By Michael Haag | Sports Editor, Braden Murray | Broadcast Reporter
In front of the seventh-largest crowd in McLane Stadium history (47,979), No. 16 Baylor football was defeated 36-25 by No. 9 Oklahoma State University Saturday afternoon. The Bears’ nine-game home winning streak was snapped by the Cowboys in the process.
Baylor (3-2, 1-0 Big 12) has now lost three-straight regular season contests to the Cowboys (4-0, 1-0 Big 12), dating back to 2020.
The Pokes, led by redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Sanders, jumped to a 16-3 lead through the first two quarters and fended off the Bears’ valiant second-half comeback. Sanders gave high praise to the team who one year ago, picked him off seven times in two matchups.
“That’s a great defense over there,” Sanders said. “They made wonderful plays, and we just happened to make a little bit more than they did. That’s a great team to win against, especially on the road in their own house.”
Cowboys’ head coach Mike Gundy called it “an evenly matched game” between two solid programs, and that “it’s a good win for us.”
Baylor head coach Dave Aranda said “there’s a lot to be learned from the first half” and that he was disappointed in “the way we started” the game.
Sophomore slinger Blake Shapen threw for a career-high 345 yards on 28-of-40 passing with two touchdowns.
Sophomore wide receiver Monaray Baldwin also posted career-best numbers, hauling in seven passes for 174 yards and two scores. Despite the explosive numbers, the Bears trailed for the entirety of the contest and couldn’t overcome another sluggish start.
Baylor was dominated in the first half, as it only mustered a 34-yard field goal on its opening drive. The Pokes answered back with a back-breaking 15-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by an eight-yard toss from Sanders to take a 7-3 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Baylor backed into its own two-yard line and suffered a safety on an ill-advised pitch to freshman running back Richard Reese.
Baylor then forced a punt, but fell victim to a turnover on downs. OSU took advantage, scoring on a one-yard punch from Sanders with under 30 seconds left in the half.
“We pretty much had down to a tee exactly what they were going to run, we just weren’t able to stop it,” fifth-year senior linebacker Dillon Doyle said.
The Bears strolled into the intermission, trailing 16-3, and ran into some trouble soon after. The Pokes housed Baylor’s kickoff 98 yards to take a commanding 23-3 lead.
“Particularly special teams, we were outplayed in that area,” Aranda said.
The up-tempo approach from OSU was something Aranda touched on in the week of preparation. He said his group needs to learn from it in a beneficial way.
“Oklahoma State is a fast team and a good team, and we are too,” Aranda said. “Our ability to take the lessons learned and apply them and not weaponize them is really going to be key.”
Just when it looked like things were getting ugly, the Bears responded in just over two minutes with a 49-yard connection between Shapen and Baldwin.
Needing a stop, fifth-year senior safety Christian Morgan came up with a huge interception on OSU’s ensuing drive. Baylor took over on the Cowboys’ own 37-yard line, trailing 23-10. Within just five plays, the Bears found the end zone again, this one courtesy of Reese, who finished with 85 yards on 17 carries from a yard out.
OSU’s lead was cut to six points, 23-17. The Pokes responded again, this time with a quick score of their own, a one-yard rush following a 49-yard dart from Sanders.
Within just eight minutes of the third quarter, both teams combined for 28 points, contrary to the 19 combined first half points.
Baylor failed to convert on fourth-and-two on its next drive, and the Cowboys chipped in a 19-yard field goal to extend its lead 33-17. The Bears’ next drive appeared to stall again, as they were faced with a fourth-and-five on their own 30-yard line.
Aranda gambled again, when the second-year fired a crossing pattern to Baldwin. The sophomore wide receiver corralled it and outran defenders for the 70-yard score. Shapen then found sixth-year senior wideout Gavin Holmes for a two-point conversion, trimming the deficit to eight points with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
Suddenly, there was life in the “Go Gold” crowd again, as the team was within striking distance again. Baylor forced an OSU punt and had a chance to tie the game, but Holmes couldn’t handle a Shapen pass that ultimately fell into enemy hands. The Pokes took over on Baylor’s own 30-yard line with an opportunity to put the game away.
The Bears’ defense did what it could, forcing a field goal, but the Cowboys left the green and gold with under five minutes of time to work with. Baylor couldn’t get the quick score it needed, as Shapen threw a game-deciding interception.
The Cowboys clung to their 36-35 lead, getting its second-straight win in Waco.
“We just need to start out fast through the whole game,” fifth-year senior offensive lineman Connor Galvin said. “We just need to find ourselves.”
Baylor now trudges into its bye week before jumping back into conference play for a Thursday, Oct. 13 matchup at West Virginia University.
Doyle said this time is important to learn from the team’s mistakes.
“Thankfully we have a bye week to go into now and learn from things and then go about our business and try to turn this thing around,” Doyle said.
Aranda echoed Doyle’s sentiment, as he said the team has been faced with a tough slate and could use the time to find itself.
“From a bye week perspective, it’s probably good timing for us.”