By Shehan Jeyarajah
No. 5 Baylor (8-0) didn’t quite meet the all-time attendance record against No. 10 Oklahoma (7-2), but that was OK. The Bears still played in front of the most raucous crowd in the history of Floyd Casey Stadium on Thursday. In front of 50,337 screaming, blacked- out fans watching the biggest football game in Baylor history, the Bears made a statement with a 41-12 win over the Sooners.
“We showed tonight we can compete with any team in this conference and in the nation,” senior defensive end Chris McAllister said to a crowd of dozens of reporters after the 41-12 thrashing of Oklahoma.
Unlike the previous seven wins, Baylor’s offense did not win them this game: the defense did.
Oklahoma’s offense came into the Baylor matchup averaging 435.0 yards of total offensive yardage per game. Baylor’s defense held Oklahoma’s offense to 237 total yards.
The Sooners came in averaging 234.0 yards on the ground; Baylor held OU to 87 rushing yards.
“I hope this performance will change the outlook on our defense,” senior safety Ahmad Dixon said. “I hope it’ll change the outlook on our whole team. Even though the defense stepped up, this was a team win.”
Junior quarterback Bryce Petty established himself as a Heisman contender with a five touchdown performance against Oklahoma. Petty had 249 all purpose yards, three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Antwan Goodley finished with six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Through the course of the game, the injury bug caught up to the Bears.
In the first half, senior running back Glasco Martin went down with a knee injury, junior running back Lache Seastrunk was pulled with tightness in his groin and senior wide receiver Tevin Reese was lost for the season with a dislocated wrist.
With the injuries, redshirt freshman utility back Shock Linwood had the opportunity to step up, and he delivered. After the first quarter, Linwood did not have a single rushing attempt.
With Martin out and Seastrunk limited by injury, Linwood got a chance to shine. By the end of the first half, he had 39 rushing yards.
In the second half, Linwood exploded. On 16 rushing attempts, he finished with 143 rushing yards, which translates to 8.9 rushing yards per attempt. On the day, Linwood finished with 23 rushes for 182 yards and 7.9 yards per carry.
In place of Reese, junior receiver Levi Norwood received more time at wide receiver.
Norwood finished with 78 yards receiving and a touchdown on four catches. He also had an eight-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone called back from an offensive pass interference penalty on Goodley.
“Even with Tevin Reese out, we do have players who are very capable,” head coach Art Briles said. “It’s a good chance for them to show their competence, how they can help us and contribute with their accomplishments.”
With the win, Baylor jumped up to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll, the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll.
In the BCS rankings, Baylor moved up to No. 5. behind Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Stanford.
In the Heisman Pundit’s Heisman Watch, Bryce Petty was listed as the second most likely to win the Heisman Trophy behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston.
“The rankings don’t matter to us,” Petty said. “I really don’t think it would matter if we were ranked four or ranked 24 or No. 1. You always have something to prove. I think we’re going to come out here every week, prepared and ready to go.”
Baylor will look to continue its success this week in a neutral-site game against Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The Red Raiders (7-3) started their season 7-0 before dropping their last three to No. 15 Oklahoma, No. 18 Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
“Tech’s gone through an unlucky spell of injuries and things like that, so I don’t really think that their record shows how good their team is,” Petty said. “I think they have a really good team. We’re going to have to be prepared on offense, defense and special teams just like we’re facing the best team in the conference, because right now that’s who they are.”
Styles collide, as Tech has the top-rated passing offense with 408.2 yards per game behind true freshman quarterbacks Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield.
The Bears are seventh in passing defense, allowing only 173.9 passing yards per game.
“They throw the ball a lot,” senior defensive end Terrance Lloyd said. “They’re like us, and that’s going to be a challenge. I’m ready to see what we are going to be in defensive-wise, a lot of pass rush going on. I’m going to enjoy that.”
No. 5 Baylor will look to continue its historic season against Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The game will be nationally televised on Fox.
With Baylor looking to impress AP voters and move up in the BCS standings, style points and margin of victory will be crucial to Baylor’s postseason destination.