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stormstopper

[2023] Big XII Network Week 0 in Review: Twenty or Twenty-One Points

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The constant of the opening week of the eleventh season of Big XII play was defense. All three teams in action from the nation's most exciting conference held the opposing offense to 20 or 21 points in regulation. The two caveats there are where the rubs lie: TCU went to overtime in State College, and West Virginia was victimized by a pick-six to fall to Virginia Tech. Baylor had the most dominant victory, with an offense clicking on all cylinders to match an all-around defensive effort. TCU had the most impressive victory, with their defense and special teams covering up a shaky day on offense. West Virginia put up 51 good offensive plays to go with one backbreaker. So with the opening week in the rear-view, let's talk about the games.

 

Saturday Afternoon

 

:baylor: Baylor 41, :houston: Houston 20

 

McHale Yeah: If there was a big play on defense for Baylor, Zachary McHale was probably involved. The junior was seemingly everywhere on the field, racking up 6 tackles including a tackle for loss and a sack. He led the effort to hold Cooper Christianson to 26 yards on 14 carries, but he also dropped back into coverage effectively in intercepting one pass and breaking up another. It's rare to see a player with a sack and an interception in the same game, but McHale has made a career of it. Teammate Garrett Powers is the only non-McHale Baylor player to do so since 2021; McHale's done it once in each of the past three seasons now. He also opened things up for Samuel McGee and Alexander Talbert to tandem-sack Omar Workman, and the Baylor pressure led to an interception by redshirt freshman Raekwon Sewell in his first career game.

 

Awaken from Hibernation: One of the biggest questions Baylor faced was whether backfield classmates Caleb Olmsted and Miles Street would grow past their struggles as underclassmen. The performance that those two put on--as did receivers Maleek Abioye-Afua and Curtis Sheppard--was the best sign that Baylor fans could have asked for. Olmsted put up 241 yards and 2 touchdowns 19-of-26 passing with 27 yards and a third touchdown on the ground; his 176.3 passer rating is the sixth-best mark of his career and the best mark he's put up on the road. Abioye-Afua caught 7 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, the second 100-yard game by a Baylor receiver since the start of the 2022 season. The owner of the other such game (who put up 130 yards against Texas Tech last season) only had 3 catches, but they went for 54 yards and a touchdown. That's an inside-outside tandem that looks more productive than Sheppard's partnership with Lamont Wilder last year. And keeping things interesting was Miles Street, who put up 128 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries. It's the biggest day on the ground by a Baylor player since Sean Bell's 144 yards against TCU all the way back in 2019.

 

Start with a Bang: Baylor started red-hot, going up 17-0 after the first quarter and never letting Houston even come close to getting back within striking distance. It's tied for the fastest start Baylor's ever gotten off to, matching the 20-3 housing of Texas in the first quarter of their week 15 matchup in 2019. It's their best margin in any quarter since outscoring Kansas State 28-0 in the second quarter of their week 8 matchup in 2021. Safe to say, it's a strong note to start the season on.

 

Next Up: 1-0 Baylor goes on bye for week 1 before heading up to Idaho to take on Boise State week 2. They'll surely have eyes on the Broncos' matchup against Kansas in the interim.

 

Saturday Evening

 

:tcu: #2 TCU 30, :PSU: #19 Penn State 27 (2OT)

 

Slug It Out: This game was fought at the line of scrimmage, just as Penn State wanted. Oghale Adelangwe, Jerraud Braxton, and Xavien Bowers ran roughshod through the TCU offensive line to the tune of 4 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. One of Braxton's sacks forced a fumble recovered by Erik McElmore for a turnover. But TCU's own defense was just as ready to meet the challenge. Clinton Staton and Lardarius Pendleton each had a sack, with Staton adding a tackle for loss against the run as well. They held Sione Salanoa to just 23 yards on 10 carries, and the Frogs built up a 13-0 halftime lead as a result. The only chance Penn State had to beat the TCU defense was to try and throw over it, and it worked for the most part. Dillon Sneed completed 30 of 45 passes for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. A 138.4 rating on 45 attempts is quite good; Dominic Dixon's 12-catch, 118-yard performance with a touchdown was a key part of it. That's what kept Penn State's offense in this game. But at less than 10.5 yards allowed per catch (including less than 10 per catch for Dixon), TCU's defense was at least able to limit explosive plays and hold the Nittany Lions to 20 points in regulation.

 

Low Heat: TCU also survived a rough day from its own offensive backfield. Taylor Cook couldn't get much going under the pressure, finishing with 182 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and a fumble lost on 17-of-33 through the air. On the one hand, most TCU quarterback debuts have been pretty rough; Cook had more passing yards in his debut than any TCU passer but Felix Luck--even more than Nathan Burden and Sam Milner. However, his passer rating was also significantly lower, at 101.8. Chase Shapiro and Eric Pope are the only Big XII quarterbacks since 2016 to debut with that low of a rating and go on to become a multi-year starter. Given that Cook is a redshirt freshman and faced probably the toughest defensive front he is likely to see all year--possibly in his whole college career--there's no reason to panic. TCU will want to see more from him next time, as well as more from Griffin McHanna (24 carries for 97 yards and 1 TD), but they did enough to beat a ranked opponent on the road.

 

THE KICK IS BLOCKED: Senior cornerback Odel Sterling hadn't had much of an impact in his TCU career outside of practice reps and leadership in the locker room. But as Penn State lined up for a game-winning 43-yard field goal attempt with 4 seconds remaining in a 20-20 game, he was lined up on the end of the line of the field goal block team. He got a good jump as the ball was snapped...but pulled up as the whistle blew. The kick sailed through the uprights, but the ball had been ruled dead for a TCU timeout. The second try, Sterling had the timing down. He made a break for it right at the snap, dove with his arm outstretched, and got just enough of the ball to send the kick fluttering harmlessly into the left side of the endzone. The crowd, in a frenzy and ready to celebrate mere moments before, lapsed into stunned silence. That sent the game to overtime, where a couple more clutch plays would be enough to seal it. On Penn State's possession, Dillon Sneed stared down Dominic Dixon just a bit too long, and Patrick Ross wasn't about to let him get away with it. He jumped the route, snared the pick, and gave TCU a chance to win with a field goal--which they did on a routine, almost anticlimactic, 35-yard boot by Ian Todd. 

 

Next Up: TCU won't play for a while after a hard-fought opening win to move to 1-0. They get weeks 1 and 2 off before their conference opener at Texas.

 

:vt: Virginia Tech 28, :wvu: West Virginia 24

 

Pause, Fast-Forward: Much like Baylor was hoping to see a step forward from Caleb Olmsted this season, West Virginia was hoping to see Martin Lake go from solid to well above-average. That isn't quite how it played out, unfortunately for the Mountaineers. Lake finished 16-of-27 for 204 yards, throwing a touchdown pass and an interception and not doing much on the ground. His passer rating of 127.5 was almost perfectly in line with his 126.5 from last year. On the other hand, though, the run game was sparked to life with true freshman Mike Freeman's insertion at runningback. Bryce Madison (who had 5 carries for 20 yards as a complementary back) had one multi-touchdown game all of last season; Freeman scored 2 touchdowns in his debut. He also had 97 yards on 20 carries, which is solid compared to last year but does still demonstrate some room for improvement considering the state of the Virginia Tech defensive line. The offense is still a work in progress--but that was also true in 2020 before Mohammed Foster became the fifth horseman of the apocalypse.

 

Dominic's Debut: The best news of the day was that West Virginia's pass rush was able to get home. Redshirt freshman Dominic Acuna arrived on campus with a lot of hype, and quickly took to justifying it with 4 tackles (one for loss) and a sack in his debut. On the opposite end of the line, Elvis Cornejo had the other sack and tackle for loss for the Mountaineers. But they were unable to turn that pressure into quite enough stops. Victor Ross ran for 102 yards and a score on 22 carries, and Beckett Morrison completed 20 of his 33 passes for 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception to multitool bandit linebacker Bronson Stinson. They held the Virginia Tech offense itself to 21 points, which would have been enough to win if it weren't for...

 

That Dang McKinney Kid: Virginia Tech's defense didn't make a lot of impact plays, which was to be expected giving the rebuilding nature of the unit. Shawn Edmonds had a sack, which was the only play the Hokies made behind the line of scrimmage. But Trevor McKinney was at the top of the scouting report after a blistering 2022 season, and he picked up right where he left off in 2023. With the score tied at 14-14 and halftime approaching, West Virginia forced a punt and started a drive at their own 31-yard line. It ended in one play. Martin Lake, seeing McKinney positioned to leverage Etena Catingub toward the outside, tried to throw an out route. McKinney was just too quick, anticipating the break and jumping in front of the route to pick off the pass and take it down the sideline for a touchdown. That gave the Hokies a lead that they would not relinquish.

 

Next Up: West Virginia falls to 0-1 to start the season and will have a week 1 bye. They'll make the trip down to Charlottesville to take on Virginia next.

 

Byes: :isu: Iowa State (0-0), :kansas: Kansas (0-0), :kstate: Kansas State (0-0), :ou: Oklahoma (0-0), :okst: Oklahoma State (0-0), :texas: Texas (0-0), :ttu: Texas Tech (0-0)

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Good write-up as usual @stormstopper.

 

VT just got the big plays it needed to win the game.  Their running back had a 41 yard run and McKinney had that pick 6.  In a game like that all it takes is a couple big plays to really change the outcome.  

 

I think there's some positives - if we can clean up a little bit I think our run defense played pretty well.  Stinson seemed to do well in that bandit role, and we got a lot of pressure on a running quarterback.  

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7 hours ago, stormstopper said:

Next Up: TCU won't play for a while after a hard-fought opening win to move to 1-0. They get weeks 1 and 2 off before their conference opener at Texas.

 

a double bye before the destroy me?

 

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2 hours ago, Ape said:

 

a double bye before the destroy me?

 

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Milner vs his old team! 

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There were a lot of good things in my game, a lot of things i need to work on. I'm excited about my season and really glad this team can pull something like that out in the clutch. Could you imagine a tougher environment to play in? Penn State whiteout, official kickoff game, upset potential until the VERY end. That place had to have been rocking

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17 minutes ago, DangerZoneh said:

There were a lot of good things in my game, a lot of things i need to work on. I'm excited about my season and really glad this team can pull something like that out in the clutch. Could you imagine a tougher environment to play in? Penn State whiteout, official kickoff game, upset potential until the VERY end. That place had to have been rocking

It was a good win for sure.

 

Does anything specifically concern you the most?  

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Just now, smackemz said:

It was a good win for sure.

 

Does anything specifically concern you the most?  

 

Taylor Cook wasn't the strongest in his first outing, but I think that will change over time.

 

Dominic Dixon absolutely SHREDDED my defense. I played my LBs in a zone and I'm pretty sure that grv targeted them, so I bet he got a lot of his yards through that, as opposed to 1v1 against Patrick Ross.

 

Griffin McHanna wasn't the best, either, but PSU has a crazy good front 7 so there's more to be seen there. If he struggles again the next couple weeks, we might need to put Cates in at the starting RB and McHanna as 3rd down back.

 

Other than that, it's just finishing drives and consistency. You always hate to have someone come back down from 13-0

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