By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor, Video by Nate Smith | LTVN Executive Procuder
No. 13 Baylor recovered from its frustrating loss to Texas Christian University in a massive way, taking down No. 8 University of Oklahoma 27-14 Saturday afternoon in McLane Stadium. Snapping OU’s 17-game winning streak, the Bears also broke a seven-game losing streak to the Sooners. While the win is technically an upset given the rankings, junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon said they don’t see it as such because they knew they were the better team going in.
“We go in[to] every game knowing we [are] the better team, we can win,” Bohanon said.
The Bears (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) have looked like a completely different team at home this season, going undefeated (5-0) at McLane, and coming into today’s game was no different. Baylor’s defense was unrelenting in holding the No. 5 scoring offense in the nation, averaging 42.9 points per game, to just 14 for the afternoon — the fewest points OU has scored in a regular season game since 2014, which was also at the hands of the Bears.
“We got a real home field advantage with our fans,” senior linebacker Terrel Bernard said. “It gets to rocking on third down. For us it’s tough to communicate because we’re on the field but it’s fun. I think that’s an extra little thing that we have. Just bringing up a little bit of energy every now and then, I think it makes a huge difference during the game.”
That difference was felt from the opening drive, as the Bears’ defense came out with fire, getting a tackle for loss and a sack on the first two plays of the game to force a three and out as the Baylor crowd roared in excitement.
However, the first quarter was a stalemate as neither side was able to convert on opportunities to put points on the board. Baylor failed to move the chains on a fourth-and-2 from OU’s 4-yard line, causing a turnover on downs. Both teams also missed 51-yard field goal attempts in the quarter.
The Sooners were able to break the seal first, driving 78 yards in nine plays after a Bohanon interception in the second quarter. OU freshman quarterback Caleb Williams scrambled for a 2-yard score to put OU up 7-0.
Baylor responded to the score, going on a 10-play, 75-yard drive to tie things up at 7-7. The Bears were able to find success in the running game in the drive, setting up an 8-yard scoring toss from Bohanon to senior wide receiver Tyquan Thornton.
The Sooners began to march the ball down the field on the following possession, however the Bears’ defense was able to tighten up once they crossed into Baylor territory. The kicking woes continued as OU redshirt junior kicker Gabe Brkic missed a 40-yard field goal attempt, leaving the game tied heading into the half.
Baylor was able to move the ball against the OU defense in the first half and even had some deep play opportunities, however they weren’t able to make the most of their chances. Bohanon said coming out of the halftime locker room, the offense knew they needed to start capitalizing.
“We felt that we were playing physical, we were the more physical team. We felt that we were the better team,” Bohanon said. “We knew we were playing hard, but we knew that we needed to finish [drives].”
Baylor was able to finish their first drive of the second half, moving the ball into OU territory to set up freshman kicker Isaiah Hankins, nailing a 32-yard field goal for the only score of the third quarter, making it 10-7.
The Bears separated themselves with a 17-point fourth quarter to solidify the win. Both of Baylor’s touchdowns in the final period came from Bohanon on the ground, with the first being a 5-yard keeper to make it 17-7. The score was set up by a 75-yard run from senior running back Abram Smith, the longest rush of his career. Smith finished the game with 20 carries for 148 yards, helping the Bears’ total of 296 yards on the ground.
Bohanon’s second rushing touchdown came from 14 yards out as he stiff-armed an OU defender to the ground to plow his way into the end zone. The run caused McLane to erupt in an MVP chant for Bohanon as the lead expanded to 24-7 after the extra point. Bohanon finished the game 12-21 for 117 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed nine times for 107 yards and two scores.
“It’s just a good feeling to know that our fans and everybody [is] behind us,” Bohanon said. “We come out, we work so hard, we play so hard, that just gives us energy. We feed off those guys, they feed off of us and it’s just amazing to be honest with you.”
OU answered back quickly with redshirt junior running back Kennedy Brooks capping off the scoring drive with a 1-yard rush for a touchdown to cut down the Baylor lead to 10 at 24-14 late in the fourth.
Senior running back Trestan Ebner recovered the ensuing onside kick as the Bears looked to drain some clock. The Sooners were able to force a Baylor punt, but a roughing the snapper penalty gave the Bears a new set of downs and allowed them to set up in victory formation and waste the remaining time.
Despite the score, the game still had a wild finish as fans stormed the field prematurely, resulting in pandemonium as OU players retreated to the locker room, only to be called back out for one final play. Security ushered fans to the sidelines while head coach Lincoln Riley and OU assistants stood near midfield in anger as Hankins kicked one last field goal to make the final score 27-14. Head coach Dave Aranda said post game, the final score was in case of a Big 12 tiebreaker. If Baylor, OU and Oklahoma State University all finish with the same record, scoring differential could be the deciding factor for who plays in the Big 12 Championship game.
“It was something that was talked about earlier in the week,” Aranda said. “We were really trying to not let them score [on the final drive], and unfortunately that didn’t happen. So when that happened, we wanted to get back on the scoreboard to help with that differential.”
Riley said he understood Aranda’s line of thought but that he wouldn’t have done it because it goes against a “code of sportsmanship.” Aranda said he could understand Riley’s frustration but hopes they can talk it out.
“I can understand that,” Aranda said. “It’s an emotional game and I consider Lincoln a friend. So I imagine we’ll talk here pretty quick.”
The Bears’ defense was suffocating from start to finish, holding OU to 260 yards, the fewest in Riley’s five seasons as head coach. Baylor caused chaos in the backfield for both Williams and redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler, who checked in for two series, sacking them a combined five times. Bernard had a huge performance coming up with nine tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. The pressure from the Bears caused some errant passes from Williams, allowing senior cornerback Kalon Barnes and junior cornerback Al Walcott to come with interceptions.
“We came in definitely knowing that we were going to press the quarterback,” Bernard said. “Once we started stopping the run game, pushing them back behind the sticks a little bit, we were able to put our stuff packages in and we got after it a little bit.”
After the final whistles blew, the fans stormed the field a second time to celebrate the impressive win.
“I don’t think there is a word to describe how I’m feeling,” Bohanon said after the celebration. “I don’t think there’s a word to describe how the locker room [is] feeling. But I know we [are] going to keep going. I know that was just motivation for what we can do and what we can be as a team.”
Baylor goes back on the road to face Kansas State University (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) at 4:30 p.m. next Saturday in Manhattan, Kan.