Woodward, Okla. —
By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
WACO, Texas — The tarp was removed from the south end zone at Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium Thursday night. It had been years since that concrete had seen the light of day.
But what was really exposed turned out to be No. 12 Oklahoma. The debate over whether No. 5 Baylor is overrated could potentially continue. The Sooners’ status is no longer up for deliberation after it was taken to the woodshed in a 41-12 loss to the Bears.
“They outplayed and outcoached all of us together,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
There’s no denying that one. The game was only competitive for two and a half quarters. Midway through the third quarter, OU (7-2, 4-2) was trailing by 26 points and didn’t seem like it could make up that deficit in 23 days much less the 23 minutes that still had to tick off the clock before they could get out of town.
How the Sooners got themselves in such a predicament was the head-scratcher. They knew all facets of their game had to hit for them score an upset on one of the very rare night’s they found themselves as two-touchdown underdogs.
The final score didn’t indicate it, but defensively at least, the Sooners played well enough to win. They held No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0), which entered the game leading the NCAA is points per game and yards per game, to 459 yards.
But that was just one side of the ball. Offensively, the Sooners were a sputtering mess.
The Sooners had talked for well over a week about the need to run the ball, control the clock and try to wear down the Bears.
It was a ruse — and a horribly executed one at that. The Sooners never came close to establishing the run. In the first half, its running backs — Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Damien Williams — combined for just seven carries.
“From the very beginning, I felt like the offense didn’t get anything going,” said OU quarterback Blake Bell, who completed just 15 of 35 passes for 150 yards. “Obviously, we didn’t have any chemistry. It felt like something was going wrong for us out there.”
The biggest issue was getting Bell in a position where he had to throw the ball 35 times. But OU’s running game was stagnant. Thirty-four carries produced just 87 yards. OU had to get that going early.
Instead, its inability to run the ball was evident early.
Early in the second quarter, the Sooners had the ball at the Baylor 1 with a chance to take a touchdown lead. Bell, instead, was stuffed for a 1-yard loss. It was the first of three red zone trips for the Sooners. They accumulated just 10 points off of them.
The other two on the night came when OU linebacker Dominique Alexander sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty for a safety early in the second quarter.
With about 12 minutes left in the first half, OU actually led 5-3 because, defensively, it was playing with its hair on fire.
But the fire was out by the second quarter. Baylor was too explosive. Petty only threw for 204 yards, but three of his 13 completions went for touchdowns.
Due to injuries, the Bears relied heavily on third-string running back Shock Linwood. He rushed for 183 yards on just 23 totes.
Defensively, the Sooners could stand up to it. They were just on the field way too much and habitually put in bad spots.
The Sooners had one sustained offensive drive all night. A 10-play, 71-yard drive capped by Roy Finch’s 10-yard touchdown catch from Bell was solid.
They actually had two third-down conversions on the drive. The rest of the night they picked up 3 of 15 and were just 1 for 3 on fourth down.
“It chipped away at our team’s performance,” Stoops said of the offense’s ineptness. “You have to stay on the field. I don’t know how many three-and-outs we had, but it was way too many. You’re not gonna keep putting your defense out there against Baylor and give them opportunities and not have it affect you.”
It came crashing down in the last seven minutes of the first half. The Bears rolled off 21 straight points to take a 24-5 lead.
The damage might have been limited to a 12-point deficit, but OU elected to try to move the ball with less than a minute in the first half. Bell, who was intercepted twice, threw his first pick to Baylor’s Eddie Lackey, setting up the Bears at the Sooner 28.
Five plays later, Petty hit Antwan Goodley for a 24-yard touchdown.
How OU recovers from the loss is the question. It will go down as the fourth largest margin of defeat during Stoops’ 15 season tenure.
What caused it had fingers pointing and many directions.
“It’s all of it,” Stoops said. “All of it needs to improve.”