College football report

Saturday NCAA football recap: Longhorns bag their first season-opening win in 3 years

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Week One is in the books and Texas teams are giving everyone something to talk about. Here's a look at what happened in the Lone Star State and with LSU:


Oklahoma 49, Houston 31

First year Houston coach Dana Holgorsen, who coached at West Virginia before making his train wreck of a debut Sunday night, seemed to have expected the loss well before kickoff. "We knew we weren't going to catch these guys sleeping today, so it is what it is," Holgorsen said. "They're a top-five team, deservedly so." And that defeatist mentality is what keeps world-class talent from reaching its full potential. Are the Sooners a top-five team? Yes, but did we really have to let them roll over us like that? Fourth-ranked Oklahoma allowed 31 points by a team that lost its glimmer of national relevance three years ago when Tom Herman left for Texas. The struggles of the Cougar's offensive and defensive lines decided the game. Houston's new defensive coordinator, Joe Cauthen has some explaining to do after his defense was shredded by Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. In his first game with the Sooners since transferring from Alabama, Hurts put on a show racking up 508 total yards. Hurts appeared focused and comfortable as he completed 20-of-23 passes for 332 yards and rushed for 176 yards on 16 carries. To be fair, Hurts is phenomenally talented and Cauthen is tasked with transforming a defense that finished amongst the worst in every major category last season. I spent most of the game searching for the "attacking style defense" Cauthen spoke so fondly of back in July. As much as I would like to lay all the blame for Sunday's loss at Cauthen's feet, the explosive offense we know and love was dormant for the entire first half. OU was playing like they were trying out for the league and the Cougars looked like they only showed up to keep their scholarships. King was limited to just 87 passing yards in the first half and finished with just 167 yards passing.

Texas A&M 41, Texas State 7

This should come as a surprise to no one but the 12th-ranked Aggies easily put the Bobcats away in their season-opener on Saturday. Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 194 yards, three touchdowns and ran for another score, all in the first two quarters, giving Texas A&M a 28-0 halftime lead. First year starting running back Jashaun Corbin had 103 rushing yards with a touchdown run and a TD reception. Defensive back Myles Jones had two of Texas A&M's four interceptions and the Aggies had three sacks and nine tackles for losses. Although Texas A&M's secondary was a weak spot last season, the four interceptions in Saturday's game were the most the team has had since 2006. Texas State quarterback Tyler Vitt threw two interceptions in the first half before first-year coach Jack Spivital replaced him with Gresch Jensen who threw an interception on his second pass. Hopefully the Bobcats can get their quarterback situation ironed out before hosting Wyoming next week. The Aggies are set to take on top-ranked Clemson in South Carolina next week.

LSU 55, Georgia Southern 3

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow tied an LSU single-game record with five touchdown passes in the first two quarters and the Tigers cruised to a 55-3 victory over Georgia Southern. Burrow playfully urged reporters to write that the Tigers new offense "showed everything we got – all of it," in its season opened against Ga. Southern. The Tigers scored 21 points in the first quarter, more than they ever did in any quarter last season. Burrow completed 23-of-27 passes for 278 yards and five touchdowns. "We're going to run the spread offense. We're going to score points. We've got athletes. That's what we do," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "The scheme is a lot better this year. We have answers to different coverages." While the true test for LSU will come next week when they face Texas, the new spread scheme will put the Tigers' opponents on notice. Eagles starting quarterback Shai Werts threw one completed pass for no yards and was knocked out the game before halftime with an upper body injury. Georgia Southern faces Maine in week two and LSU visits 10th-ranked Texas on Saturday.

Texas 45, Louisiana Tech 14

Texas star quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw four touchdown passes Saturday night, leading the No. 10 Longhorns to an easy 45-14 home victory over Louisiana Tech and giving third-year coach Tom Herman his first season-opening victory with the program. Ehlinger was well protected which will be a key to Texas' success this season as the Longhorns only have an inexperienced freshman behind him this year. Senior receiver Devin Duvernay had nine receptions for 55 yards and Ehlinger's first TD pass of the season. The Longhorns debuted eight new defensive starters Saturday night and used a mix of looks which forced three turnovers. Next week the Longhorns host their biggest non-conference opponent of the season – No. 6 LSU.

Texas Tech 45, Montana State 10

Sophomore Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman threw for 436 yards and two touchdowns to guide the Red Raiders to a season-opening 45-10 victory over Montana State on Saturday. Texas Tech finished with 691 yards and held Montana State to 289 total yards. The Red Raiders face UTEP next Saturday.

Army 14, Rice 7


Slow and steady wins the race. After guiding a 9-minute scoring drive consuming all but 3:48 of the fourth quarter, Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. hit running back Kell Walker with a 17-yard touchdown pass to put the Owls away with a 14-7 win on Friday night. This win over Rice gives the Black Knights the second-longest winning streak in college football, behind 1st-ranked Clemson. Hopkins Jr., who last year became the first player in academy history to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in a season, finished with 80 yards on 21 carries and 53 passing yards. The Owls limited the Black Knights to 120 yards on 30 plays in the first half. Rice hosts Wake Forest in week two on Friday and the Black Knights are at Michigan on Saturday.

Baylor 56, Stephen F. Austin 17

Baylor coach Matt Rhule had no shortage of annoyances in the Bears' season-opener against Stephen F. Austin Saturday night. Putting this game away took longer than Rhule may have liked but the Baylor never trailed and was well on its way to victory by halftime. "I didn't like that lull where they scored and we didn't answer it to the level that I think we should," Rhule said. Bears starting quarterback Charlie Brewer threw for 199 yards and three touchdowns, leading Baylor to a 56-17 victory over SFA. Baylor looks to UTSA next week as the Bears look to rebuild their national recognition.

TCU 39, Arkansas-Pine Buff 7

The Horned Frogs debuted two quarterbacks Saturday night as they cruised to a 39-7 victory over UAPB. Graduate transfer Alex Delton and true freshman Max Duggan left much to be desired in a TCU quarterback: Delton was 10-for-22 and 119 yard passing and picked up 67 yards on seven carries. Duggan led all of the TCU's touchdown drives and finished 16-for23 passing for 165 yards. "I thought they stayed pretty composed," said TCU senior receiver TreVontae Hights, who set a career high with eight catches for 108 yards. "Their leadership was great. I feel comfortable with either one of them." TCU's defense was strong, forcing 11 punts and picking off two Pine Bluff passes. The Horned Frogs are off next week before facing off against Purdue on Sept. 14.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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