The underlying theme of what is great and what is awful within Aggie Football has now been completely flipped. Last night it was the defense that once again outshone the offense and kept us in a game we had no business being in.
Fair or not, Kyle Allen is the face of the offense, and his performance embodies the state of our offensive play. His ongoing struggles: the overthrows, the bad timing, everything; were just a slow continual drain that seemed to suck the energy out of the rest of the offense. Whether it was because he was too hurt to play, or he's regressed into a sophomore slump, or a combination of both; combine that with the fact that Kyler Murray never even warmed up on the sideline and we have a more serious QB situation than anyone would've thought possible a couple weeks ago.
Kyle was 0-fer the unlucky number to start the second half. At one point he was 2-22. I don't know if this is the worst half a Sumlin-coached QB has ever had, but it definitely felt like it.
12-34 overall | 88 passing yards | 0 TD, 1 INT
All this was in 3.5 quarters of play. That's phenomenally and statistically improbably bad based on our offensive output in the Sumlin era.
Kyle Allen is a competitor. He's going to keep trying as long as he's given the chance. He's been groomed to be a big-time QB since he could throw a football. If he's not at 100% (and it certainly seems like he's not) then it's not on him that he was put out there time and again last night.
Other bad numbers
10: Christian Kirk all-purpose yards
#3 only got four total touches, and one of them was a fumble on a punt return. His one rushing attempt netted -2 yards only because he is Christian Kirk and made moves like a punt return on a woefully doomed play. He had only two catches for 16 yards.
13 PENALTIES | 100 yards
That's over twice our season average heading into the game. We had 7-72 in the first quarter alone. Some were by the defense, but some were also drive-killers on offense on a night when we couldn't afford them.
192 total yards
That's only 20 yards more than we had last year on the road at Alabama. That's a first quarter for Baylor.
3 POINTS | 4 FORCED TURNOVERS
That's it. That's the summation and the worst thing to look at side-by-side: we forced more turnovers than we had points.
That's the best defensive effort we've seen in years. We expect greatness out of Myles Garrett (and he was great yet again, grabbing his first interception on a beautifully tipped pass). But the emergence of other players when we needed them is another sign of a vastly-improved defense.
To put things in perspective, this was the first time we had a player make 20 tackles in a game since Dat Nguyen did it on New Year's Day of 1998 in the Cotton Bowl against UCLA. Watts was everywhere. And before you start hand-wringing and hemming and hawing and worrying that we had a safety make so many tackles, I'mma stop you because
1) don't sound like Gary Danielson
2) this ain't the nineties anymore.
We played in the nickel pretty much the whole game. Having a safety who can fly around like an outside linebacker in a 3-4 for run support while still being reliable in the passing game is a huge asset. Watts came on strong at the beginning of last season as a true freshman, but the wear and tear of SEC football got to him and he was not as effective towards the end of the year.
But last night on the road against Ole Miss, after coming off a double-digit tackle game against Alabama, Watts was a dynamic force. We saw him knifing into the backfield, wrapping up on key tackles to prevent first downs, even ripping the ball out when everyone thought the play was dead. Watts was not only the statistical leader of the defense but the catalyst as well.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough as the offense could not capitalize on anything the defense did apart from the field goal at the end of the first half.
We're not going to speculate on any coaching things. But it seems like something did happen to Kyle Allen recently. We've been spoiled by ridiculously good offense in the past, and now we're finally getting to see what a good SEC defense might look like. It's incredibly frustrating that two can't happen for us simultaneously. It's such a seemingly simple question.