Texas checks most of the boxes in convincing win over Baylor

On3 imageby:Eric Nahlin09/24/23

After Texas’ somewhat uneven play against lesser competition I quipped, “The key is to pick a score that can be either a b-slapping in which Texas is in total control from the jump or sleepwalk for three quarters before opening up a big lead.” Commensurately, my prediction for the Baylor game was Texas 37, Baylor 13, though I did predict this game would land on the ‘total control’ side of the ledger.

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That it did. Texas won 38-6 and it wasn’t that close. 

As the Humidor predicted ($), we witnessed Texas’ first mostly complete game against an inferior opponent this season. Baylor isn’t good, with cracks in the foundation, walls, and ceiling, but Texas did what it should have done against the Bears. That in itself is a step in the right direction for a team learning to deal with success, spotlight, and high expectations. . 

Let’s quickly reflect on some of the keys to the game I wrote about Saturday morning

(The headings are from the Saturday morning article; commentary is how Texas fared after the fact)

1. A hot start from Quinn Ewers

The first drive went 6 plays for 16 yards but there were hints of quality with passes to Xavier Worthy and Ja’Tavion Sanders. It ended in a punt but Ewers looked composed on a couple of easy tosses. The second drive was all of two plays, a 15-yard completion to Worthy followed by Jonathon Brooks’ 40-yard touchdown run.

While it wasn’t a blistering start from Ewers he was calm and composed early and that led to good things as the game wore on. The early punt-touchdown-punt drive sequence fed into Ewers taking control on the fourth drive with three big completions in a row. That drive ultimately ended with his 29-yard touchdown sprint down the sidelines. 

By the way, that Quinn run is a testament to how focused defenses are on the complement of receiving threats. That won’t be his last big gain of the year.

2. Prepared for kitchen sink blitzes 

It wasn’t the cleanest game from the Texas O-line but Baylor wasn’t able to stymie the offense like last year. The Bears did collect 3 sacks with at least one coming on a blitz. Forgive me for not remembering accurately as my ‘re-watch’ was a bit ambitious at 2:00 in the morning. 

We knew coming into the season the O-line would be a work in progress but I do believe they are improving incrementally. 

This isn’t a blitz pickup but it’s fun to watch Kelvin Banks pick up two defenders on Ewers’ TD scramble.

3. Run the dang ball

Jonathon Brooks took the lead role in another slasher film with his second consecutive 100-yard effort. Forty-two of those yards were on two carries that ended in the end zone. He hits the lane quick and does well to run behind his pads after contact. I love CJ Baxter’s upside but Brooks is the most assertive runner on the roster.

It was a reception and doesn’t fit cleanly under this heading but while on the topic of Brooks, he made a sensational one-handed grab on a lofted Ewers pass. 

4. Can Texas minimize self-inflicted wounds?

This was a major box checked when it comes to penalties. For all the concern about Big 12 officiating, which will probably be justified at some point, Texas was only called for two penalties. Baylor only had four. In total there were only 41-yards of penalties. The league office is probably going to reprimand that officiating crew.

As for the sort of receiver drops that have kept the Texas offense from acquiring more land on several occasions this year, how about zero drops and two one-handed receptions to boot?

5. Press the D-line advantage

Pure mayhem from these maniacs. It was the Rice game all over again. Five sacks, 8 tackles for loss, and a whole lot more disruption. This might be the best D-line in the country. I know I wouldn’t trade it, to include the depth, for anyone else’s. 

The D-line sets a massive floor for the ceiling. Fans will worry about Kansas’ running game this week, and they do have some weapons, but the D-line is very likely to dictate that game as well.

6. Xavier Worthy seems primed for a punt return TD 

Reminder, these are the original keys to the game from Saturday morning. 

That was a horror show on special teams last night. Three fumbled punts or kicks and a missed lay-up field goal by Bert Auburn. Special teams coordinator Jeff Banks is currently drinking lemon water so he doesn’t lose his voice on Monday. 

So far we’ve seen the “bad O-line game” against Rice and the “bad Quinn game” against Wyoming. Hopefully this is Texas’ lone bad “special teams game” this season.

Defense, you’re not allowed to have one. 

While on the topic of special teams, I have to give a shout out to Tre Wisner. It’s consistent with our August reporting but the freshman running back is a pure coverage stud. He runs down on kickoffs with his hair on fire.

7. Will Baylor have much of a home field advantage?

That game might as well have been played in an IKEA parking lot. 

Going forward, as a program Baylor is in a lot of trouble. Texas is not.

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Texas did not play down to its competition like we’ve seen so many times throughout the Lost Decade. As a result, that was the sort of win a program can start to build momentum off of. Sark’s charges whipped an out-gunned opponent but still left with plenty of valuable lessons to learn.

The key to the season remains the same: Improve at a faster rate than the competition. Do that and Texas might not lose a game this season.

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