Many people thought the OU football team was set for a season of mediocrity after the Sooners were upset by Texas on October 10.
A little bit more than a month later, the Sooners are back in the College Football Playoff picture after going to Waco and beating No. 6 Baylor 44-34.
Baker Mayfield bolstered his Heisman trophy resume in the win, accounting for 346 total yards and four touchdowns. His stats were great, but his determination was what fueled his teammates. A Mayfield touchdown pass with 5:42 left in the game extended OU’s lead to 10 points and basically put the nail in Baylor’s coffin.
Big 12 critics around the nation couldn’t help but like what they saw out of this back-and-forth showdown. Both teams made big plays throughout the entire game, and no one was robbed of a high intensity conference matchup.
Baylor was in a great offensive rhythm to start the game, and drove 80 yards in eight plays to take a 6-0 lead with less than five minutes into the game. It appeared the momentum was strictly in the hands of the Bears, but a botched snap on the extra point cost the Bears a point, and then Baylor kicked the ball out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff which set the Sooners up with great field position.
OU opted to go up-tempo throughout the drive, and it really worked out in its favor. Mayfield was able to get in a rhythm, and connected with four different receivers on the drive while the OU run game was setting up nicely. OU drove 65 yards down the field and capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown by running back Semaje Perine, who shed a Baylor defender in the backfield and kept his balance before rumbling in for six points. Oklahoma held a 7-6 lead with 6:38 left in the first quarter.
It appeared OU would have another opportunity to add more points after Jordan Evans stripped a Baylor ball carrier on the Bears’ next drive, but the OU offense couldn’t make anything of the great field position after tackle Orlando Brown was flagged for unnecessary roughness and pushed OU out of field goal range.
After a few defensive stands by both teams, the Sooners were set to get rolling on offense again. With 11:20 left in the second frame, it appeared that OU’s drive was going nowhere since the Sooners were backed up in their own territory and faced a third down and long. Fortunately for the road team, Baylor was called for pass interference on a deep pass to Dede Westbrook, therefore OU had new life in the drive and it was ready to take advantage of it.
Five plays later, OU was on the Baylor 39-yard line facing a second down and 11. Mayfield took the snap out of shotgun, stood strong in the pocket despite a blitzing Baylor defender, and delivered a perfect strike to a streaking Sterling Shepard who made the catch and dove for the pylon for a 39-yard touchdown. Austin Seibert missed the extra point attempt, but OU held a 13-6 lead.
It appeared all things were going OU’s way after the defense turned right around and forced the Bears’ offense into a three-and-out, but the Sooners weren’t able to capitalize on the turnover. Mayfield threw an interception on the ensuing OU drive which set Baylor up with prime field position that it took advantage of. The Bears drove 42 yards in ten plays and tied the game on a three-yard touchdown run.
That Baylor touchdown came in a heated time of the game as OU appeared to hold the Bears on third down, but the refs called Dominique Alexander for a late hit call that extended the Baylor drive and the Bears scored on the next play. Then on the ensuing extra point, OU defensive lineman Matt Dimon was ejected from the game for a personal foul penalty. OU and Baylor had yet to play a whole half of football but tempers were definitely flaring.
Baylor’s score, along with the loss of a defensive lineman could’ve deflated the Sooners, but Mayfield wasn’t going to let that happen to his team. The quarterback flashed his moxie, and led OU on an eight play, 71-yard drive that gave the Sooners a 20-13 lead going into halftime. It was the perfect way for the Sooners to end the first half.
Baylor got the ball first out of halftime, and dialed up the perfect opening drive. The Bears were able to convert on a third and 14 with a 37-yard completion to Corey Coleman, and then scored six plays later on a 6-yard touchdown run by Devin Chafin to tie the game a 20-20.
That score by the Bears lit a spark for the Sooners, and it was time for Bob Stoops’ crew to turn it on.
Oklahoma marched down the field in eight plays and Shepard caught a perfectly thrown seven-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to make the score 27-20.
OU’s defense then forced a quick three-and-out, and after a short punt by Baylor, the Sooners had stellar field position yet again. This time it only took the Sooners one play to score, as Perine took it to the house from 55 yards out to give OU a 34-20 lead with 8:53 left in the third frame.
The Bears brought life back to McLane stadium on their next drive, as they converted on fourth down then scored on their next play to pull back within a touchdown with 1:58 left in the third quarter. The Bears defense then stepped up and forced the Sooners’ offense into a three-and-out, and OU’s once comfortable lead was suddenly in jeopardy.
OU desperately needed a big play from someone on its defense, and cornerback Zack Sanchez was ready for the challenge.
Sanchez made a great jump on a Jarrett Stidham throw and was able to intercept the freshman quarterback’s pass and return it to the Baylor 33-yard line.
It was a big play in an even bigger game.
The Sooners played conservatively on the ensuing drive, and added three points to their lead with a 33-yard field goal by Austin Seibert to make the score 37-27 with 14:47 left in the game.
After quick possessions by both Baylor and then OU, the Bears got the ball back with short field position at midfield. Three plays later, Baylor was back within three points of OU, and the Sooners were in a position where they needed to score in order to hold off the surging Bears with a little more than ten minutes left in the game.
Fortunately for the Sooners, Mayfield cemented himself as one of the top playmakers in the country on the next OU possession. The Sooners drove the ball down the field in nine plays and were on the seven-yard line facing a third and goal. Mayfield took the snap, avoided the blitzing Baylor defenders for what seemed like an eternity, and then rifled a touchdown pass to Dimitri Flowers that put the Sooners up 10 points with 5:42 left in the game.
An Ahmad Thomas interception on Baylor’s next drive iced the game and gave the Sooners the win.
Along with Mayfield’s big night, his number one wideout had a pretty good game himself. Shepard finished with 14 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns, while outperforming Baylor’s star wide receiver Corey Coleman, who only caught three passes for 51 yards.
Samaje Perine was a monster on the ground throughout the game, totaling 166 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Durron Neal, Joe Mixon, Flowers and Westbrook were also very instrumental in the OU win despite not putting up gaudy numbers.
OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops called a terrific game, and the defense was able to force three turnovers and hold Baylor’s offense to only 416 yards—which is more than 200 yards less than the Bears’ average on the year. Cornerback Jordan Thomas played very well on Coleman, while the pass rush was resilient throughout the entire game.
With the win, OU’s win streak is now at five games, and the Sooners are set to host TCU (9-1) on Saturday. A kickoff time has not been determined yet.