The Baylor Bears came stomping into Ames, Iowa on Saturday afternoon looking for a crucial road win against the top ranked Iowa State Cyclones. Matt Rhule’s squad fought valiantly, but ultimately the Bears came up short despite a fourth quarter comeback push. The fourteen-point loss puts them at 5-5 overall and 3-4 in Big 12 Conference Play.
Not too much went well on the offensive end for the Bears. At times they seemed slow, as if they were stuck in mud. However, in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Baylor fans were treated to a gem when Sophomore QB Charlie Brewer threaded a touchdown pass to WR Pooh Strickland in the end zone. Baylor fans went wild as a fresh dose of hope was injected into those optimists still holding out for a win. The win never came, but the play itself remains incredible on its own.
Here we will strip the Bears’ touchdown all the way to its skeleton. We will examine the moving parts, the unsung subtleties, that allow for Brewer’s throw to result in 6 points. Let’s get started.
The first thing to notice with this play comes at the bottom of the screen. There is a lone receiver lined up on the left side of Brewer. This is Denzel Mims.
Denzel Mims is Baylor’s best Wide Receiver, and perhaps best player on the entire team. His combination of size, speed, and athleticism make him a nightmare for opposing teams to match up against. Many pro scouts see him as a surefire NFL talent because of his physicality and potential to be a Red Zone threat. It’s not hard to believe why he is so highly touted – Mims just seems to make plays in the end zone time and time again. Watch how he scored Baylor’s first touchdown of the day on Saturday:
The Bears throw it up for him and just watched as he elevates over the defender to make the grab. Denzel Mims is a serious threat to make any play on the field.
Now back to the Pooh Strickland touchdown. Watch it again, but this time watch Charlie Brewer. Remember, Mims is on the left side of the field.
Does anything seem odd? It should.
Mere minutes after Denzel Mims snags an incredible touchdown in a similar position, Brewer does not so much as look to the left side of the field, where Mims is lined up. The team’s most important offensive player is effectively ignored. What is going on here?
Watch the play again but look at Mims now. You can see that the Cyclones have learned from their previous mistake. Rather than letting Mims go 1 on 1 with a smaller, less athletic cornerback, they assign double coverage to the star Wideout. This coaching decision plays exactly into Matt Rhule’s hands. Knowing that the Cyclones will be paranoid about getting burned by Mims on a similar play, Rhule isolates Mims on the left with no intention to throw to him. Brewer knows it too – he can see the two defenders on his left side clearly intending to disrupt any throw to Mims. This is fine, in fact, it’s perfect. The play is designed to use Mims as bait.
Once Mims has effectively taken another defender out of the picture merely by being present, it allows for less attention to be given to the entire right side of the field. Thus, even when Brewer never looks at him, he affects the play
Finally, we can look at the right side of the field. We see #84 Marques Jones lined up on the far outside, followed by #5 Jalen Hurd just inside of him. Lastly, we see #17 Pooh Strickland closest to Brewer.
The outermost two receivers run very simple “in” routes, sprinting about five yards before quickly cutting inside. While Brewer may see them as options, he never really gives any indication that they will be receiving the ball. Once again, this play is all about misdirection. As those outside receivers cut in, they draw in Iowa State DB #6 De’Monte Ruth. This leaves Pooh Strickland, who is running a “corner” route to the far right corner of the end zone, wide open. Ruth attempts to drop back and help, but it is too late. Brewer had released the ball after only about one second in the pocket, and everything goes according to plan. Strickland catches the ball, and the Bears’ comeback hopes are bolstered. The touchdown would be the last of the day, but remains perhaps the most impressive combination of coaching, route running, and pass accuracy.
While Baylor fans may be upset about Saturday’s loss, perhaps this single play can provide a nugget of hope. Some things to consider: QB Charlie Brewer is only a sophomore and will be delivering dimes like the one above for years to come. Matt Rhule is in Waco for good, bringing his offensive ingenuity with him. The program has been reinvigorated with life after last year’s rebuild.
Baylor Football is in a good place, and the future is bright.