The Baylor Bears suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners in a game that felt lethargic all night. The Bears fell to the Sooners 44-34, their first loss to Oklahoma since 2012. The loss also ended the Bears nation-leading home win streak, halting the streak at 20.
After one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen against Kansas State on Thursday, Jarrett Stidham showed cracks in his armor. The true freshman threw for 257 yards and a pair of scores but also had two huge interceptions. The first came in the closing minutes of the third quarter, a complete misread of KD Cannon’s route, allowing Zack Sanchez to catch the ball without trouble.
“[Oklahoma was] mixing it up pretty well out there. They mixed it up quite a bit, but we just did not execute on certain things we needed to,” said Stidham.
Stidham injured his back on the first series of the game and his pain was evident. The freshman’s resiliency is incredible, as he managed to finish the game and is expected to play next week.
The Baylor offense could not get going at its usual speed against the tough Oklahoma defense. The Bears only managed to gain 416 yards of offense, the lowest total all season.
“We aren’t going to let this loss define our season. We are going to come back tomorrow, look at the tape, and go to the drawing board,” said Stidham.
On the ground, Shock Linwood posted his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season, rushing for 103 yard. Linwood started the game hot, toting the rock 12 times for 72 yards in the first half. However, he and Baylor run game significantly slowed down after halftime. In the second half, Linwood managed 9 carries for only 31 more yards. The failed Baylor run game left an injured Stidham to carry the team, where he would falter as well.
“We’ve done pretty well running the football this year. You’d like to think that you can continue to do that, and we weren’t very good tonight overall,” said head coach Art Briles.
On defense, the Bears were tremendous at applying pressure in the backfield. However, missed tackles and extended plays allowed the Sooners to continue driving on the Bears all night. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was sensational, as he threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns, as well as running for 76 more yards. Mayfield’s duel-threat capability combined with costly Baylor penalties killed the Baylor momentum all night.
“We have to limit our penalties. When we can, we have to get them off the field, and we can’t let them extend drives,” said nickelback Travon Blanchard.
The true dagger of the game came on a horse-collar penalty against the Bears. On second down with the Sooners backed up on their own 17 in the fourth quarter, the Bears collapsed the pocket. Mayfield scrambled to his right, looking downfield when Travon Blanchard came soaring into the backfield. Mayfield continued to run at around the OU 4 yard line when Blanchard tackled him, pulling his jersey from behind. A horse-collar penalty was called on Blanchard, giving Oklahoma a first down on their 32. The Sooners would eventually score, effectively ending the game.
“When you’re going full speed in the game, it’s tough. I pretty much just tried to grab jersey and bring Mayfield down, but I had bad hand placement and got a flag that extended the drive to help them score,” said Blanchard of the penalty.
After the Oklahoma touchdown, Stidham would throw his second interception to end the game. Stidham dropped back and threw a ball up for Jay Lee but the pass was underthrown and off target to the left. Ahmad Thomas would pick off the ball and the Sooners would run the clock out to win the ball game.
The Bears still have a chance to win a Big 12 title, though they will need help from other teams. If the Bears win out and the Sooners lose, Baylor can still capture their third consecutive conference title. However, the road ahead of the Bears remains very challenging.
Next weekend the Bears will travel to Stillwater to face undefeated Oklahoma State. Baylor has not won a game in Stillwater since 1939 but that can certainly change. The Cowboys present a similar challenge that the Sooners gave Baylor in terms of a mobile quarterback and speedy receivers.
“There’s nothing to hang our head about. We lost at home and that sucks, but we can still win the conference so that’s what our goal is,” said senior tackle Spencer Drango.
This Baylor team is full of veterans like Drango that know exactly how to handle a loss and how to handle animosity. Expect Briles to ready the troops, regroup, and get the Bears ready for a tough Cowboys team next weekend.