To some extent I wasn't all that surprised by this game. I've been telling anyone that will listen this week that I'm particularly frustrated by the near-certain outcomes of the Baylor and Norfolk State (and perhaps Miami) games over the coming weeks. The reality is that none of the questions raised by more-difficult-than-expected games against Duquesne and Army are going to present answers in the likely one-sided matchups here in the middle and end of September.
I don't remember what I was doing during last year's game against Baylor. I know that I didn't watch it, and I might not have even listened. I certainly wasn't an editor at Bull Run yet. Regardless, I don't think I appreciated just how fast Baylor runs their offense. When I'm covering a game, I like to make a note of each play, and most of my attention usually goes to that. I don't really start writing until halftime. When Baylor ran 3 plays in their first 30 seconds of possession, I was overwhelmed myself. Even the in-box announcer sometimes didn't get a chance to announce the play before the next started.
Despite that, UB was adequate against the run throughout and especially early on. It took Baylor 12 plays and a number of third down conversions to score a TD on their first possession despite enjoying good field position after a short kick. Even so, those 12 plays still happened in just four and a half minutes. For those semi-positives against the run, though, the pass defense wasn't about what we expected: Let's just rename Bryce Petty "Enola" and KD Cannon "Gay". Petty opened the game 9 for his first 9 pass attempts, with the first incompletion coming on the penultimate snap of the first quarter. He would finish the first half with 329 yards passing. Baylor would not punt until their fifth possession, and was only stopped a second time in the first half on a missed field goal.
It's been raised before, but we really need to start talking more about Licata's touch on deep balls. UB's first drive ended on a three and out when Marcus McGill was just inches from reeling in a pass* that would have carried him untouched to the endzone 73 yards away. Even beyond that, UB didn't really work for the intermediate passing game, and Joe was less than accurate to say the least. Whether it was too much air, or not on target, very few of his passes even tested the Baylor secondary. In the second half (shocker!) the junior QB started to connect with his receivers, but 76 of his 171 yards through the first three quarter came on a short screen that Devon Hughes took to the house and on a flea-flicker to open the next drive.
*Shades of Pitt in... 20XX? Help me Conrad.
It's so cliche to compliment the punter, but Tyler Grassman was downright Ben Woodsian tonight. His first punt used a good roll to get to 64 yards, but Grassman still averaged over 40 yards on too many punts despite two that netted less than 30 thanks to UB looking to pin the Bears deep.
At the half, UB had ran just three plays in Baylor territory, while the flip side of the coin saw the gentlemen from Waco run 26 in UB's end of the field. Still, as ridiculous as it sounds, 35-0 is less of a deficit than the 56-13 score that UB faced at the half last year.
There were a number of positives in the third quarter. For one, UB held Baylor to a three-and-out on their first possession, thanks to consecutive pass breakups from Dwellie Striggles. UB would score on each of their next two possessions thanks to a handful of big plays: a handful of gains from Jordan Johnson in the run game followed by a 41-yard catch-and-run from Devon Hughes for the first score, and a 40 yard dash to the outside from Anthone Taylor preceded by the Baylor Kryptonite (TM) - a flea flicker that picked up 35 yards. All told, in two drives, UB piled up 134 yards and two scores on just eight plays.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Baylor followed each of their scores with quick touchdown drives of their own. running an incredible thirteen plays in just 3:33 to maintain the 35 point advantage.
UB wasn't able to maintain their momentum in the fourth, when a Baylor TD on a very cool Seth Russell run play put the Bears over fifty, and a UB fumble on the next drive gave the bears a short field and another TD.
After Willoughby and McGill had big games in Weeks 1 and 2, the UB receivers struggled to rack up many stats, as Jordan Johnson were the most consistent offensive forces for UB for much of the game. However, I'd like to nominate Jamarl Eiland as Promising Young Receiver of the Week (TM). After Baylor squashed UB's small amount of third-quarter momentum and Tony Daniel replaced Licata under center, two long pass plays to Eiland anchored a nine-play, 74 yard drive that ruined my score prediction at least.
Two injuries of note: Devin Campbell was hurt in the third quarter, and Willoughby limped off the field in the fourth. In Campbell's stead, Jordan Johnson picked up the mantle of "Running Back who should be getting Taylor's snaps," accounting for 96 yards on 20 rushes. Taylor, even with a 41 yard touchdown run, compiled only 47 yards on thirteen carries.
All in all, nothing really surprising from this one. The 63-21 final is right in many of your BRuWPeG wheelhouses, and is one UB score more than I thought would happen. UB will next take on FCS for Norfolk State next Saturday at 3:30 PM here at UB Stadium.