It’s second down at Baylor’s 41-yard line. Seth Russell lines up a 45-yard pass to K.D. Cannon to bring the Bears inside Rice’s red zone. Baylor scores two plays later. A carbon copy of the play is drawn later on for a 51-yard gain and the Bears once again score soon thereafter.
That’s typical Baylor for you, putting up 70 points against Rice. Except it wasn’t. That was last season the Bears routed the Owls by 53 points. This year was only won 38-10. Only occasionally did Baylor make “Baylor” plays like the ones illustrated with Cannon who finished Friday night with 213 yards and two touchdowns of his own on nine receptions and ten targets.
Cannon now has 352 yards and four touchdowns this season. But as shown Friday, he’s the Bears’ lone momentum changing player to should give pause to Baylor fans heading into conference play next week. Typically this offense has run with at least a half a dozen such players.
As a case study, look at Baylor’s first four drives that led to a scoreless first quarter (a repeat of last week’s performance against SMU).
Baylor opened the game with the ball but had a three-and-out thanks to two incomplete passes to Blake Lynch and Russell being dragged behind the line. Failed button hooks were the name of the game, an exercise in futility for an offense made to run fly routes.
The next drive was similarly dismal, this time looking to the running game to move the chains without much success. This has been the game plan of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and head coach Jim Grobe for most of the season, not letting its Ferraris out of the driveway until later. It took an interception and another D.O.A. drive to start a more aggressive approach that worked two-thirds of the time.
It’s understandable that Baylor would take this more conservative approach, not wanting a QB who fractured his neck to be under excessive pressure behind an inexperienced line. But as evidenced by Cannon’s top-flight speed that granted him two touchdowns and four receptions over 25 yards (three over 40 yards.)
What will be most interesting over the next couple of weeks is how Cannon keeps up the pace here. Right now he’s on a pace comparable to his stellar freshman campaign in which he had 471 yards and five touchdowns in three games. Though, because of Baylor not fitting its M.O., he has taken on a secondary role as a possession receiver, hauling in 24 passes compared to 14 as a frosh.
His freshman year’s production crashed down to earth, though, only scoring thrice more with other receivers getting involved more. Right now, he looks like he can take on the role Corey Coleman left behind last season in his Biletnikoff-winning season last year.
A better understanding of how that might work out should come in the next few weeks. Coleman was catching multiple touchdowns per game last season through eight games and then the brunt of the schedule and QB injuries put an end to that, shutting him down. Cannon doesn’t have that luxury of fluff schedule the next few weeks: First up is Oklahoma State, soon followed by Texas, TCU, and Oklahoma.
If Baylor’s going to make a push for the conference, Cannon can’t be the only one holding up the persona Baylor created over the past six seasons. Players like Chris Platt and Blake Lynch will be ones to keep an eye on after struggling the past couple weeks to plant their feet in the ground.