Baylor vs. Liberty Recap

The beginning of Baylor’s football season didn’t go as planned as the Bears lost to Liberty, 48-45, at home on Saturday night. Because the Bears were expected to demolish the tiny FCS team, uncertainty looms for the rest of the season. Playing with a new scheme and starting younger, inexperienced athletes caused Baylor’s weaknesses on the field. I don’t want to beat on the team for the entire post, but a strengths/weaknesses list is a comin’.

Let’s start with the Bears’ strengths.

Anu Solomon
The graduate transfer QB played a great game considering the talent he was handed and the defensive pressure he faced. I’m immensely biased when it comes to the only kanaka maoli on the team, but Solomon’s film tapes show his impressive arm and speed when the opportunity for carries strikes. Solomon’s got a bullet for an arm and when accurate (and when his receivers actually catch the passes), he could be as dangerous of a threat as former greats Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence were to other teams. Solomon’s stats don’t match up to his actual performance as he only completed 14 of 29 attempts for 278 yards with three TDs and one INT. He also added six carries for 97 yards with a career-long 44-yard rush. Although Solomon’s stats aren’t impressive, real-time action showed how many drops his receivers had with some perfectly thrown passes from the QB. Sometimes drops happen, but the starting receivers need to catch every pass, especially when the score isn’t in their favor. Denzel Mims and Tony Nicholson each had one-two passes launched into their hands before scrambling and losing the ball. In those cases, the blame is no longer on Solomon for why the offense didn’t score more points. The O-line (which we knew would be a problem) also did no favors for the new QB. The pocket collapsed time after time, leaving Solomon dangerously sacked by multiple players (risking injury) or running up and down the field trying to gain a few extra yards. The line needs to give him at least a few more seconds to find an open man or use his own legs when needed. Watch a few of Solomon’s highlights in the video below and imagine me yelling “poly power!!!” in my head in the Baylor press box.

John Lovett
The true freshman RB was thrust into the spotlight after starting rusher JaMycal Hasty injured his knee during the game. Losing former starter Terence Williams to injury until conference play was already bad enough, but Hasty going down added another layer of uncertainty to an otherwise strong corp. However, Lovett stepped up in a major way, grabbing two of Baylor’s rushing TDs with 14 carries for 89 yards. He’s the first freshman to score a TD in his first game since former Baylor QB Nick Florence. Lovett has a lot of developing to do throughout the season, but his maturity under pressure and speed on the field is inspiring in such a confusing football time.

Harrison Hand
Another true freshman shining in his college debut is the CB who led the defense in tackles and tied a fellow bear in pass break ups. He collected 11 total tackles with two pass break ups. Whereas the defense was basically nonsexist throughout the game, Hand consistently covered his man and made it as difficult as possible for him to make catches. Baylor has struggled immensely over the past few years by collecting pass inference penalties, but Hand made sure his contact was clean. I watched as he stealthily interfered with the receivers without completely ruining their chances of grabbing passes, turning his head to actually see where the ball is going and breaking coverage to stop a nearby athlete from making a big play. While it will be helpful to get fellow CBs Grayland Arnold, Jameson Houston and Raleigh Texada back on the field soon, I’m excited to see how Hand develops and becomes a major player for the Bears.

And onto their weaknesses…

Lack of depth/experience on the O-line
Solomon should not in any way have taken as many hits as he did throughout the game. I often watched the live action in real fear that a defender would break his legs or knock him unconscious because no one was there to protect him. I know we’re starting a true freshman at C (Ryan Miller) and the other Bears in the trenches haven’t played much over the past few seasons, but the big guys have to step it up. They have to do everything in their power to protect their QB. Give him a few extra seconds to make a play by blocking as best as they can so the team actually has a chance.

Zero pass rush defense
I’ve seen many of the players on the D-line and they are not small humans. I’m sure some of them are two-three of me at least. Because of those facts, I’m concerned as to why the big defensive players made zero effort to rush or put pressure on the Liberty QB. Especially since we still have talent like LB Taylor Young and DEs Brian Nance, KJ Smith and Tyrone Hunt, there’s no excuse for their little effort or results. I believe in our defensive players so much because they have a bit more experience than the ball carriers, but they have to start making plays and putting pressure on the QBs. I need sacks, I need QB hurries and I need ball carries who are scared out of their minds to face our line.

I could continue with my list of weaknesses, but ultimately, the Bears just got beat down. Liberty showed up and didn’t look tired at all throughout the game as opposed to our guys. We need more effort, coaching adjustments during play, actual caught passes, and lots of pressure on the offense if we’re going to have a shot at winning at least one game in the 2017 season. I still believe in the Bears (especially you, Anu)!