By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
The Bears seemed unstoppable at first, but a football game is 60 minutes, not just 30. And that’s something No. 13 Baylor learned the hard way in its 34-31 loss to No. 10 Oklahoma Saturday night at McLane Stadium.
Baylor led 31-10 in the half — so it was a shock to the record crowd of 50,223 when the Sooners scored 24 unanswered points and recorded their biggest comeback in program history. The Bears offense managed to run only four plays in the third quarter, while the Sooners kept the ball for 36 plays, a difference head coach Matt Rhule said was “unheard of.”
“That third quarter is what led to the defense sort of falling apart, getting gassed,” Rhule said. “Offensively no rhythm. […] We weren’t really able to execute.”
Baylor only produced 10 second half plays up until the last 1:45 of regulation. Oklahoma had just taken its first lead of the game, and the Bears still had a chance to tie or win it by putting points on the board. But the Bears came up short as an early snap caused junior quarterback Charlie Brewer to throw a crucial interception to OU linebacker Nik Bonitto to end the game.
The Austin-native put the loss on himself.
“I’m not here to throw one of my teammates under the bus right here,” Brewer said. “It’s my fault. You know, I take responsibility from what happened and move on from it.”
But not everyone thought the same way, as sophomore linebacker Terrel Bernard seemed to believe it shouldn’t have come down to that moment.
“We haven’t put together 60 minutes all season yet,” Bernard said. “I think we had a great, great first half and we’ve seen some of the results. […] Then, we kind of fell apart in the second half.”
What went wrong for the Bears?
The biggest thing was that the defense fought on the field for over 24 minutes of the second half, which Bernard said was something that unit wasn’t worried about when they were playing. But the offense became frustrated with their inability to get anything going, especially in the third quarter where the Sooners had control of the ball for over 13 minutes.
“I’ll take defense any day,” offensive lineman Sam Tecklenburg said. “It’s just kind of how the quarter played out but yeah, you definitely want to be out there and help them catch their breath. They’re out there a long time.”
The first half was a different story.
The momentum started with Baylor’s second drive in the first quarter. Trailing by three and beginning on their own 22, Brewer was able to find three different receivers each for double-digit yardage. A fake hand off to junior running back John Lovett gave Brewer time to scramble to search for an open man before finding his running back near the left sideline with nothing but green in front of him. Lovett’s 24 yard reception set up a first and goal from the two-yard line where Brewer rushed into the end zone for Baylor’s first points of the day.
On Baylor’s next possession, it took only five plays and 1:43 to find the endzone for a second time with a 30 yard catch from senior wide receiver Denzel Mims extending the Bears’ lead to 14-3.
It wasn’t just offense getting rolling. In Oklahoma’s next two drives, the Sooners would turn the ball over and allow Baylor’s offense to score 14 more points in only 13 seconds — and the success came from pressuring senior OU quarterback Jalen Hurts.
“A couple key turnovers. We got to him, hit him,” Rhule said. “He’s a really, really good player. […] It was a battle.”
The battle began with a forced fumble from senior linebacker Blake Lynch to set up a quarterback rush to put the Bears on top 21-3. And as soon as Oklahoma came knocking in Bears’ territory, it was shut down once again. On a third and 11 play, corner Grayland Arnold came up with a huge interception and 71-yard return, leading to another touchdown grab by Mims to bring the Bears up 28-3.
Oklahoma was able to put together a 75 yard drive in the second quarter, resulting in their first touchdown of the night to make it 28-10. But Baylor marched down the field once again and with three seconds left in the half, redshirt freshman John Mayers kicked a field goal to extend their lead 31-10 — the last points Baylor would score for the night.
The Sooners handed the Bears their first loss of the year, snapping an 11 game winning streak dating back to last season, and Rhule’s personal streak of not losing a 4th quarter lead in 15 games.
Though the loss was heartbreaking, Rhule had one message for his team.
“When you go through this, it’s supposed to be disappointing. It’s supposed to hurt,” Rhule said. “My message to them was simply, like any time you lose, don’t start saying, ‘He should have done that, he should have done that.’ Everyone look at yourself and say, ‘I’m going to come in tomorrow, I probably could have done something better,’ focus on that.”
The Bears now focus on their next matchup against Texas next Saturday for their final home game of the season. A win would guarantee them a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game and a rematch against Oklahoma Dec. 7.