Sunday, October 16, 2016

Baylor vs. Kansas Recap


After a comeback win against Iowa State and a bye week to follow, the Bears were ready to take the field for the homecoming game against Kansas. Although the Jayhawks nearly upset TCU last week, four interceptions and a breathtaking Baylor defensive performance sealed the deal for BU's 6-0 record and their seventh consecutive bowl game appearance.

While our offense has slowly improved over the past few weeks, it's our defense who has truly shocked and amazed me. This week I witnessed one of the greatest defensive performances over the past few years that I couldn't have expected from a young and inexperienced group. QB Seth Russell and co. scored quickly within the first three minutes of the quarter and once Kansas received the ball, they marched down the field. While in the past I would have grown anxious over the thought of the opposing team rapidly gaining yardage, this new defense gives me hope. And boy can they perform. At Baylor's 36 yard line, CB Ryan Reid picked off the ball and ran it back for a 64-yard TD. Reid hasn't always showed star potential, but his handwork is starting to pay off in his senior season. On Kansas' next drive, QB Ryan Willis was sacked by DT Ira Lewis for a loss of eight yards before LB Raaquan Davis tackled the Jayhawks' RB on the following play. Davis was flying all over the field throughout the game as he collected 15 solo tackles, 2 for loss, one QB hurry and one sack. The second Kansas drive of the second quarter saw another Reid pick, this one returned for 52 yards. Interceptions will be key for our defense going forward as we challenge teams with stronger O-lines who can manhandle our pass rush efforts. Two more sacks by Davis and LB Taylor Young followed by a fumble recovered by Lewis left Kansas scoreless and Baylor up 42 points at the half. The Jayhawks got the ball back at the beginning of the third quarter and a few rushing yards were no match for a third interception, the first for S Orion Stewart who returned it for 11 yards (credit to DE Greg Roberts for his QB hurry). Kansas saw their first score of the night after the worst pass interference call in history (IMHO) on BU CB Tion Wright and 68 rushing yards. Most of Baylor's reserves were on the field by the fourth quarter and they had their chance to perform in front of one of the largest student turnouts in school history (even though the stands were mostly empty after the half). LB Clay Johnston (wearing #44 and looking a lot like the great Bryce Hager) picked off QB Stanley Carter and returned the pass for 65 yards. Kansas' offensive efforts were brought to an end with the fifth sack of the night and the first by LB Jordan Williams. LBs Lenoy Jones Jr. and Young had themselves a night with six tackles a piece, a forced fumble by Jones and two sacks by Young. However, Ryan Reid was the MVP of the night as his two interceptions totaled 116 yards and one TD. If our defense continues to keep up the tempo and find turnovers, I have all the faith in the world that they will keep winning games.

Our offense was a little less shiny and didn't record the best stats; however, Seth Russell was fearless and showed the nation why he is the just the next man up in Baylor's history of outstanding QBs. Russell's passing stats don't accurately represent his performance as he completed just 9 of 22 passing attempts for 144 yards and two TDs. Where his canon of an arm doesn't translate, he can (and will) use his legs. He led the team in rushing yards and TDs, totaling 68 yards and two TDs. At one point, he was sprinting toward the end zone and a Kansas defender knocked him in the side before he spiraled in the air and landed on his back. Having a dual-threat QB is important to Baylor's future success because it leaves defenses guessing whether he'll be on the keeper or not. Let's just hope for a little less flying in the air so he doesn't hurt himself again! RB Shock Linwood broke another Baylor football record as he scored his 36th rushing TD. Fellow RBs Terence Williams, JaMycal Hasty and Wyatt Schrepfer all saw playing time but didn't record as many stats as Russell. WRs KD Cannon and Ishmael Zamora each grabbed a TD pass, but my A+ receiver of the game was Lynx Hawthorne. Hawthorne struggled to find his place last year and needed to work on his consistency. He hasn't seen much time on the field so far, but was extremely reliable against the Jayhawks, similar to that of former WR Jay Lee. Hawthorne had two grabs for 42 yards and made Russell's job easier when he needed him.

Right now Baylor's greatest weakness is still their special teams, at the kicking position in particular. While no fans should ever boo their players, there needs to be an improvement at kicker. P/K Chris Callahan saved us against TCU in 2014 and again last week against Iowa State, but his lack of reliability and the fact that he can't make a field goal over 30 yards is troubling. We need to start training Drew Galitz or Connor Martin for the starting kicking spot in order to be as competitive as we can.

Final Notes:

I really love having a good defense
Praise the old gods and the new for our core of linebackers
I shed a few tears watching our coaches laughing and smiling together at the end of the fourth quarter
I can't wait to see how QB Zach Smith develops

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