If you looked on the field to see who was in uniform for No. 10 Baylor on Saturday night, you probably didn’t recognize some of the players. But even with a number of unproven players pressed into action for the injury-plagued Bears, they managed to win 45-35 at Boone Pickens Stadium against No. 6 Oklahoma State.
“I’m not surprised,” said sophomore wide receiver KD Cannon. “It’s like Coach Kaz [Kazadi] always tells us, ‘There’s no such thing as a backup.’ So we all just have to be ready [and prepare as if] they’re a starter.”
The production from players lacking in-game experience didn’t surprise head coach Art Briles either, he said.
Despite having different players in key positions, Briles’ squad didn’t miss a beat. Baylor racked up 700 yards of total offense (396 passing, 304 rushing), while limiting Oklahoma State to eight total yards of rushing.
True freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham got the Bears off to a strong start by throwing 258 passing yards and one touchdown in the first half. But a bevy of hits on Stidham forced the Bears to turn to a rare contributor.
Sophomore Chris Johnson took the reins of the No. 1 offense in the nation in the second half.
Many speculated whether he could carry the Bears to a win, especially after playing wide receiver and tight end earlier in the season.
But the coaching staff had full confidence in the new QB and he appeared to show no signs of nervousness in a hostile environment.
Johnson attributed his poise to the team’s belief of having reinforcements, not backups.
“You have to go in every single week as if you’re the starter, whether you’re getting first-team reps or second team,” Johnson said. “When they told me I had to go in, I felt I was ready. I have to give credit to my teammates, they told me to stay ready and [believed in me].”
Johnson turned non-believers into supporters by throwing for 138 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in the second half. He also gave the Bears an added threat of running the football and showcased his athleticism, compiling 42 yards and one touchdown on six carries.
Briles expected a solid game from Johnson, and Briles said that’s exactly what he got.
“Everything that Chris did is not surprising to us. I’m really happy for him and our team,” Briles said.
With Baylor quarterback Seth Russell out for the season and Jarrett Stidham looking like he could miss some time, Johnson’s display tonight could be crucial to the Bears’ season.
Johnson said having success against Oklahoma State helps give him confidence to lead the most explosive offense in the country.
The experience gained tonight could prove invaluable for Baylor, as the Bears are down to their last quarterback on the depth chart. Briles said he would be hard pressed if another QB went down due to injury.
“It’s just about surviving late in the year,” Briles said. “A lot of people have been beaten up. It’s adding up a little bit. You just fight through every play and then we’ll get to the end. But we’ve got to battle hard for the next few days.”
Baylor’s next test will be versus the TCU Horned Frogs on Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Amon G. Carter Stadium.