No. 21 Baylor falls short against No. 19 Oklahoma State

Baylor senior running back Abram Smith rushes for a career-long 55-yard touchdown against Oklahoma State. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor

No. 21 Baylor suffered their first loss of the season Saturday night to No. 19 Oklahoma State University 24-14 in Stillwater, Okla., in a day that was filled with top-25 matchups.

Baylor (4-1, 2-1) was unable to get into any rhythm as the offensive line consistently lost the battle upfront resulting in a ton of backfield pressure for junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon. Pair that with the Bears being able to muster only 107 rushing yards on the ground resulted in a tough night for the offense, as they finished with just 10 first downs. However,

“Any time this team doesn’t succeed, it’s frustrating,” junior linebacker Dillion Doyle said. “We have a lot of stuff to clean up defensively, so it’s not an offense or defensive thing, it’s a team thing. Baylor lost this game today.”

Baylor struggled to slow down OSU (5-0, 2-0) on the opening drive of the game as the first two plays each resulted in first downs. OSU would finish with a 12-play 75-yard scoring drive that was capped off by an 8-yard rushing touchdown from redshirt senior running back Jaylen Warren.

The Bears looked to come out explosive on their first drive with Bohanon throwing a 37-yard pass to sixth-year senior wide receiver Drew Estrada on just their second play of the game. However, the offense was unable to continue to move the ball after a false start two plays later from senior offensive lineman Connor Galvin, which pushed the Bears back, leading them to punt near midfield.

Baylor’s defense was able to force a turnover on the ensuing drive as sixth-year senior cornerback Raleigh Texada came up with an interception to give the Bears the ball back. In what would become a theme for the night, Baylor’s offense was unable to capitalize on the opportunity after a sack on third down forced the Bears to punt.

“It’s very frustrating,” said running back Abram Smith. “As good as the defense can be, it’s very frustrating that we can’t put it together sometimes. But, you live, you learn. There are a lot of things we can go fix.”

On OSU’s next possession, they looked to assert their physical dominance as they ran the ball 11-straight times for 67 yards. Early in the second quarter, a passing play on third down in the red zone would lead to the second turnover of the night for redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Sanders. As the “Heartbreak Kid” himself, senior safety JT Woods picked off the pass in what has become a regularity this season for Woods. The offense once again failed to convert the turnover into points on the board though as they went three-and-out.

Later in the half, after a tackle for loss by sophomore linebacker Matt Jones forced an OSU punt, the Bears took over on their own 6-yard line and immediately took a shot downfield as once again Bohanon connected with Estrada for a big play, this time for 40 yards. But the offense would stall once again after a false start penalty, with freshman offensive lineman Clayton Collier being the guilty party this time around.

Toward the end of the half, OSU would dial up a deep shot from Sanders to redshirt freshman wide receiver Rashod Owens in the back of the end zone between two Baylor defenders for a 32-yard score to make it 14-0 at halftime.

In the first half Baylor struggled to move the ball going 0-6 on third down conversions and only gaining six rushing yards. Despite the two turnovers from Sanders, OSU was still able to pound the ball on the ground, rushing for 160 yards in the half on 34 carries.

“We knew we weren’t playing how we were supposed to,” Smith said. “When we got to halftime, we came together as a team and just tried to fire each other up and rally behind one another.”

Baylor would open the second half with a few first downs thanks to runs from Bohanon. Yet the offense couldn’t get the ball past midfield. Doyle would give the offense another chance however, after coming up with the third interception of the night for the Bears to set up Baylor in great field position.

“I took my drop, and the ball was tipped up,” Doyle said. “There was some good coverage on the other half, and I got lucky. Right place, right time.”

For the third time in a row though, the offense couldn’t capitalize on the momentum and went three-and-out.

Later in the third quarter, Baylor was finally able to break the seal and put points on the board after Smith broke free for a career-long 55-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-two. The four-play 63-yard scoring drive from the Bears cut the lead to 14-7.

OSU quickly responded with multiple big passing plays to senior wide receiver Tay Martin to put the Cowboys in the red zone. The Bears were able to tighten their defense late in the drive and hold OSU to a 20-yard field goal from senior kicker Tanner Brown, making it 17-7 at the start of the fourth quarter.

After a pair of strong, physical runs from Smith, Bohanon hit senior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton for a 44-yard pass in the middle of the field in a one-on-one matchup. A few plays later, Bohanon forced his way into the end zone on a QB draw from the 1-yard line for a his only touchdown of the night to make it 17-14 and giving the Bears some life.

Neither team could find a way to score until late in the fourth quarter when, after an unnecessary roughness penalty by Jones moved OSU half the distance to the goal line, Warren found paydirt for the second time in the game to increase the lead to 24-14. Warren finished the night with 36 carries for 125 yards and two scores. With only 2:10 left in the fourth quarter and no timeouts, Baylor was unable to erase the deficit and lost their first game of the season.

“I’m proud of the team and the effort that we made in the second half,” said Aranda. “I thought there was opportunity to point fingers and have flashbacks to maybe last season . . . and I never saw that. We’re proud of how connected the team is and the collective fight we came back out with at the start of the fourth quarter.”

In a night where neither senior wide receiver R.J. Sneed nor fifth-year senior running back Trestan Ebner would record a catch, Estrada was the leading wideout for the Bears, hauling in eight catches for 88 yards. Bohanon finished the game 13-27 for 173 yards and a rushing touchdown. Smith was the only Bear to find any success in the ground game, turning 10 carries into 97 yards and a touchdown.

Baylor would look to right the ship when they take on West Virginia University (2-3, 0-2) at 11 a.m. next Saturday in McLane Stadium.