Welcome to the Frogs O' War Baylor Rewind, where I look over the game film of the Baylor Bears and highlight what went right and wrong for the Bears in pictures to let you know what to look for in TCU's game with them on Saturday. Today I'll be watching film of Baylor's high scoring trip to Morgantown and will probably have precious few good things to say about Baylor's defense, but a whole lot of good things to say about Baylor's offense. Still, knowing what they do well and don't do well will be key if TCU is going to come out of Waco with a much needed win- not just for bowl eligibility purposes, but because losing to Baylor really, really sucks.
What makes you feel good playing Baylor #1: Nick Florence picked off on first attempt
It's never a good thing when your first pass play is an interception, particularly when your quarterback threw multiple picks in each of the two preceding games. In this case West Virginia's zone gives Florence just enough rope to hang himself, and since TCU is famed for its intricate zone it's a good lesson. Baylor lines up in an empty backfield, two receivers to Florence's left and three to the right. West Virginia is in a dime formation, with three down linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs.
West Virginia rushes just three, and drops into a zone behind- it's hard to tell that this is zone from the angle the camera is taking, but you can see by the bottom defender letting what would be his man by him without a glance to turn to the outside receiver (who isn't even on the screen, come on Fox) who is about to cut in. Baylor's pass protection is solid, since there are two double teams. Florence has time and looks downfield
The linebacker in backpedal and the free safety behind him means that Florence has a tighter window than he'd like to throw in. If he were Casey Pachall, it would be an easy throw, (sadly neither team will have Casey Pachall on Saturday) but for Florence it's a bit high- it needs to be to get over the linebacker, but its a game of inches here.
As a result the throw is a bit too high for the receiver to collect- shoulder pads prevent him from getting his right arm as far back as he'd need to to collect the ball with both hands, so it bounces off.
And into the hands of the Free safety behind. This is a key factor for a zone- there will always be pockets where a quarterback and receiver will have a chance to make a big play, but by keeping the pockets small you force both of them to be perfect. A slightly high ball can lead to disaster for the offense if the zone is tight, which is what TCU will have to do to keep Baylor from running roughshod over them. Fortunately, our defense is significantly better than West Virginia's and could hopefully force a few more of these throws into very tight windows than the Mountaineerrs managed.
What makes you fear playing Baylor #1: Death by Play Action
Baylor will try to establish the run early, because when they have the ground game going it opens up their lethal play action game. The key to the Baylor play action is speed- they just don't need a big bite out of the secondary to have their opening. In this example it's Florence's first pass after the interception. Baylor lines up in the shotgun with two receivers left, one right a flex tight end/back type in front and offset of Florence and the back just behind and to the right. West Virginia has three down linemen again and three linebackers- one is away from the formation looking directly at Florence, a good indicator that zone is in the offing.
After the snap, the line blocks down and the flex end comes down the line to engage the linebacker who had been keeping his eyes on Florence. The linebackers bite hard, but the key is that the right side safety is stepping forward instead of back. This gives coverage nightmare Terrance Williams at the bottom of the screen a clear lane if he slants across.
As I mentioned before, the key to this play action is the speed at which it's run. Having faked the handoff Florence holds the ball for one second- just enough time to see Williams break and delivers the ball. The safety jerks back here, but all his momentum is driving him forward, there is no one within five yards of Florence when the ball is thrown.
After that it's simply a matter of Williams taking a bad angle to the end zone that keeps this from being a touchdown- as it is, it was a fifty yard toss that could not have been an easier throw.
What makes you feel good about playing Baylor #2: The whole defense. Apart from on wide receiver screens.
If TCU runs a bunch of wide receiver screens on Saturday don't be surprised if they don't amount to much- Baylor plays their corners close to the line on most plays to make sure that teams aren't getting four or five yards cheaply, but behind that initial tackling ability the zone Baylor plays almost exclusively is charmin soft. As a result, not only is the passing game open with consistency over the middle, runs up the middle that get past the initial line have a lot of open space. This may be the first game since James went down where TCU can run the ball with success. To illustrate, here West Virginia lines up in a three receiver look, two to the left, one to the right, there's a flex back to Smith's side and another back behind him. Baylor is showing a corner blitz from Smith's right and is in a 4-3 with the third linebacker shifted out over the wide receiver.
Baylor's safety up top has his eyes on the receiver, and West Virginia gets the front four blocked, the corner blitz is hesitant as Smith makes the handoff. The guard and flex end are coming up to engage the linebackers and there's nothing but green after them.
As a result the linebackers are blocked or out of position and the ball carrier (Booie) has oodles of space. If the West Virginia receivers were better blockers this could be taken all the way- as it is Booie has the first down before the first Bear even comes in contact with him.
Attacking the middle of the Baylor defense will be key for a TCU offense that hasn't had a ton of success on the ground. However, power dives up the middle are one of Tucker's specialties, and Dean seems to be a natural at them as well. This bears (no pun intended) watching on Saturday, as if TCU can run the ball Baylor will have trouble keeping their offense on the field and in rhythm,
What makes you fear playing Baylor #2: Florence is opportunistic.
Nick Florence is a good senior quarterback with a good sense of the offense that he's running, and as a result he's able to be aware of what's happening on the field and get the ball away in time to take advantage of it (TCU fans are deeply envious here, as both Pachall and Boykin have demonstrated a willingness to let the play clock roll down all the way far too often). In this instance Baylor has three receivers to the left, one to the right and a back to Florence's left. West Virginia is not ready for this look and is currently shifting their coverage over.
Florence snaps the ball before the Mountaineers get set and the Baylor receivers cross, with the outside man turning back to look at the quarterback. The Mountaineer corner has to react to this, and as a result one man is forced to cover both receivers that are crossing. He's doomed.
The man the corner decides to stick with has two steps on him now, and Florence's steady protection gives him plenty of time to make the relatively simple throw.
Tevin Reese hauls it in without breaking stride and is able to cross into the end zone unmolested. A huge play for the Baylor offense with a relatively simple misdirection run at the perfect time- when the West Virginia secondary wasn't set. This kind of timing will kill us on Saturday if our defensive backs don't stay ready at all times.
What makes you feel good about playing Baylor #3: Florence doesn't throw the ball away
Nick Florence is a good quarterback- there's no getting around that fact now. TCU fans who were hoping that Baylor's offense would fall off a cliff without Griffin have to be disappointed with the way the senior has handled the offense so far- over 300 yards passing a game with a 10.1 YPA average is the mark of a darn good quarterback. The only problem with Nick Florence is that he believes that he is a great quarterback. As always, I'll illustrate. Baylor lines up in the shotgun with two receivers and a tight end to the right, one wide receiver to the left and a back to keep Florence company at his right side. West Virginia lines up in a nickel- bearing some resemblance to TCU's own 4-2-5 and will play zone.
Again, Florence fakes the handoff, but this time the West Virginia secondary doesn't bite- the Bear run game had been ground to a halt in the previous possession, and as a result the West Virginia zone doesn't have any of the holes it had previously.
The protection is fine so there's no hurry involved in the decision here- he sees his topmost receiver breaking in on the slant, and focuses on it... despite no less than four mountaineers in the vicinity of where he's about to throw the ball.
It's a blurry shot, but it's clear enough to make out that not only did the West Virginia linebacker almost tip the pass, but this ball has pick written all over it at the worst, while at the best he's going to get his receiver killed. The ball leads the receiver too much though and it falls to the turf. That's a throw that you'd expect Robert Griffin or Casey Pachall to make successfully, but again, neither of those players will be suiting up in Waco on Saturday. Florence needs to throw the ball away rather than try to force it, and as a senior if he hasn't gotten that message by now it's not one that he'll get in a week's practice. There will be opportunities for picks, and TCU's secondary has shown the ability to capitalize on those opportunities so far.
What makes you feel good about playing Baylor #4: Baylor isn't a good kicking team
This doesn't need pictures, but it is important enough to mention. Spencer Roth is a solid punter, but placekicker Aaron Jones missed two relatively easy field goals in Morgantown that might have changed the game entirely. TCU once again should have an edge if the game is close at the end, because for the first time in four years- I really like our kicker.
There's honestly a lot more to be afraid of on Baylor's offense, but there's also a lot more to be optimistic about in the terribleness of Baylor's defense. This will be a game of strength on strength and weakness on weakness, and you can have a pretty good idea of whether or not TCU wins this game if you look at a box score without names- if somebody scores 40+, TCU probably lost. If someone is held in the teens or low twenties, TCU probably won. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of what's going right and wrong for TCU on Saturday and thanks for reading. Go Frogs!