By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
The Bears fell to No. 6 Oklahoma 30-23 in overtime in the Big 12 Championship Saturday at AT&T Stadium. And even on their third string quarterback, No. 7 Baylor was just one play away.
“[True Freshman Jacob Zeno] was literally a scout-team quarterback the other week,” head coach Matt Rhule said. “I just think that’s kind of who we are. Clay [Johnston] goes down, Terrell [Bernard] steps up and he’s All-Big 12. We don’t want to be one of those programs that makes excuses and I think that carries over to the guys and whoever’s out there we keep on going out there and playing for it.”
The team showed there was no excuses as true freshman Jacob Zeno came into the game ready to show what Baylor football is made of. Trailing 23-13 with 9:41 left in regulation, the young quarterback opened his first serious collegiate career game with an 81-yard pass to a wide open Trestan Ebner in the center of the field.
“It was just the next man up,” Zeno said. “Every game I was just preparing like I was a starter and my number just called, so I just stepped up. It was a little [surreal] but you know, I was just out there locked in, playing football and having fun.”
Ebner, on a catch and run, scored a touchdown after outracing two receivers to put the Bears back in the game 23-20. After limiting the Sooners to a 50 second possession, Zeno came out with another impressive shot.
On the Bears’ own 15, the freshman found senior receiver Chris Platt for a 78-yard reception, which was good enough to put Baylor in field goal range to tie the game 23-23.
As the game went into overtime, the Bears made one costly mistake defensively that would set the Sooners up from within the 10.
A facemask penalty gave Oklahoma 15 free yards and led to the touchdown that would put them on top 30-23. The Bears wouldn’t be able to counter, falling short in their first Big 12 title game appearance.
But if there’s anything the Bears learned from the first time they met with the Sooners this season it’s that you have to play the full 60 minutes, and they made sure to do just that.
“Playing against OU is always a good challenge because we get to see how good we really are,” Williams said. “I feel like that’s a testament on what kind of defense and what type of players and what type of coaches we’ve built here. I mean just going off of that, it’s a good way to go into next year and be ready and not come into the game thinking we’re not suppose to be there. Because we deserved every right to be here today.”
Junior starting quarterback Charlie Brewer left the game with six minutes remaining in the first half after a huge tackle sent him into concussion protocol. Trailing 10-3, redshirt freshman Gerry Bohanon took over and helped lead the Bears to a halftime 13-10 lead.
“They stepped up, especially Gerry,” Ebner said. “He’s played a lot this year, so obviously we had a lot of confidence in him if anything were to happen.”
It all started with help from his defensive unit. With four minutes remaining before intermission, senior linebacker Jordan Williams picked off a pass over the center from Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts.
A 33-yard haul from Tyquan Thornton put Baylor on the board with their first touchdown of the day to tie Oklahoma 10-10. A Sooners’ three-and-out gave the Bears one more possession before the half, which they converted into points as redshirt freshman kicker John Mayers made a 28-yard field goal to give Baylor the lead.
Baylor’s defense would continue to step up, including limiting Hurts to a season-low 38 yards rushing (on 23 carries) and to a season-low 433 yards of total offense.
The Baylor team proved their team effort.
“You know at the end of the day, I wish I could have made one more play so we could get this win,” Ebner said. “But I think we fought hard and played well, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”