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2009 Baylor Post Mortem

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If Fox Sports were writing this Post-Mortem, it would be a series of sentence fragments interspersed with random Fox graphics having only a tangential connection to the action at hand.

Then I would replay the sentence previous while you're ready for the next one. Then I would replay the sentence previous while you're ready for the next one.

TOUCHDOWN TEXAS! (Flashes graphic of Mariano Rivera's ERA in the 9th inning)

...you can join me midsentence, I'll then trail off like your Grandpa when he tried to remember the hometown of one of his war buddies, and then I can throw up a picture of Jordan Lake while Cody Johnson takes another defender on a Nickel Cody Ride. It was funny/sad. The Fox producer in the truck had the sensory awareness of a tree sloth maimed in a forest fire.

When it's 40-0 halftime at your opponent's place (after they'd hung with Nebraska and whipped Missouri - chortle, chortle), you're doing good things. Our defense was spectacular (again), the offense started fast and finally executed consistently in the running game, and our special teams were acceptable. Overall, this was a very satisfying win. If you're someone that's seriously upset because our scrubs gave up two mercy touchdowns, I need you to go read the Aggie boards for a while to learn about real misery.

Offense

Good stuff, good start. Our first seven drives went thusly:

UT 1st U20 15:00 Kickoff B00 11:18 * TOUCHDOWN 10-80 3:42
UT 1st U20 05:51 Interception U26 05:16 Punt 3-6 0:35
UT 1st B44 04:04 Downs B00 01:56 * TOUCHDOWN 6-44 2:08
UT 1st U15 00:20 Punt B45 10:44 Punt 9-40 4:36
UT 2nd U47 09:37 Punt B00 09:20 * TOUCHDOWN 2-53 0:17
UT 2nd B29 08:03 Punt B00 06:41 * TOUCHDOWN 5-29 1:22
UT 2nd B43 05:23 Punt B00 02:50 * TOUCHDOWN 6-43 2:33

Most crucially, we ran the ball well and it wasn't a bunch of 4th quarter garbage yardage against a tired defense. Cody Johnson went 19 for 109 with a long run of 16 yards. Tre Newton went 7 for 80 with a long run of 45. When you take away a runner's longest run and he still averages more than 5 yards a carry, you're getting it done. We ran a lot of weakside zone and counter and we blocked them both correctly. Seriously. Like, competently. As if we had a scheme, a coach teaching that scheme, and an agreed upon plan if some pesky defender refuses to line up where he's supposed to. Irrespective of the quality of the opponent, for the first time this year (UTEP was a blatant physical mismatch) our OL actually seemed to understand that passing angry defenders between each other is extremely difficult and that doing this while running laterally ends up a lot like the old TV clip of Lucille Ball working on a candy conveyor.

We simplified by telling our OL to get a hat on a guy, and rather than attempt to reach his playside shoulder, simply push him down the line, allow overpursuit, and trust that the back will make the appropriate cut-n-go. See Tre Newton's TD run. Classic zone blocking where overpursuit and line slant games are punished. See the highlight clip (shows both Newton run and sweet Shipley pump fake):

Our false counter play has always been there for us (look at the 5:02 mark in the 2nd QTR if you'd like to see a textbook example of how it should be blocked), but we're actually learning some timing (we don't have a counter step - so you need to take a pause so that the backside pulls can get their seals) and we've taught the backs and OL to turn it outside when the playside DE pinches down instead of blindly thrashing into the pulling tackle's back. Please look at the 3:35 mark 2nd QTR to see how to properly bounce the run outside when the playside DE pinches on the counter. Ulatoski sees it and it now becomes a sweep, but one where we have numbers and no one has set the edge. Advantage: offense. Cody gains an easy 8 yards and draws a facemask which, if it had not occurred, would have allowed an easy 10 yard TD.

One of they key factors in the blocking working better on this play - and why Cody Johnson has only four negative yards on the year - is that neither Cody or Tre is particularly fast but both like to get North-South as quickly as possible. The move that Tre threw on the Baylor safety on his 45 yard run was just wicked.

Anyone else notice how our running game working allowed for a clean jersey for Colt? And if your response to that is "Well, it's Baylor" I suggest you rewatch last year's Baylor game. Colt got pummeled. Running game - a QBs best friend.

I didn't think Colt was all that sharp and Baylor left some interceptions on the carpet. However, the passing game irritated me for one persistent reason: when a team lines up in three deep, I have no interest in testing it like some internet buffoon begging for deep balls, but that doesn't mean your default solution has to be WR screens and three yard stops. When a team lines up their safeties that deep they allow huge swathes of space in the middle of the field and intermediate crossing routes are wide ass open if you run a couple of guys deep to occupy and then drag two across at different levels. This is why prevent defenses often give up yards after the catch when you hit someone on the run over the middle. Let's hit our guys on the move and give them a shot at someone making an athletic play upfield.

Big props to Dan Buckner for two fantastic catches. The play call and execution on Jordan Shipley's second TD were outstanding. Fake the screen block, pump fake, easy TD. I've actually come to accept that whenever I see Colt McCoy pump fake, there's about a 80% chance of a TD ensuing. Our slavish adherence to certain tendencies makes us unstoppable when we break them.

I was also really pleased to see Cody Johnson catch the ball so well in the flat. He's not going to break a 30 yarder, but big boy moves the chains and doesn't allow defenses to gear their scheme to our personnel (i.e. Whitaker is in, must be a pass). Nice to have Tre Newton back, obviously. If he and Cody form our RB rotation going forward, that's fine by me.

The Greg Smith volleyball set is now as predictable as Mack Brown knowing the name, hometown, and favorite hobbies of any person he has ever met. I think we need to let Karch Kiraly stick to blocking.

Defense

If you want to understand the standard with which we coach on that side of the ball, check out Chykie Brown's CB blitz pasting of Nick Florence. Great play, right? We get a big sack, Florence is rattled, Baylor begins to recede into its familiar shell of failure and self-loathing. Not so fast. The camera cuts to Duane Akina and Akina is screaming at Chykie, "GET THE BALL! DAMN IT!" while demonstrating how Florence was cradling it and then chopping like a tomahawk. With respect to our safety, Muschamp has postgame comments to the effect that the safety was nice but that we had a touchdown if we'd covered the ball properly. He delivered this line in a voice tinged with regret usually reserved for fathers telling their kids that the family labrador has leukemia.

DB

Uh, Aaron Williams is back. After his clutch interception and a pass break up that was close to being another, Baylor avoided him like he was a Richard Dawkins essay. He also got physical on their screen game, which was nice to see. Chykie Brown played a good game for us - 8 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack. He was physical and actually ended up leading us in tackles. Chykie is prone to inconsistency so I'm always pleased when he turns in a full 60 minutes. Gideon was solid in run support and mixed it up on a couple of occasions. Earl Thomas had five tackles and a pass break-up but Baylor's reluctance to test us downfield curtailed his playmaking. Curtis Brown was quiet except for one pass interference and when a CB is quiet, he's generally whipping someone's ass. I continue to be extremely impressed with Kenny Vaccaro and he'll be a player for us if we can get him to stop beating up lawyers and anyone else that makes eye contact with him for more than a second a half.

Is it just me or does Ben Wells keep looking good out there?

I freaking love what I've seen of Marcus Davis. He's got pop in his pads and he can run. We have a legitimate 3 deep at DB and it's scary.

LB

I've got nothing but props for Dustin Earnest's development. I'd written him off before the season and the guy has had a really solid year and he gave us a reasonable game filling in for Roderick Muckelroy. It also bodes well for next year that both he and Acho can play very credibly at MLB. Throw Norton in that mix with some freak freshmen and we're good to go. Acho's interception was something we hadn't seen something from him and my guess is that we see more things from him each week that we didn't know he could do. It's fun to watch him play because you can see him adding a different tool to his belt every game. Keenan Robinson has also turned the corner and though Acho may be more impactful because of his natural explosiveness, Robinson is the more polished guy and he has quite a bit of upside himself. Is it any coincidence that Muschamp coaches this position into excellence when it has so long plagued us?

DL

Ho-hum. Complete dominance. Acho Ocho Uno gets 2 TFL and forces a fumble, Lamarr Houston turns in a MVP performance with 3 TFL and 2 sacks, Sergio is himself, and Eddie Jones suckers Nick Florence like a pro when he sees Baylor attempt their screen game for the fifteenth time and has the athleticism to finish the play for a 60 yard TD. There's really not much to write here except to point out that we owned them in every concievable way. If you're disappointed that we didn't get 7-8 sacks by bringing the house, I'd ask that you appreciate that we're always going to keep a mobile QB with speed WRs in the pocket and force them to make a throw into that secondary on timing and with accuracy, not give up a cheapy on a broken play scramble.

Special Teams

It was nice to see some specialness return to our special teams. We were somewhat uneven in kickoff coverage, but the Vaccaro punt block was first rate. Vaccaro, Cobb & Malcolm Williams are our special teams war daddies and I'm not sure what we'd do without them.

Baylor thoughts

If you want to understand why I dislike the laziness of journalists, look no further than the fact that Jordan Lake will be on several postseason All-Big 12 teams and Phil Taylor will be mentioned too. Simple name recognition and hype. Coaches - who should know better - fall for it too. Taylor is a fat overhyped load who gives you five hard snaps a game. Lake has always been a good tackler shielded in two deep who doesn't impact the game in any fashion and is a step too slow. He's fine. No more, no less. I like Kendall Wright a lot. With Griffin gone, Finley went from a 1,000 yard rusher to a non-entity. There's no doubt in my mind that Baylor - yes, that team we just destroyed - is a bowl team with simple addition of RGIII. The transformative power of the elite running college QB that can throw respectably on an offense is like nothing else in football.

Parting Thoughts

Kansas is the next victim and it's going to be ugly. I'm enjoying the ride and still encouraged by the possibility that this team can still get better.