Going into Saturday’s matchup in Waco, it looked as though there might be a new bottom-dweller in the Big 12. Kansas had achieved some unprecedented success through two games, and Baylor had just lost by multiple scores as a home favorite. Each team was eyeing this game as the only win they might get in conference play, so this was expected to be a heated contest.
The Baylor Bears (3-1) answered many of their critics, however, and managed to put away the Kansas Jayhawks (2-2) by a score of 26-7 in Waco. Anyone who thought Matt Rhule’s team would lack energy was sorely disappointed, as the Bears were aggressive on both sides of the ball right out of the gate. Despite Kansas managing to make some plays, Baylor jumped out to a 23-0 lead by halftime.
From that point on, it was up to the Bears to be solid on defense and not make big mistakes on offense. For the most part, they were able to do just that. Even though Kansas technically outscored Baylor in the second half, the Jayhawks weren’t able to find enough offense for a comeback.
Now that this one’s in the books, what can we say about these two teams?
THE JAYHAWKS SERIOUSLY STRUGGLE TO THROW THE BALL
The quarterback position remains the weakness for Kansas, and Baylor’s Phil Snow made that clear on Saturday by loading up the box. Baylor’s strategy was to do everything they could to not allow Kansas even numbers, and force the Jayhawks to try and beat them through the air.
For the most part, the strategy worked. Outside of a Pooka Williams 72 yard rush, the Jayhawks were never really able to get anything going on the ground.
After Miles Kendrick was injured, that forced Kansas to try and win with Peyton Bender at the helm. Bender had a fairly forgettable day, throwing for 105 yards total on 17 attempts. Backup Carter Stanley would get his shot as well, but he didn’t fare much better.
BAYLOR APPEARS TO HAVE FOUND THEIR QUARTERBACK
A quarterback controversy was brewing through the first few weeks of the season in Waco, but now it looks like Charlie Brewer has solidified himself as the starter. Baylor jumped out to a 23-0 lead on Kansas, largely because of Brewer’s ability to find open receivers in the Kansas secondary.
In spite of the fact that the Jayhawks tried to drop multiple defenders in zone coverage, Brewer was able to get needed yardage scrambling and through the air. This performance really was reminiscent of the reason Brewer looked so good as a true freshman. He showed he can get the ball downfield with accuracy as well as take off and run when he’s given space.
Brewer also played fairly well despite not always getting great pass protection from his offensive line. Despite being on the run all day, he made smart decisions to help the Bears get the win. His 221 yards through the air won’t wow anyone in the Big 12, but he completed over 70 percent of his passes. The question of whether Baylor will make a bowl game is still up in the air, but they won’t miss out because of Brewer, that’s for sure:
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) September 22, 2018
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) September 22, 2018
KANSAS IS PROBABLY NOT TERRIBLE ON DEFENSE
The Jayhawks were really hit-or-miss on defense in Waco. Baylor got into Kansas territory six times, and got points on five of those possessions. The rest of the game, Kansas was usually able to make Baylor punt after holding them to a minimal gain.
And certainly most coaches would be fine with a defense that gave up 26 points to a Power Five opponent, even one that went 1-11 last year. Kansas may not win another game for the rest of the year, but the Jayhawks will find themselves in some close games.
Kansas’ strength is by far their pass rush, with Daniel Wise and J.J. Holmes capable of causing havoc on every play. The Jayhawks repeatedly got pressure on Brewer with their stout down lineman, an asset that will help them throughout conference play:
CAN BAYLOR STILL WIN SIX GAMES?
There was a lot of thought in the week leading up to this game that both of these teams were trending in opposite directions. The Jayhawks were coming off beating a Rutgers team that might be at the absolute bottom of the FBS and Baylor had lost to a Duke team that remains undefeated.
But Matt Rhule is a good coach and Baylor has an overall more talented roster than the Jayhawks. Kansas’ experience, momentum and a little bit of luck were not enough for them to pull off a road upset, but this was not a blowout by Baylor.
With 8:32 left in the third quarter and the score 23-7, it looked like Kansas might be able to make the game interesting. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks – who lost quarterback Miles Kendrick to a shoulder injury – weren’t able to get the score that could have made things close.
The Bears put the game away after that, but it’s hard to think that Baylor would be favored against any other Big 12 opponents right now. Taking on the Sooners next week in Norman will be a big test for the Bears, but playing Kansas State in McLane Stadium would be a real sign of progress.