As Dennis Green once eloquently quipped: They are who we thought they were.
We thought Baylor was capable of scoring 50 points a game, especially against this Iowa State defense. Forty-nine, close enough. Check.
We thought Bryce Petty was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Check, I suppose.
We thought their supremely athletic front four (hell, seven, for that matter), anchored by the largest man I've ever seen in Shawn Oakman, would probably have a field day in the ISU backfield. Check.
Did we think the Bears would cover? Not necessarily. I thought 21 might be a touch high. Did we think they could? Absolutely. A three-score margin of victory when the clock hit triple-zeros. Check.
They are exactly who we thought they were. I can't vouch for the coherence of all the things that ran through my mind as the game transpired Saturday night. But it wasn't nearly as what was borne out of the oblivion I drank myself into after the visit to Waco last year. And as cylentbutdeadly put it yesterday morning: "What is the appropriate reaction to this?"
I think there's optimism to be had on several areas of this squad, and despite the larger margin of defeat this time around, I'm still convinced that the team as a whole is trending in the right direction. Is it directly upward? Probably not. But as Baylor has shown week after week, and as Iowa State proved no more than a month ago, this game could have gone a lot worse.
What Went Well
It speaks more to game plan execution than anything else, but the Cyclones didn't allow Baylor to dominate time of possession — a major reason the 49 wasn't a 69 when it was all said and done. But it goes a little bit deeper than that.
Even in last year's 71-7 shellacking, the Bears only won time of possession by a minute a 54 seconds. This year? Four minutes, 14 seconds. Baylor controlled the ball longer and scored less on Saturday, but they didn't necessarily do so with any less efficiency than usual. The key this time around was ISU's ability do use the time they had with the ball constructively, a concept that might as well have been explained to Courtney Messingham in Klingon a year ago (all due respect, I guess).
Basically, Mark Mangino is what went well this time. There were early shades of Greg Davis when he chose to have Sam Richardson hand the ball off to Aaron Wimberly on 3rd & 11 on the game's opening drive, but I was mostly pleased with what I saw the rest of the way.
Mangino didn't necessarily abandon the run game (which is just a tire fire at this point, guys), as we instead saw a lot of success via several designed runs for Richardson. We also saw Sam take shots vertically — some of which were responsible for extending drives — and that went a long way in keeping Petty cold on the sideline (as much as one can). Iowa State actually doubled their first down output from a year ago, from nine to 18.
Defensively, as frustrating as Wally Burnham's "bend don't break" philosophy is becoming, it may have worked. In last season's rout, four Baylor receivers caught passes of 20 yards or longer. Saturday night, just Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley did so (and yeah, there were a couple 40-bangers). Additionally, a particularly pleasing box score gem was freshman sensation K.D. Cannon's nine catches for a mere 48 yards (a number surpassed by Tad Ecby, even).
Petty was going to take (and get) his shots deep down field, and all things considered, I think the secondary did a decent job limiting him in that regard. After all, 7.6 yards per pass beats the hell out of last year's 10.8 mark in Waco.
What Went Wrong
The inverse relation between what Iowa State and Baylor did in the running game was an absolute killer, and frankly it all stems from a complete mismatch in the trenches. We could go back and forth about how Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson stack up against Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy talent-wise, but truthfully I don't think there's as much of a gap as this game made it seem.
Again, the bright spot was Richardson's ground production, as it has been all season. The Bears were allowing a stingy 64 yards per game on the ground going into Saturday, and Sam's 99 helped ISU nearly double it. But this Baylor defense may be the most aggressive and athletic unit that these Cyclones face all year, and that didn't bode well for an already deplorable running game. Oakman & Co. effectively plugged up the middle while the rest were able to effectively seal off the edges at will.
Because of the discernible speed advantage for Baylor, gaps had to be there for Wimberly and Nealy to even give Iowa State a chance of developing anything on the ground, but they weren't.
And a separate thought: Remind me to create a separate thread entirely about Martinez Syria having to burn his redshirt for an eight-carry, 15-yard performance.
The production of Linwood and Jefferson was eerily similar to Lache Seastrunk's and Glasgow Martin's feeding frenzy last year, but maybe the silver lining here is the former two tallying fewer yards per carry on a defensive unit far more inexperienced than they were in 2013. The six rushing touchdowns look awfully troubling on paper, but Coleman and Goodley were able to bust the game wide open when they needed to.
From there, you just punch it in.
The Good Stat
Honestly? How about Bryce Petty's 1 TD and 1 INT?
The Bad Stat
Sam Richardson: 17-for-39. The 43.6 completion percentage is his lowest of the year and third-worst of his career.
The Ugly Stat
Iowa State running backs combined for 22 touches for 40 yards. Bigger than the obvious defensive woes, it's the Cyclones' most glaring weakness to this point.