NORMAN – Oklahoma continued its undefeated run through the Big 12 Conference Saturday with a 45-24 victory over the reeling Baylor Bears, in what is likely Baylor’s last season of relevance before reverting to their traditional doormat status. The game was marred by a serious leg injury to Baylor QB Seth Russell in the third quarter.
Russell’s lower leg ended up turned 180 degrees from where it should have been, and he was taken from the field with an air cast on the leg. Baylor announced the injury later as a dislocated ankle, but it is difficult to believe that Russell didn’t break his leg. We would advise you to avoid video of the injury at all costs. Russell will surely miss the rest of the season, and we wish him the best for a speedy and complete recovery.
The Sooners got running backs Samaje Perine (injury) and Joe Mixon (suspension) back, and they contributed mightily. Perine had 100 yards on 23 carries, while Mixon contributed 124 yards on 14 carries and added 5 catches for 63 yards. Dede Westbrook’s 100-yard receiving streak came to an end, as he had four catches for 88 yards. However, he did nothing but pad his resume, as two of his catches were spectacular TD grabs. Baker Mayfield was again ruthlessly efficient, completing 20 of 25 passes (80%) for 300 yards, a pair of TDs, and one interception.
The Sooners jumped on the Bears early, scoring on a 15-yard Mayfield keeper to cap a 10-play, 75-yard opening drive for a 7-0 lead. Baylor moved to its own 46 on the ensuing possession, but Jordan Wade and Jordan Evans stuffed the Bears on fourth and 2, and the Sooners took over on downs. OU could not take advantage, going three and out, but a very nice Austin Seibert punt pinned the Bears at their own two-yard-line. They moved backwards one yard in three plays, and punted out of their end zone to give the Sooners possession at the 50.
Mayfield worked quickly from there, hitting Mark Andrews for nine yards and a big third-down conversion. Two plays later, he hit Westbrook on the right side, and he slipped, but managed both to stay upright and stay in bounds and took it in for a 29-yard TD and a 14-0 lead with 5:17 to play in the first quarter. Baylor moved the ball to the Sooner 2 on the ensuing possession, but OU snuffed out the drive with Evans’ interception in the end zone, his first of two picks on the day.
The Sooners would capitalize on the turnover. The big play of the drive was a 43-yard completion from Mayfield to Mykel Jones where Mayfield backpedaled in the face of a blitz and lofted the ball to a spot and allowed Jones to run under it. Three plays later, Perine took it in from 4 yards out and the Sooners had a commanding 21-0 lead with 12:45 to play in the first half.
Baylor moved to the Sooner three-yard-line on the ensuing possession, but a personal foul penalty pushed them back to the 18. Rather than going for the TD on fourth down, as they probably would have without the penalty, they were forced to settle for a field goal to make it 21-3.
After a Sooner punt, Baylor went 80 yards to make it 21-10, and two plays later Mayfield was intercepted to give Baylor the ball at its own 42 with a chance to make it very interesting going into the half. However, Ahmad Thomas recovered a Russell fumble on the Sooner 43, and the game went to the half with the Sooners leading 21-10.
Baylor took the opening kickoff of the second half and quickly moved to the Sooner 21-yard-line. However, the play was called back for an illegal man downfield, and the Baylor drive stalled on their side of the 50. The Sooners took over on their own 15 after the punt. On a steady diet of Perine, with a 16-yard Mixon run and a 12-yard completion to Andrews mixed in, the Sooners moved to the Baylor 40. Then, Mayfield lofted a ball to the goal line while scrambling, and Westbrook made a spectacular catch for the score and a 28-10 lead.
Two plays later, Evans picked Russell off again at the Baylor 24 and returned it to the Bear one-yard-line. Perine knocked it in on the next play to make it 35-10. Russell was injured on the ensuing drive on a nine-yard run, but Zach Smith came in for him and completed the drive with a TD to make it 35-17.
A Mixon 56-yard TD run extending the lead to 42-17 with 13:31 to play. One the next offensive play, Smith hit KD Cannon for a 62-yard TD on a play where two Sooner DBs knocked each other out of the play. OU then closed out the game and the scoring with an 8:35 drive that bled out most of the rest of the game clock and ended in a Seibert field goal.
The Sooners now stand at 8-2, 7-0 in conference. There are two other teams that have a chance at the conference title – the two teams the Sooners play the next two weeks. OU travels to West Virginia next weekend, followed by OSU the first Saturday in December. Win those two, and the worst case is a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
We have not subscribed to the idea that OU has a shot to return to the playoff this season as a two-loss conference champ. However, six teams ranked ahead of the #11 Sooners in the CFP rankings lost yesterday, and there remains only one undefeated team in the country (other than Western Michigan), namely, Alabama. Had Penn State and Louisville not pulled out close games, it would have been the perfect storm for the Sooners’ chances. As it was, it opened the door at least.
Certainly, we are not saying that the Sooners will go back to the CFP, and it remains a long shot. However, if more chaos erupts, that could change and change quickly. All we can do is win the next two, take the conference, and see what happens. Whether we would objectively “deserve” a shot at the CFP, or whether we would get crushed if we made it there, are irrelevant. If the committee sees fit to put us in, we deserve it. If not, there’s nobody to blame but ourselves.
Game time has yet to be announced for the West Virginia game, but we expect it’ll be a night game. Whenever they play it, we’ll be there. See you in Morgantown.