By Collin Bryant | Sports Writer
Baylor (0-4) fell 49-41 to No. 3 Oklahoma (4-0) Saturday in an offensively driven game at McLane Stadium.
According to Bleacher Report, the Sooners were favored by 27.5 points and after they returned the opening kickoff 70 yards, Oklahoma looked to make good on the prediction. However, Baylor fought hard, keeping the game close.
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said he wanted to make sure his team knew they didn’t win or lose in the first quarter of the game and thought they did a good job fighting back.
“We just want our kids to understand you don’t win the game in the first quarter. You don’t win the game in the second quarter,” Rhule said. “So I thought our kids did a tremendous job of fighting back. You know, fighting back from adversity.”
The Bears came back from their second quarter deficit, scoring 21 unanswered points and taking the lead 31-28. However, the Sooners responded with 21 straight points, building a 49-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Fighting through adversity, the Bears chipped away at the lead, scoring in the final two minutes of the game to bring the score to 49-41. After Baylor recovered an onside kick the Sooners defense forced and recovered a fumble to seal the win.
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said that the close game was a big message to his guys and there were a lot of things the team needed to do better as a whole.
“That was probably the biggest message to our guys in the locker room. Winning’s hard. You can’t take it for granted,” Riley said. “We’re damn sure not too good to appreciate it. We’ve got to do a lot of things better. We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better on all three sides of the ball. We had some critical mistakes tonight that let that game get close. So we’ve got to do a lot better, but we will.”
Junior wide receiver Denzel Mims, who caught 11 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns said he was excited to feel like the team was competing with such a tough competitor but was still sad he lost.
“It feels good, but it also feels kind of sad. It feels good that we got a whole lot better and we came to compete, and we stuck in with OU. Still kind of feels bad that we lost,” Mims said.
One positive takeaway from Saturday was Baylor’s offense. Sophomore quarterback Zach Smith passed for 463 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Mims and the other to junior wide receiver Chris Platt.
Mims said that he has developed a good connection with Smith and that the two of them stay after practice to complete as many reps as possible to get on the same page.
Smith said he felt like this game was great for the purpose of showing the team their growth.
“That was an exhilarating game, that was really fun,” Smith said. “It really shows us who we are and how great we can be. So we just have to keep building on it.”
It wasn’t always easy for Smith. Oklahoma consistently put pressure on him, sacking him three times.
Rhule said with a quarterback throwing the ball 60 times that he was “going to get hit a few times.” He also said that he wished the offensive line had “been a little bit better down the stretch in crucial situations.”
The Baylor defense held Oklahoma senior quarterback Baker Mayfield to just under 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. While the return of a few of the Bears defensive players may have helped stop some of the receiving side of the ball, the Sooners’ rushing made up for it with 342 yards.
Rhule said he felt his defensive coordinator did a good job to combat the passing game, but the Sooners’ running backs kept finding holes in Baylor’s defense.
“I thought Phil [Snow] did a good job adjusting and not playing quite as much man so they didn’t have the easy one-on-one shots,” Rhule said. “I thought we went into our three-down stuff hoping to give them some different looks. Like the other day, they made big, powerful runs and threw some tackles at crucial times.”
Rhule added that the players are starting to really learn from the growing pains that come with a young squad and that he rather them learn now than later.
“So I think they’re understanding the link between doing what you’re supposed to do and believing in the people around you and how it relates to football. These lessons are hard, but when you learn them, you learn them for life,” Rhule said. “So I’d rather learn them now. But I’m proud of them. They come out to work every day. They’re hurting in there, but they have each other’s back.”
The Bears continue the search for their first win when they take on Kansas State (2-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan, Kan.