Apex predator: ‘Sqwirl’ devours OU defense, leads Baylor football to 38-35 win
By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Hoisting a three-point lead and possession of the ball with just over two minutes in the contest, Baylor needed seven yards to move the chains and ice the game in Norman, Okla., Saturday.
Junior running back Craig “Sqwirl” Williams decided to bolt up the middle for a 43-yard gain that could have been more. Williams stopped his progress short of the end zone in order to milk the rest of the clock out and walk away with a controlled victory.
“Just being a team player and understanding the situation,” Williams said of the high-IQ play. “We practice these things. And understanding the situation in the game and understanding not to score in that last minute and give OU the ball back was the smartest play in my mind.”
As the clock hit zero, Baylor football claimed its second win-ever at the University of Oklahoma by a score of 38-35 Saturday afternoon at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The last time the Bears won a game in Norman was in 2014, as the Bears are now 2-14 all-time at OU.
“[I’m] really happy with the result here,” fifth-year senior linebacker Dillon Doyle, who had 15 tackles and an interception, said. “It’s hard to win games here and hats off to their team for making them hard to win games. And so, it’s good to walk out of here with the W.”
Baylor (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) is also now bowl eligible for the second consecutive season after getting its sixth win of the season.
In his first game back from a head injury, Williams carved the Sooners (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) defense up with a trifecta of career-highs. Williams recorded 192 yards on 25 attempts (7.7 yards per carry) to go along with two touchdowns.
“Sqwirl ran hard, I mean the dude’s like 160 pounds and is pulling guys with him,” head coach Dave Aranda said. “And O-linemen see that, and they’re tired and they want to go back to maybe where the ball’s going to be placed eventually. They see him running into dudes that are twice his size, and that now inspires them to push a pile. So all of that is way cool.”
After coming up with five interceptions last week at Texas Tech University, the Bears corralled three more on Saturday, marking the most in a two-game span since the team picked off four passes in 1980 vs. TCU and San Jose State.
It was a battle of blows between the two programs, as each strike was met with a counter-strike. The Sooners struck first on their first drive when redshirt junior quarterback Dillon Gabriel dashed toward the left pylon.
Gabriel finished the contest 22-34 with 261 yards, two touchdowns through the air, the one on the ground and three picks.
Williams matched that score with an 11-yard rush to make it 7-7 over halfway through the first quarter. Doyle picked off Gabriel to allow freshman wide receiver Jordan Nabors to get his six-yard score, but OU responded with a 63-yard bomb to junior wideout Marvin Mims.
A 49-yard field goal from Baylor fifth-year senior kicker John Mayers made it 17-14 early in the second quarter. The Bears stuffed the Sooners on a fourth-and-one and watched Williams run the ball four-straight times to cross the goal line.
Williams’ first rush of that drive was for 51 yards, a career-long run for him.
Nine plays later, OU scored right back to make it 24-21 over halfway through the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Blake Shapen then tossed a pick, but Gabriel threw one right back. The Bears followed that with a three-and-out before OU missed a 55-yard field goal to wrap up the first half, still 24-21 Baylor.
The Bears came out of the break with an impressive nine-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by a pair of Sooner penalties. Freshman running back Richard Reese plunged forward from two yards out to give Baylor a 10-point lead.
The two squads traded punts to set up Gabriel’s nine-yard toss to redshirt senior wide receiver Drake Stoops, cutting Oklahoma’s deficit to three. The two teams went punt-for-punt again and the Bears held possession early in the fourth.
Twelve plays later, junior tailback Qualan Jones found the end zone from 10 yards out to bolster the lead back to 10, 38-28. Early in that drive, Baylor was faced with a fourth-and-one from its own 29-yard line. Aranda and his staff did not hesitate and watched Williams narrowly move the chains.
“That’s a mindset right there,” Williams said. “Fourth-and-1, you know you’ve got to get the first down, hand the ball off and let’s go get it.”
OU responded with a crucial touchdown, but the Bears iced the last four minutes of the game, capped off by Williams’ heads-up-play.
Shapen finished 14-23 for 132 yards and one pick. For the green and gold’s defense, the two interceptions outside of Doyle came from redshirt freshman safety Devin Lemear and fifth-year senior safety Christian Morgan.
Baylor will return home for its first Big 12 nighttime game since 2020, this one against Kansas State University. The contest is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday at McLane Stadium and will be broadcast on either FOX or FS1.
Why was Reese not involved more?
After the game, Aranda said the team is battling the “flu bug” and Reese is one of the athletes directly impacted by it.