Story by Adam Gibson | Sports Writer, Video by Noah Torr | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor outlasted Oklahoma State 35-31 after a touchdown with seven seconds left gave the Bears the win on Saturday at McLane Stadium.
The Bears’ offense struggled in the first quarter to achieve any success. With sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer having just cleared protocol after a concussion in the loss to West Virginia, senior quarterback Jalan McClendon took the reins of the offense to start the game. Head coach Matt Rhule said coming back from that loss to win in the fashion they did against Oklahoma State says a lot about how hard the team works and its mentality going into every game.
“Just shows that our team is tough and that they were able to respond from disappointment and let it motivate them, and not let [it] make them feel like, ‘Oh, there’s nothing I can do,’” Rhule said.
McClendon completed five of his eight passing attempts in the first quarter, but had one pick on the day as he threw one on the first drive of the game in the back of the Baylor end zone. Oklahoma State got a touchdown on the board first with a rush from senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius, keeping the ball himself and rushing into the end zone.
Baylor did not put any points on the board until 8:17 left in the second quarter coming from a 1-yard rush by McClendon. Almost two minutes after a field goal from the Cowboys gave them a 10-7 lead, freshman safety Christian Morgan leapt to block a punt by Oklahoma State which bounced perfectly for sophomore running back Trestan Ebner to scoop and score, taking the lead 14-10 as halftime hit.
With several big plays being made to keep Baylor in the game, Rhule said he just wanted the team to play how they have practiced to play and the fans saw that more this week than in the past.
“I wanted them to go out there and play fearless and not worry about the results, but just go do what they are capable of doing,” Rhule said. “You saw a lot of guys make a lot of plays and they made plays too. Some of them were small. Some might just be a pass break. Some might be something little, but I thought we made a lot of plays today, many more than we have.”
Oklahoma State may have been losing score-wise at halftime, but they led in yardage with 245, compared to Baylor’s 172. Cornelius had 139 yards off of 13 completions while McClendon had completed eight passes for 89 yards.
Baylor failed to score through the majority of the third quarter while Oklahoma State found a rhythm, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back drives from a 6-yard rush by sophomore wide receiver Tylan Wallace and an 8-yard reception by Wallace with 25 seconds to go.
With the struggles coming back for the offense, Brewer made his first appearance with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Sophomore running back John Lovett took the ball to the house after juking a defender to escape downfield for a 75-yard touchdown, cutting the Oklahoma State lead from 10 to three.
The Cowboys responded with their own touchdown immediately after a 15-play 79-yard drive as junior running back Justice Hill ran for a 2-yard touchdown to extend the lead 31-21. Baylor was not done, however, as a pass to senior wide receiver Jalen Hurd led him to the outside and, after shedding a tackle, made his way into the end zone to bring the Bears right back into the game 31-28.
The defense stepped up at the moment it was needed most in the fourth quarter, when after eight plays, the Cowboys faced a fourth down, needing two yards to keep the drive going and near the possibility of securing the win. Junior safety Chris Miller had other ideas as Cornelius scrambled to the right and was sacked for a loss of nine yards and turnover on downs.
Junior linebacker Clay Johnston led both teams in tackles with 17 total in the game and was surprised when the Cowboys decided to go for it on fourth down.
“I was honestly a little surprised that the quarterback kind of kept it,” Johnston said. “I don’t know what exactly happened, but man when [Cornelius] extended that play I was so thankful, and we rallied to the ball … We were fired up when we got the stop, got off the field and we knew it was up to the offense from there on in.”
Brewer and the offense came out with no timeouts to attempt to at least tie the game. The Bears made it down to the Oklahoma State 23-yard line and after two incomplete passes, caught a break when a pass interference call against the Cowboys gave the offense a new set of downs at the 8-yard line.
Three plays later, on third down, Brewer threw the ball up aiming for junior wide receiver Denzel Mims in the back left of the end zone who jumped and secured the catch with the defender draped over him for his first catch of the game. That proved to be the game-winning touchdown with only seven seconds remaining in the game and no timeouts for either team.
Brewer said he and the offense were prepared for being in that situation and they just had to go down and execute the play.
“As a quarterback, you’ve got to be ready for everything. We go over those situations,” Brewer said. “We went over it last night, two minute situations and certain plays like that.”
The Cowboys attempted the hook and ladder, but failed to make it to the end zone, giving Baylor its homecoming win and bringing it within one game of becoming bowl eligible. Brewer finished the game, completing four of his eight passing attempts for 56 yards and two touchdowns, tacking on 28 more yards rushing. With bowl eligibility looming, Rhule said the focus for the rest of the year is not only to win one game to become eligible, but instead to win whatever game is up next for the team.
“We are going to go fight, scratch, claw to get a win. Not one more win, we are going to try to get a win next week — and win, lose or draw, we talk about what’s next and try to do it the week after,” Rhule said. “There’s a lot of people that sacrifice a lot to get us here in a year and if this is the high point of the year, we had a bad year.”
The Bears face the No. 24 team in the country, Iowa State, next Saturday in Ames, Iowa.