The Baylor Bears (4-0) continued in its winning ways Saturday as they fought their way past the Oklahoma State Cowboys (2-1) at McLane Stadium, 35-24.
“I told our team in the locker room after the game that we didn’t always play our best. We did some really, really good things. And then we did some things that weren’t our best, but I’ve never been around a team that gave a better effort than we have tonight. I thought the thing that saved us tonight is just guys playing as hard as they could possibly play,” said head coach Jim Grobe. “I was just really proud of the way our defense bowed their necks when they had to make plays down the stretch.”
After preaching a fast start, the No. 16 ranked Bears did exactly that as they drove 75-yards in seven plays to start the game and take the early lead.
However, the Bears momentum was cut short when lightning was spotted in the vicinity, but senior quarterback Seth Russell said it was something they have mentally prepared for.
“It’s not hard to do. It’s what we’re trained to do,” Russell said. “It’s what Coach Kaz (Kazadi) and them, that’s what they train us to do every day. There’s going to be distractions and there’s going to be things that happen that are negative but we had to put those aside and come out and play football.”
After a 95-minute weather delay, the Bears would come out to drain the extra point, but the Cowboys were ready to respond.
After a fumble near the end zone early by the Bears after the punt, the Cowboys found themselves in perfect field position and capitalized on it to tie the game up at seven with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“Give full credit to coach Bennett and their staff and OSU,” Russell said. “They had a great game. They had a good game plan. They were tough, but coach Bennett, you know, they did a great job of adjusting at half-time a little bit.”
It wasn’t until 12:28 remaining in the second quarter that sophomore wide receiver Ishmael Zamora found himself in the right place, at the right time to catch senior quarterback Seth Russell’s deflected pass to run it in for a 38-yard touchdown. Freshman kicker Conner Martin would then connect for the extra point, as the Bears went up 14-3.
The Cowboys answered right back with a 75-yard drive to tie things up at 14 with just over five minutes remaining before the half.
Looking to take the lead going into the half, a 38-yard pass from Russell to Zamora did just that.
“I knew he was going to step up. He’s a great football player and he showed that tonight,” Grobe said. “He’s another weapon to put in the offense, and he’s a great guy. He’s working hard. He never took any days off. When he was suspended, he never griped one day. He came out to work and it showed tonight.”
The Bears finished the first half on top 21-14, with 42 plays for 302 yards.
Coming back from the half it would be the Cowboys who would strike first at the 7:46 mark, and tie things up at 21.
Sophomore wide receiver Chris Platt would respond less than one minute later for the Bears, to put them back out on top, 28-21.
“Well, you know, Chris Platt is a fast guy,” Russell said. “They were playing the stop and we just did a quick double move and he got open. He did the rest.”
The Cowboys would bring things back within four after a made field goal with 2:13 remaining in the third.
The Bears were trampled in the third quarter when it came to total possession of the ball. The Bears clocked in at 2:17, in comparison to the Cowboy’s 12:43 minutes of possession.
After failing to convert on a fourth down late into the third quarter, the Cowboys took over at the 24-yard line. However, the Bears defense came up big, holding the Cowboys off at the 4-yard line to force a turnover on downs.
After the Bears punt the ball, the Cowboys would drive the ball down to the 1-yard line, but were stopped short after the Bears forced the fumble with 9:12 remaining in the game.
“I have to give them a lot of credit, I thought they had a great plan running the football tonight and that kept the clock spinning and kept our guys out there,” Grobe said. “But when you stay out there as long as we did tonight and still have some juice left at the end of the game, says a lot about the character of our defense.”
The Bears would drive down the field 99-yards on nine plays to take a commanding, 35-14 lead after Russell’s 15-yard pass to Platt.
“It feels great. I probably haven’t opened up like that since high school, so it kind of felt great to open up and see nothing but grass and the touchdown zone. I’ve been doing (the double move) ever since I got here, so I kind of perfected it,” Platt said.
Although the Cowboys continued to fight, a sack by sophomore defensive end Xavier Jones would seal the deal, as the Bears went on to win the game, 35-24 and stay undefeated.
“You know it seems like when our defense gets their backs against the wall, we play better, and so I just like to go ahead and spot them on the 20 and say, let’s play football,” Grobe said. “It just was amazing tonight to watch the guys play so hard.”
The Bears next test comes on the road as they take on Iowa State 11 a.m. Saturday in Ames, Iowa.