The road trip to Waco in recent years has not ended in OSU’s favor.
Having never won in McLane stadium (built in 2014) and leaving with losses since 2009, Mike Gundy’s team entered with a fervor.
It was a Cowboy-dominated game. Baylor had a lot of missing players and coaches – some COVID-related, some not – but it didn’t matter, OSU was in control. Even with no Hubbard or Wallace, Sanders was comfortable in the pocket, making plays we haven’t always seen this season.
Offense stalled in the second half, but up 28-0 entering the third, there was no rush to get into the endzone except to capitalize and seal the regular season finale victory.
Reeling from a tough loss last week to TCU and a subpar performance earlier this season in Bedlam to OU, there was a concerted effort to finish the season on top. And finish on top they did, rolling over the Baylor Bears, 42-3.
First Takeaway: All Cowboys, All Pistols Firing In First Quarter
Entering a stadium in which the Cowboys have never won didn’t seem to be a problem today.
Second play of the game and Sanders scrambles to find Stoner wide open down the field for a statement of a touchdown. And then the defense forces Baylor to punt. This is the team we’ve seen glimpses of throughout the season all coming together from the start.
Defense held Baylor scoreless in the first with zero rushing yards. They had attempts, but zero rushing yards. Stoner scores two touchdowns in the first, dominating the offensive side with consistency from Sanders to start.
This start felt competitive yet relaxed, it felt consistent and confident, embodying the attitude and rhythm of a dominant team.
The start of a game isn’t everything, there’s four quarters to a game and it takes all four to emerge with a victory. But the start is important to set the tone, to let the Bears know who they’re up against.
So now that is how you start a game.
Second Takeaway: With Key Players Out, We Discover New Key Players Already Exist
We’ve seen this story this season - injuries galore.
Tylan Wallace was out with an MCL strain, as was LD Brown and Chuba Hubbard announced he has opted out of the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. Okay, so our key receivers and running backs, out.
Not to fear, Dillon Stoner is here.
Stoner scores on the second play of the game, and then another touchdown pulling in a ball after a battle with the defender.
Have yourself a day Dillon, go ahead and get that third TD.
Dominic Richardson, the true freshman running back decided it was his turn, putting up a trio of touchdowns as well.
A regular starter and key player, Stoner gets his number called, but most of the attention tends to be on Wallace. In the first half, Stoner had six catches for 180 yards - yes, that’s just the first half. He finished the game with eight receptions for 247 total yards.
Stoner has had three straight years of 40+ catches. Let’s give this man the credit he deserves. From a strong Jenks program in Tulsa, Stoner has consistency that the Cowboys and Sanders need this year.
With uncertainty in injuries and a COVID-19 season, it’s nice to know Stoner continues step up.
Third Takeaway: The Miracle Of Finishing The Regular Season In 2020
I wish we could just bundle up this defense, save it in a bottle and never play without it.
Top in the conference in halting 3rd down conversions, they showed that dominance today, holding the Bears to 4 of 17 on third. The Bears had 156 total yards, with only 79 rushing, compared to the total yards of 608 for the Pokes.
Sanders and the offense were able to perform balanced drives, to use the field in both rushing and receiving. While the Bears might not be the most competitive opponent on the season, it’s nice to see a team click in rhythm like the Pokes did today.
So, the end of the regular season has arrived (wow we made here, honestly unexpected in 2020), so now what moving forward? With a 7-3 record, a bowl game is on the horizon, albeit a bowl game without Hubbard and a questionable Wallace.
The team has found a rhythm, one that involves some new key players – that bodes well for the future.
Truly, it’s so nice to end the regular season on a win, and to even make it to the end of the regular season is a true almost-Christmas football miracle.
Image: OSU Cowboy Athletics