A brief disclaimer about this week's report card: it's really only for the first three quarters of the game. I recorded the game to watch later, and due to the rain delay, the recording was cut short and I didn't get to watch the fourth quarter. Judging from the box score, I didn't miss much. But if I neglect to mention something from near the end of the game, that's why.
Quarterbacks - D
Cummings can make some throws, and I guess I probably trust him to complete a pass to an open receiver a little more than I trust Crist, but it's clear he just isn't developed enough as a passer to be playing. The problem is, neither is Crist, so we have to use someone. Another game with a sub-50% completion rate, and 0:2 TD to interception ratio. The receivers aren't helping the matter, but the fact is that we don't have a good option at quarterback right now. Our adjusted yards per attempt yesterday was less than one.
Running Backs - A
I don't know how you could find any fault with what this group did. Despite Baylor loading up the box and expecting a run on every play, James Sims and Taylor Cox combined for 197 yards on 31 carries. True, most of that was in the first half, but the backs can't be faulted for their limited second half success, since the passing game was unable to spread out a Baylor defense that literally brought nine defenders into the box on nearly every play after halftime.
Wide Receivers - D-
I'll spare this group an F in deference to some nice plays by Kale Pick, but overall, I think we have all the evidence we need to say that this group has played just as big a role as any in our passing game's struggles this year. Baylor had allowed more passing yards this year than any other team in FBS football. Their cornerbacks couldn't even contain Iowa State's receivers. Yet somehow, Cummings didn't seem to have any good options on most of his pass attempts. The fact that this group couldn't get separation against this secondary is just sad. Hopefully the addition of Just McCay and continued development of younger guys like Turzilli and Parmalee will help next year. If it doesn't, I'm afraid it won't matter who wins the quarterback job.
Offensive Line - C
This is the hardest group to rate when the defense is expecting what you're doing. The pass protection was ok when we called pass plays, and for the most part there were gaps for our backs to hit (at least in the first half). At the same time, this may be the worst defense in AQ conference football, and it felt like the line probably should have been able to impose their will to a greater extent than they did.
Defensive Line - C+
The d-line was pretty active in this game and, at times, was fun to watch. The line as a whole combined for 24 tackles and 8 tackles for loss. If the four man front had been able to generate any pressure at all, I would give the line a much higher grade. Sadly, Nick Florence was never sacked, and was able to comfortably pick apart the secondary. The coaching staff has a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to defending the pass. They can drop extra players into coverage and accept that the four man rush won't put any pressure on the passer, or they can blitz and watch the DBs get abused. This is the reason why we can hang with teams like OSU or Texas, but the Baylors and West Virginias of the world will dominate us.
Linebackers - B-
Another great performance by Ben Heeney, who lead the team in tackles with 13, and continues to be the team's leading tackler. This unit as a whole didn't put up as many numbers this week, due to 4-2-5 look brought on by Baylor's pass-happy offense, but they looked solid while they were in. They struggled some in coverage, which is to be expected when they get lined up opposite one of Baylor's myriad dangerous receivers, but it's hard to fault them to much. This wasn't the type of game where they were put in much of a position to succeed, but they didn't get abused. The Baylor running game did gash us more than I would like, but I think that had a lot to do with the "pick your poison" scheming position the coaches were put in. We still have a few too many weak links in the defense to adequately defend an offense like this.
Secondary - D
Our DBs simply couldn't hang with this bunch of receivers, which is disappointing but not unexpected. I'm noticing that Tyler Patmon's role continues to diminish as Jacorey Shepherd's expands, which is bad for Patmon but probably a good sign overall, as he simply doesn't have the athleticism to defend a Big 12 team's #1 or #2 receiver for an entire game. Dexter Linton saw some action in a nickelback type of role yesterday, and seemed to respond fairly well, and Greg Brown just seems to get better every week. Overall though, this group was picked on and allowed about 9 yards per attempt. The poor pass rush doesn't help this group any, but it's hard to argue that the secondary is talented enough to hang with Baylor anyway, since their inability to defend one-on-one is the main reason we couldn't sacrifice a linebacker or safety to help pressure the quarterback.
Special Teams - D+
We didn't allow any big plays in the return game, which is good, and Doherty looked better this week with a 44 yard average on his punts. Still, the fact that Prolago is so unreliable that we went for a fake on 4th and 10 instead of attempting a 30 yard field goal is just sad. I certainly question the decision to have Jablonski try to run for the 10 yards, too, but that's a coaching matter. The inexplicable actions of the punt coverage team on the touchback before halftime don't help this unit's grade, but the main reason I won't go any higher is that our total inability to kick a field goal has made us into one of the worst red zone offenses I've ever seen. The commentators even noted that Prolago looked bad in warmups Saturday. He was even bad in warmups! It's unbelievable.
Overall - D-
I know some were hopeful that this would be Charlie's first conference win, but this went about how I expected. Our defense has improved, but we don't have the athleticism right now to limit a multi-faceted offense like this. The 666 total yards was worse than I envisioned, but the outcome wasn't surprising to me. This was a road game against one of the best offenses in the country. The fact that we were able to make enough plays to keep this close as long as we did is somewhat heartening. While last year's Baylor game went to OT, we did give up over 500 yards and had the benefit of Baylor coughing up 4 virtually-unforced turnovers, and it probably should have looked more like this game.
All things considered, this game didn't sway my opinion of this team either way. It confirmed that our secondary isn't athletic enough, and that our d-line can't rush the passer. It also confirmed that our receivers are awful and our quarterbacks aren't much better. At the same time it was another week where through some key conversions and defensive stops, we were able to hang around for quite some time with a team that probably should have been up by several touchdowns at halftime. This team fights and refuses to hang their heads, which is more than we can say for the past two years. Yes, we're a bad football team, but I'm seeing a few more silver linings right now than I did during the GIll era.