-yard line after a big pass play put the Knights in great scoring position, again. Just like Trahan had done on the 1st possession, Eddie Lackey got caught hanging on the running back too long and Bortles picked up 6 important yards on the next play. On the next play, following the “human safe” of a fullback, the Knights bloodied the noses of the entire right side of the Baylor defense when they blocked down with the line and led through with two backs – big boy football that the Baylor linebackers, safety, and cornerback weren’t man enough or tough enough to stop. They ran right over Eddie Lackey and Brody Trahan. For some reason, it seemed that Eddie was taking a false step in the wrong direction on the snap of the ball. He did this on this critical play, which made him too late to stop the play at the point of attack. This was a problem for the Baylor defense for the rest of the game, especially when UCF ran wideout trips. With Brody in the middle and Eddie deployed to trips, the Knights only had to block the playside DT and DE and they were basically assured of a 5-yard gain.
After the initial Baylor touchdown, the linebackers couldn’t contain Bortles again and allowed the quarterback to ramble for a 1st down on 2nd and long. On this play, Trahan missed the quarterback in the backfield and Lackey missed him as the Baylor linebacker attempted scrape from inside to the outside for containment. It appeared that the quarterback might have been trying to throw a bubble screen, but pulled it down when the coverage broke on the throw. On this play where everything didn’t work exactly right for the Knights, they still converted a first down on long yardage. Eddie did a great job of meeting Storm Johnson right in the hole for no gain on the next play. This is the kind of aggressive play we have come to expect from the Baylor senior linebacker. On the very next play, Eddie totally sniffed out the screen to the Knight running back and almost came up with an interception. This forced a UCF punt. The 2nd forced punt in a row (the defense ultimately got 3 forced punts in a row during the 2nd quarter).
Though one of Brody’s strengths is pass coverage, he was caught in between double-layered routes when he was beaten on a square-in by the inside receiver. Brody had decent position, but appeared to hesitate as to whether to keep his coverage on the deeper receiver or break up to the shallow crossing route underneath him. It was this hesitation that allowed the strong-armed quarterback to drive the ball in for 1st down. In that coverage, usually the linebacker to the trips side needs to carry the deeper receiver and the off-side linebacker picks up the underneath coverage. Brody chose to chase the underneath route. This happened at least 3 times during the contest (once with Andrew Billings in a zone drop – so you can kind of excuse this one). When the Knights got tired of running the ball right up the middle from their trips formation, they began to use their running backs on a swing pass to the short side. With the short side corner in man-to-man coverage, UCF got a natural pick on Brody Trahan as he tried to catch the swinging running back, who had the linebacker beaten by alignment by at least a ½ a hole. This was money in the bank for UCF.
With Sam Holl (25) and Jamal Palmer right in the face of Blake Bortles, the Bears’ NLB (Sam Holl) came up with another big play when he deflected an attempted dump off pass to the tight end. Creating big plays has been something that the Katy senior, Holl, has been able to do all season. His conversion from DS to NLB has been absolutely one of the keys to improved performance by the Baylor defense. Because of the deflection, Bortles’ pass was short and behind the tight end allowing Eddie Lackey to come up with another one of his athletic interceptions on the opening play of a UCF drive. This gave the ball right back to the Baylor offense in much better field position than they had just a few moments previously. Throughout this season, Sam has been just masterful at picking up quick routes and screens. It is this ability to recognize these threats that has made it possible for him to create huge turnovers for the Baylor Bears. This turnover gave the ball back to the Bears at the UCF 32-yard line with 8:26 left in the 1st half. This led to a 2-play drive that put the Bears within an extra point of tying the game. It appeared that Brody Trahan might have injured his shoulder on the failed “fire” call on the extra point. To add insult to injury, it appears that it was just a mishandled catch of the snap by Brody that caused the missed extra point.
On 3rd and 2 at the UCF 25-yard line, the Knights had a tight end to the short side. This meant that Baylor lined up with Bonds in a 3 technique (outside shade of the short side guard) and a nine technique DE (outside of the tight end). The backfield was tilted to the short side, with “the human safe” to that side. All indications were that the Knights were going to run at the “C” gap to that side. It is the linebackers’ responsibility to fill that gap on flow to his side. Brody didn’t even get close to getting to the hole. The Center picked Brody up and the “human safe” didn’t even have anyone to block. Brody has to be quicker reacting and able to beat a center reach block on that play.
Another tactic that worked very well for the Knights was the use of a 2 tight end formation with 2 receivers deployed to the wide side of the field. This meant that the Baylor interior was outnumbered in the formation 7 quick blockers against 6 inside defenders. In the past, the down safety has been very effective helping shore up the weakside of the defense, but the Knights chose to run to the wide side (for the most part) in this formation and away from the down safety support. Something else that was apparent all night long was that the UCF backs must have changed a huge tendency that Baylor thought they had seen. All night long the linebackers held up and even worked away from the action of the play, apparently expecting the backside cut. The UCF backs remained on path and found huge gaps to exploit because there was no linebacker plugging the hole. On Storm Johnson’s (8) big touchdown run to push the sc ore to 49-35, Brody was completely out of position…I just don’t understand it. The lack of downhill filling by the Baylor linebackers has to be part of the game plan, expecting the cutback (I hope these guys just weren’t that timid that night).
Sam Holl has become very good in coverage to trips. There were times in previous years that the number 2 receiver was able to get vertical without being bumped. Sam has been very consistent in getting this rerouting accomplished. In addition, Sam is terrific at playing between the number 2 and number 3 receivers on out-routes. A lot of teams try to stretch the nickel to the 2nd receiver’s out and throw behind him to the inside receiver. Sam has consistently taken away that option with huge hits and even one interception this year. Against the Knights, Sam was very good at playing between those threats and breaking on the middle receiver’s out-route on the throw, minimizing the gain. Sam was correctly called for pass interference when he held the inside receiver in man-to-man coverage with a free safety. One of the main concepts of man-to-man coverage is that inside defenders funnel their coverage to the free safety’s help. Sam did this well, but for some reason grabbed the jersey of the Knight receiver, creating the penalty.
The linebacker blitzes against the Knights were pretty solid, but Bortles was excellent at getting the ball out of his hand before the Baylor linebackers could get to him. Bortles’ ability to get rid of the ball rendered this pressure moot. It is a credit to the UCF quarterback and their receivers that they could defeat the tighter coverage and get quality gains against the Baylor linebacker pressure. At close to the 5-minute mark in the 1st half, Bortles caught the Baylor linebackers in another blitz and ran a bubble screen where Rannell Hall beat one tackle (by cover safety, Terrell Burt - #13) and went to the house from 50-yards out. It might be that the linebackers were tipping their blitzes too soon, but Bortles was very good at seeing the blitz and getting the ball to the best option available to him. It’s not like some of the blitzes didn’t work. Eddie Lackey came completely free on an “A” gap blitz, forcing a too quick throw for an incompletion with time running out in the 1st half (1:21 left).
During the game, I felt that Baylor might have been greatly abused by the Southeast Conference officiating corps. Sad to say, the video confirmed that the officials were almost totally correct in calling pass interference on the Baylor secondary throughout the game. In fact, there was only one call that was a little suspect – it was still interference, but the ball was thrown so far behind the receiver that to consider it catchable when the receiver was moving away from the path of the ball would be ludicrous. This call extended a UCF end of the half drive on what would have been a stop by the Baylor defense on 3rd down. K.J. Morton (8) had his hands on the receiver grabbing cloth (unnecessarily in this case) and if the officials had called holding, it would have been appropriate. But to consider a ball thrown 5-yards behind a receiver who is working vertically upfield away from where the ball is going is, in my opinion, an incorrect call. This call was pivotal because it led to the second Rannell Hall (5) bubble screen hot pass touchdown of the 1st half, making the score 28-20 at the half. Again, Terrell Burt (13) was caught too far off of his man with an all-out blitz by 3 linebackers. Burt couldn’t make up the ground between his alignment and the point of the catch because of the strength of Bortles’ arm. Burt made a weak attempt at a shoe-string tackle and Hall took the play to the house. Hall is a really big receiver and Burt is a smallish safety that was playing banged up. It could be that tackling the larger Hall was just too much for the Baylor safety. His tackling was not good for most of the game. He wasn’t looking his tackles in and using his shoulders. Burt did a lot of reaching and grabbing. This might have to do with his ailing shoulders that didn’t seem to improve much over the layoff between the Texas game and the Fiesta Bowl.
Burt just had a horrific game. This young man has done a great job all year. But New Year’s Day wasn’t a great start to 2014 for him. On the 2nd possession of the game, Terrell got beaten badly on a wheel route. He was late to react up on the out and then was trailing even worse when Perriman (11) turned vertically. It seemed like Terrell was running in sand on the play. It was Burt that got caught up in deep coverage as Bortles slipped in the backfield. When the UCF quarterback regained his footing, Terrell got picked from his deep coverage on the wheel route by the inside receiver (although this coverage could have been Sam Holl’s, depending on the coverage call). Regardless, Terrell was not able to make up ground on the throw fast enough after the release. When UCF went with motion on the goal line and snapped the ball when the receivers to the wide side were basically stacked, Terrell didn’t recognize which receiver was the deeper threat quickly enough and got beaten badly on the corner route for the touchdown that put the Knights into the lead for good.
Ahmad Dixon (6) didn’t have his usual fierce game. He was blocked much more effectively than we have seen in the past by the UCF receivers. The Knights receivers were good sized lads and Ahmad didn’t attack through them like we have seen in the past. In addition, it seemed that Ahmad was working laterally too much on flow away from him. He wasn’t running the alley when he got a true run look. On the goal line for UCF’s second touchdown, Ahmad never moved when the play was coming right at him. In that situation, he was probably manned up with the “human safe.” The lead blocker ran right at Ahmad and the Baylor safety never moved – surprising. Ahmad did a good job of breaking up on the out route by the inside receivers. He was quick to recognize the route and a sure tackler. Ahmad really lowered the boom on Godfrey (2) when the receiver caught a short pass in front of Burt. With a 3rd and 5 at the UCF 39-yard line and the BU linebackers blitzing, Ahmad got called for pass interference giving the Knights another 1st down by penalty. Ahmad played the ball/receiver fairly well, but just made contact with a push too soon. The Baylor secondary demonstrated this kind of poor timing on the throw all night long. In fact, I’m not totally sure that the pass would have been complete, even without the push – just bad judgment by the senior safety from Waco Midway. Ahmad had a terrible missed tackle on Storm Johnson’s long run to give the Knights a 49-35 lead in the 4th quarter. Ahmad had Johnson cut off from coming back to middle of the field and was apparently going to run the big running back out of bounds. For some reason, Dixon gave up his leverage and allowed Johnson to work back to the field and into the end zone. A safety just can’t make these kinds of mistakes.
As the season has continued, it seemed the cornerback technique in press coverage got less and less consistent. The Baylor corners did a lot more reaching and grabbing than moving their feet to keep quality leverage on the receivers. The work that the corners did on the jams was uniformly poor. When you see quality cornerback work, you see excellent foot movement that maintains good leverage on the receiver. You see the jam hitting the receiver in the breast plate to the side of the jam. If you watch the Baylor corners in this game, you see the UCF receivers getting outside of the defenders reach too quickly. You see the corner’s hand on the shoulder or the arm, this is not a good position to physically reroute the receiver. In addition, the corners didn’t seem to trust their ability to redirect and make up ground. When they got beaten, they immediately grabbed cloth, even when the pass didn’t appear to be catchable. I’m all for taking a pass interference penalty when you believe that a play might be a touchdown. But the Baylor corners (and Sam Holl and the safeties) seemed to choose grabbing as the initial reaction to getting beaten, not the last resort. It seems that somewhere along the way this season the Baylor defenders began to replace quality technique with grabbing tactics. The SEC officials were not going to let the Bears get away with this, no matter how many times they had to call pass interference. The Baylor cornerback press coverage technique must improve.
K.J. Morton (8) was one of the more physical players in the secondary, but even he showed the effects of the layoff. Morton did a lot more head-ducking than we’ve seen in the past. Usually K.J. is one of those guys that really looks in his tackles. Morton picked up the initial pass interference penalty of the game when he was beaten quickly on a go route and grabbed cloth. K.J. showed very little foot movement as Perriman (11) ran by him to the outside. In man coverage, K.J. wasn’t as alert as he could have been on a swing pass to the running back. K.J. had outside leverage and was riding the receiver inside (as the Knight was trying to pick the linebacker). K.J. could have seen what was going on and come off of his coverage because it appeared that he was in a position to see his man and the throw. K.J.’s troubles continued when he was called for defensive holding as Hall (6) ran past him on his initial release. This penalty was declined because Hall caught the pass anyway. K.J. gave some good late effort when he raked the ball away from the backup running back of the Knights in the 4th quarter. A Knight offensive lineman recovered the ball.
Demetri Goodson (3) did a terrific job on his initial challenge of the afternoon. On the post attempt, he got over the top of the route and kept the potential receiver on his backside hip. This kept the receiver from being able to get vertical to the ball. Demetri held off the receiver and was still able to make the interception. This is a quality play. In addition, he made a good judgment as to whether or not to return the ball. There was a slight chance he might have been given momentum into the end zone, but it was too close to take a chance. On the first possession of the 2nd half, Goodson had excellent coverage on a dig route, without interfering – what a concept! It forced a throw that was too high and wide for the receiver to get. One of Demetri’s few poor plays of the night was when he slipped down when Goodson was the last defender with a chance at tackling Bortles on the quarterback’s touchdown early in the 4th quarter.
The Baylor Bears probably spent most of the preparation time trying to recover from the brutal last half of the season that was heavily back-loaded. Baylor was banged up from having to endure a meat-grinder starting with the OU game. It was obvious by the end of the year that playing OU, Tech, OSU, TCU, and Texas five weeks in a row without an open date had taken a toll on the bodies of the Baylor defenders. Because of this, I’m sure that the contact was severely limited in practice. The tackling of the Baylor defense didn’t resemble anything that Baylor Nation had seen throughout the season. For most of the evening, the UCF Knights were much more physical than the Baylor defense. It was obvious in the post-game quotes that Coach Bennett felt that the tackling (or lack thereof) was a major factor in the poor performance of a defense that had been good (even great, at times) for most of the year.
The worst thing that happened to the Baylor defense was that they never were able to rise to occasion after the offense had tied the score 28-28 at the 10:18 mark in the 3rd quarter. What should have been a momentum swing in favor of the Bears became the pitifully short high-water mark for Baylor in the game. From that point on, the Knights took the Baylor defense to the woodshed.
The Baylor defense gave up 556 total yards (255 rushing and 301 passing). The Knights averaged 5.8 yards per rush and 15.1 yards per pass completion. The Knights’ quarterback, possible first round draft pick, Blake Bortles (5), completed 20 out of 31 passes for 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Even though the Bears were able to force three turnovers, they also allowed the Knights to convert 6 out of 11 3rd down plays into a first down. They gave up 4 touchdowns and 1 field goal in the five times UCF entered into the red zone. The Bears only forced 4 punts and gave up 4 first downs on 3rd down plays as a result of penalties against the Baylor defense. The worst statistic of the evening was the fact that Baylor gave up 52 points – the most scored on the Baylor Bears in a game during the entire season.
Originally Posted by BearTruth
I don't mind TCU - In fact id like them to be competitive as I think the rivalry between us is good for us. We need a rivalry. Tech is going to be chasing after UT and with aggy gone… TCU is it for us.
But as I just typed that I laughed at myself for the self revealing post. I clearly don't see them as a true rival saying I don't mind them and hope they do well. I had true hatred for aggy but probably not healthy. I'll try and drum up some horned frog hate - maybe they will pull a sword on our cheerleaders or create a fake army or start dressing like neo nazis or wear aggy golf shirts to church or perhaps start grabbing their nuts dressed like milk men. that would all help.
I agree... i dont want to see TCU do bad. I don't want them to beat us, but healthy competition is good for the Big 12. Our teams need to be challenged so when we reach the big stage we dont lay an egg... I hope recruiting picks up for them, i could see them as a nice middle of the pack Big 12 Team...
Originally Posted by JGTBH
I'm not a Bryce Lover or a Bryce Hater... I'm a Baylor Lover and a true believer of Coach Art Briles and Coach Montgomery when it comes to evaluating and developing Quarterbacks. I like Bryce fine and I think what he did this year after having only 14 throws in College coming into the year is just amazing, but if Johnson or Russell is the guy who can help us win games then I'm fine with them playing instead of Petty.
Briles will play the kid who gives the Baylor Bears the best chance to win. Anyone who thinks this is not true is a freaking moron and cheapens all of our diplomas... I don't care who says it...friend or foe...
our best guy will be playing. now, whether or not our best guy will be good enough to win a National Championship is definitely up for debate, but to pretend that Briles and Montgomery play favorites or some **** is just juvenile, childish, Junior High Bull ****.
I agree with you that we absolutely need to play the best players. I find it amusing when people are calling for Russell or Johnson after Petty just won POY in the Big 12. Petty had a TD:Int ratio of 32:3 for the season. Russell had a TD:Int ratio of 3:3 in garbage time. And Johnson has not taken a snap of college football, minus practice. I understand your want to have the best player play, and we could have that conversation for other positions on the field but not quarterback. To me that is foolish. (watch now that I say that Russell or Johnson will be the starter next year. ha)
Originally Posted by tomjmac
"Bobby Jack Floyd(TCU) slams into the Baylor line trying to find out what's behind the Green Door." No explanation needed if you know the hip parade songs of the day.
Originally Posted by ftblbob5
Because of a busy Christmas schedule, I am attempting to write this preview as we bounce across the Texas sky on our way to Phoenix on the Baylor charter out of Love Field in Dallas. It’s great that this is a flight full of Baylor Nation, though the turbulence and the early hour have quieted the crowd significantly. We are looking forward to a great BCS Bowl experience in the Phoenix area and a Baylor victory over the 11-1 University of Central Florida Knights.
The Knights are a very impressive team that has navigated their schedule with a lot of grit and determination fueled by excellent play in the clutch by experienced leadership and youthful talent. The Knights have been at their best in the tight, closely fought games where it was critical to make plays down the stretch that would determine whether or not they won or lost. In almost all of these circumstances, the Knights have been able to rise to the task at hand and succeed where other teams might have wilted and failed. This is a gritty team in the vein of a Kansas State or TCU where they hope keep the ball away from the opponent; to play quality defense and be able to control the clock and the ball with a balanced offense that stresses both the run and the pass.
Obviously, the UCF defense has the biggest challenge in trying to stop (or at least slow down the potent Baylor offensive attack. The Knight defense utilizes a 4-man front with to inside linebackers and a Nickel linebacker that is similar to the Bears’ Bear Backer (a linebacker/strong safety hybrid). They run an umbrella coverage as their base alignment with two deep safeties and corners that can play both support and deep coverage roles. They are an athletic unit but don’t seem to possess the overall team speed of teams like OU, TCU, or OSU.
The Knight defensive line is a solid unit that has no superstars, but does a quality job at every position. They are decent against the run and pass, but don’t appear to possess any athletic pass rushers in the unit. They are very good at maintaining their rush lanes in their pass rush, leaving modest throwing windows for the quarterback setting up in the pocket.
The defensive ends (Miles Pace - #44, 6’2”, 242, RSo and Thomas Niles - #69, 6’2”, 270, RSo) do a quality job of maintaining outside leverage and work to contain the ball on both runs and passes. They are not dynamic players, but they do a workman-like job of maintaining leverage against the blocker and working to flatten out perimeter runs. Against the pass, they are effective outside rushers but don’t possess that elite speed to run by most D1 tackles. Niles appears to be the more productive of these two.
The defensive tackles (Demetris Anderson - #94, 6’2”, 303, RSo and E.J. Dunston - #95, 6’2”, 302, Sr) are solid run stoppers that do a good job of maintaining the line of scrimmage. They work very hard at keeping blockers from being able to reach level two. This hard work enables the play-making linebackers to run downhill to the ball. Probably because these guys aren’t dynamic pass rushers, they do a great job of maintaining their rush lanes in their pass rush. This causes the pocket to collapse on quarterbacks, even though they aren’t usually able to get a sack. E.J. Dunston is definitely the more productive tackle and will be a real handful for the Baylor offensive line.
The outlook for the Baylor offensive line against this unit looks pretty good. The defensive line is a good, but not great collection of athletes. The Baylor offensive line should have a distinct advantage in both the running and the passing game against this unit.
The All-Conference middle linebacker for the Knights, (Terrance Plummer - #41, 6’1”, 234, Jr.) is a stud. He is a very productive tackler and is a decent ballhawk in the passing game. This guy has excellent size and good speed. He is a physical player that is able to run though blocks to the ball carrier and still be good enough to take on offensive linemen, when necessary. He is pretty good in coverage, but he is very effective when asked to blitz. He is a “moose.” He brings a real nasty quality to the defense (and I mean that in the nicest way possible). He is a running, hitting machine. He certainly earned the All-Conference honors.
The WLB (Troy Gray - #57, 6’1”, 210, Jr) for the Knights is a solid contributor. He doesn’t possess the physical nature of his running buddy, but does a quality job of playing this position. He has been productive on the blitz and is a quality downhill player. He is supported by Justing McDonald (#34, 6’2”, 197, Fr) who appears to be a really talented young man, just inexperienced.
The Nickel linebackers (Michael Easton - #15, 5’1’’, 197, Jr. and Sean Maag - #31, 6’1”, 194, RSr) are very effective in coverage and run support. These guys make plays on perimeter screens and keep good leverage on the ball. They will test the Baylor receivers that attempt to keep them from getting to the screen receiver.
It wouldn’t surprise me if UCF attempts to run a “muddle” defense where the players mill around prior to the snap and then try to get to where they need to be just prior to the start of the play. Since UCF has had 3+ weeks to prepare, I think that they might try to utilize some of the aspects of the OSU and TCU game plans that make it more difficult to get pre-snap reads on alignments and blitzes. Baylor has seen these looks previously, but it doesn’t keep them from being effective, at times. It will be interesting to see if UCF chooses to cover or bring pressure. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Knights will chose pressure because of the relatively ineffective pass rush of the front 4.
The UCF secondary possesses two All-Conference performers (one at safety and one at corner). They are a solid unit, but I don’t think they have any coverage players at the level of Stanley from OSU or Verrett from TCU. In addition, the renewed threat of Tevin Reese will make it at least slightly more difficult to defend the Baylor receiving corps (if Tevin can return to a functional level or better).
It will be interesting to see how quickly the officiating corps is able to spot the ball and allow the Bears to get the next play underway. Remember that the Big XII has been working with an extra official (the “A” or alternate official) all season whose primary job was to get the ball spotted for play as quickly as possible and to monitor allowable substitution. In the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears will be playing with the umpire doing the spotting of the ball. This will definitely slow down the process between the plays – how much is to be seen.
The secondary is manned by cornerbacks, Jacoby Glenn (#12, 6’, 174, RFr) and Jordan Ozerities (#38, 5’10”, 191, RJr). Glenn is very talented and made All-Conference this season. The safeties are Clayton Geathers (#26, 6’2”, 207, RJr) and Brandon Alexander (#37, 6’2”, 191, Jr). Geathers is a tackling machine. He is a true strong safety and brings it every play. He’s very impressive. Both of these guys have decent, but not exceptional speed.
Teams like Louisville were very effective in their passing game. The coverage is good, but not air-tight. Look for the Bears to be able to effectively work at the intermediate route level, making occasional vertical attempts at big plays.
I expect the Bears to be very good at running the football on Wednesday. With Lache Seastrunk (25), Glasco Martin IV (8), and Shock Linwood (32) all relatively healthy for the first time in several weeks, the Baylor running game should be able to pound the ball at the over-matched UCF defensive front. Because the Knights will probably be struggling to stop the run, they will have to resort to additional personnel being brought into the box to increase run support. This will open the Knights up to vertical passes that will be quick score threats.
If the Knights defense can control the running game of the Bears, then offensive success becomes a more difficult proposition. If I have under-estimated the relative strength of the UCF defensive front, the Bears will have a more difficult time moving the football. I don’t expect this.
The matchup between the Baylor defense and the UCF offense has to be the most troubling for the Baylor Bears. UCF’s offense is very balanced, with an NFL-caliber quarterback as the trigger-man and two NFL quality running backs to beat the defense into submission. Baylor has had the most trouble with a quarterback that is highly accurate and still has a good enough running game to keep the defensive front occupied. The Knights are the prototype of this style of offense.
O’Leary has made no secret about the fact that he will be trying to control the ball and the clock against the explosive Baylor Bears. He wants to keep the high-energy, past-paced Baylor offense on the sidelines as much of this contest as possible. The Knights will be huddling all night long and snapping the ball with just a few seconds left on the play clock. With the quality running game and possession passing game, the Baylor defense will have a real challenge to limit the 3rd down conversions of one of the nations’ best offenses at succeeding on 3rd down.
The Knight offensive line is the strongest where the Bears are the least experienced. The Knights possess two All-Conference guards – twins Jordan (#63, 6’3”, 310, Sr) and Justin McCray (#64, 6’3”, 310, Sr) – that are very physical and extremely talented. These two mean-spirited young men will be matched up with the Baylor defensive tackles that have no player more experienced than a 20-year old sophomore and have two 19-year old true freshmen in their two-deep. These twins are really good. It is this matchup that will determine the effectiveness of the interior running game of the UCF Knights. If Beau Blackshear (95), Andrew Billings (75), Byron Bonds (96), Trevor Clemons-Valdez (98), and Suleiman Masumbuko (93) can stand up to the experienced execution of these two road-graders (plus their talented running mate at center – Joey Grant - #55, 6’2”, 285, RSo), then the Baylor defense should be able to be very successful. If the Knights can get quality movement against these two defensive tackles, the Bears will have great difficulty getting off the field.
One matchup that appears to be clearly in favor of the Baylor Bears is the duel of the Baylor defensive ends against the left tackle (Torrian Wilson, #72, 6’3”, 308, RJr) for the Knights. This young man is a large human being, but he doesn’t appear to possess the kind of quickness and agility necessary to pass protect against the likes of Chris McAllister (31), Jamal Palmer (92), Terrance Lloyd (11) and Shawn Oakman (2). The Bears should be able to bring quality pressure on the quarterback from the blind side of the UCF signal caller. It will be interesting to see if UCF utilizes tight ends and/or running backs to chip or stay in to double –team defenders matched up with the big tackle. The other tackle (Chris Martin - #70, 6’5”, 303, RSr) is a solid contributor for the Knights.
UCF uses a tight end or H-back (Justin Tukes - #84, 6’5”, 257, Jr) with 3 receivers most of the time, so expect Lloyd and Oakman to lineup to the strong side (the tight end side) of the ball most of the game. Both of these guys have been extremely good against even the best tight ends they’ve seen this fall. If these guys can maintain that level of performance, it should be difficult for the Knight running backs to get outside to the tight end side.
These two UCF running backs (Storm Johnson - #8, 6’, 215, RJr and William Stanback - #28, 5’11”, 205, Fr) are a very, very good tandem of backs. They are physical runners that protect the ball effectively and make excellent, vertical cuts for positive yardage. These guys are jitter-bug runners. They pound the ground when they carry the ball. Look for the Knights to try and get Johnson 25+ carries, with Stanback carrying the ball 10 or 11 times. They will be a very tough test of the Baylor tackling.
If Bryce Hager (44) is able to play, it would be a real benefit to the Baylor defensive cause because he is a bigger, more physical run-stopper. If, as expected, Bryce is not able to play, it will be critical for Brody Trahan (15) to duplicate his performance against the University of Texas where he played his best and most physical game of his Baylor career. The ability of Eddie Lackey (5) and Brody to play downhill and meet the challenge of tackling these two physical backs is critical to the Baylor defensive success.
Blake Bortles (#5, 6’4”, 230, RJr) is a terrific quarterback. This guy is the best quarterback the Bears have faced this season. He is an elite, NFL-ready quarterback that is very accurate, but still possesses the arm strength necessary to fire the ball vertically downfield. Coupled with a quality receiving corps, he should be a major challenge to the Baylor secondary coverage. With 3+ weeks to mend, the Baylor secondary should be as close to full speed as they have been in several weeks. This should make them noticeably more effective on Wednesday. That’s good – because the passing game of the Knights will be a real challenge.
The Knights are very good off of play action, they protect the quarterback effectively in dropback, and they attack the short, intermediate, and deep levels with equal effectiveness. This quarterback can make all the reads and throws. He throws in the middle and to the outside with equal effectiveness. He is very well coached and will be as good as anyone the Bears have seen at sniffing out where the blitz is and hitting the appropriate hot receiver.
The Knight receiving corps is very good. For the most part, they possess receivers with excellent speed and size combinations. They should be larger than all of the Baylor defensive backs and run will-coordinated routes with precision. They have good hands and protect the ball effectively after the catch. These guys have made phenomenal plays in the clutch. When the chips are down, they have come through multiple times this season. While they might not have one receiver that is as good as a Terrance Williams, they are a quality receiving corps as a group. Couple this receiving corps with a quarterback that can deliver the ball and you know that the Baylor secondary will have to play one of its best games. J.J. Worton (#9, 6’2”, 211, RJr) and Breshad Perriman (#11, 6’2”, 209, So) are backed up by Jeff Godfrey (#2, 5’11”, 190, Sr), Josh Reese (#19, 6’, 184, RJr), and Rannell Hall (#6, 6’1”, 196, Jr). All of these guys are very good receivers and will be a severe test for the Baylor coverage group.
The concern has to be that UCF will be able to maintain possession of the ball by converting 3rd down after 3rd down, keeping the ball away from the explosive Baylor offense. The worst case scenario has to be if the UCF offense can keep moving the ball downfield, converting possession after possession into touchdowns while monopolizing the time of possession, this could be a game like we saw in Stillwater. This kind of offensive execution by the opponent would put a premium on making the Baylor possessions pay off in touchdowns. If the Knights can control the ball with that kind of effectiveness, this probably won’t be a game where the Bears are going to see a lot of possessions.
This won’t be a game where UCF is able to or even wants to “big-play” the Bears. The Knights are going to rely on their ability to convert their 3rd downs at the same success rate as they have been able to maintain all season. On Wednesday night, this will be one of the most important success factors in the contest.
I am looking forward to watching this contest in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ. I anticipate a successful outcome for the Baylor Bears and hope to see a return of the big-play attack that the Baylor Nation has grown to love. If the Baylor defense can meet the challenge of this effective offense, then it should be an evening that the Baylor faithful enjoy a lot.
Bears win, 50-21. Mrs. ftblbob5 wants 80, like always.