It felt like this day would never come, but Baylor fans saw the end of the 2020 football season yesterday as the Bears fell 42-3 against the Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-3, 6-3). Baylor played arguably its worst full game (to be fair, they were missing 47 players, coaches, and staff, according to my favorite Baylor Insider Jerry Hill), so I didn’t want to go into a detailed recap. Instead, I thought it best to reflect on the entirety of the 2020 season—the highs (defense every week) and lows (offense every week, sometimes special teams)—and how the future of Baylor football looks after this unexpected end (here’s last week’s recap!)
The 2020 Baylor football season opened on an extremely high note when the Bears defeated Kansas 47-14 back at the end of September. Baylor fans saw a defense that continued its excellence from last year led by junior LB Terrel Bernard, senior LB William Bradley-King, and junior S/LB Jalen Pitre. Although the Bears lost several key defensive starters to graduation or the NFL Draft last year, Head Coach Dave Aranda and new Defensive Coordinator Ron Roberts kept the corps going without missing a beat. The shining spot of the 2020 season has consistently been the Baylor defense, which saw younger athletes become playmakers and jersey numbers successfully rotating on and off the field despite injuries. While the Bears lost more games than they would’ve liked to, the defense was what kept the game usually within a score or two every week. Bradley-King lived up to his preseason hype, recording 31 tackles with 5.5 for a loss of 31 yards, 3.5 sacks for a loss of 29 yards, 4 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Star LB Bernard only played in 5 games this year before a season ending injury, but he also made a huge impact on the game, amassing 55 tackles with 6.5 for a loss of 19 yards, 3.5 sacks for a loss of 15 yards, 1 interception, and 3 passes deflected. Baylor fans’ beloved S/LB Pitre came into his own this year as a full season starter. He recorded 60 tackles with 13 for a loss of 49 yards, 2.5 sacks for a loss of 21 yards, 2 interceptions, 4 passes deflected, and 1 forced fumble. Junior S Christian Morgan is my last notable defensive athlete (although there are several more I could mention) because he showed hints of former DB Grayland Arnold toward the end of the season as he snagged 3 interceptions in the last 3 games. Morgan had 54 tackles with 2 for a loss of 10 yards, 1 sack for a loss of 9 yards, 3 interceptions, and 4 passes deflected. If the Bears had a workable offense in 2020, the end of the season would’ve looked a lot differently thanks to multiple defensive stars.
Although Baylor’s defense was outstanding game after game, the offense never found its stride. Senior QB Charlie Brewer was primarily blamed (often for good reason) for the team’s weekly offensive struggles as he tended to take way too long to get the ball off, over and/or underthrew to his receivers, and generally made costly decisions when doing RPO (like twice in a row game-ending interceptions). After the end of the season Brewer’s stats took a dive, completing 198 of 321 passing attempts for 1,958 yards with 14 TDs and 8 interceptions. Compare these to that of his last year’s stats: 251 completions of 389 passing attempts for 3,161 yards with 21 TDs and 7 interceptions. Of course, the ball wasn’t only dropped by Charlie since he often had fewer than 3 seconds post-snap and was constantly running for his life. The Bears’ offensive line was atrocious this season as exhibited by redshirt freshman QB Jacob Zeno getting sacked in his first drive of the second half when Brewer went out. It’s easy to blame Brewer for his blatant and game-changing errors, but the offensive line was of absolutely no help throughout the whole season. The last issue worth raising in regard to the Baylor offense is monotonous and predictable offensive playcalling, which led to a lack of opportunity for the fantastic receivers. In a post I wrote about my thoughts after the first four Baylor games, I wrote, “I was thrilled while watching Baylor play Kansas at the start of the season because I felt like I was watching the exciting offenses of the past. Offensive Coordinator Larry Fedora seemed to pull out most of the stops and the offense was milking each point. Charlie made a few exciting passes, the receivers and running backs were efficient throughout, and we even saw a few Wildcat plays (my absolute favorite thanks to the innovative 2015 season!). After watching three years of systematic Matt Rhule plays, I was excited to see a new type of offense maybe we hadn’t seen in several years. However, it’s almost like Fedora pulled out his extensive playbook for the KANSAS GAME(like why?) and immediately chucked it in the trash and changed the team into a predictable and robotic offense we’ve never seen before. And that’s not a good thing!” And I’d stand by those words today as well. Most of the receivers (besides the incredible R.J. Sneed) were almost nonexistent this season even though they were the group I was most excited to see. Moving forward, if they’re still underutilized, I predict several will transfer (if they don’t this offseason) and the Bears will lose more recruits to different schools.
Baylor had a difficult season this year, but not all was terrible or lost. In fact, even despite the losses, I think there were countless moments of greatness in every game. No one could or should have expected the Bears to look exactly like they did last year as they lost many starters, constantly struggled with COVID and injuries, and were under the leadership of a brand new coaching staff. With some offseason coaching adjustments and more practices, I’m sure the Bears will come back much stronger and better prepared next year!