WACO, TEXAS – A few minutes into the second quarter of last night’s game against Baylor, I had this Report already written. I wrote it right after I Googled to see what day they are playing the Alamo Bowl this year. It was just going to be a poop emoji, and nothing else. And, at that point, that was about all the game had been. Until it was something else entirely.
And so it came to be that the Sooners - who gifted the Bears three turnovers that constituted a 21-point swing in the game and who fell behind 28-3 early in the second quarter and were standing by to be blown out – somehow, some way, engineered the largest comeback in 125 years of Sooner Football to stun previously unbeaten Baylor, 34-31. And as strange as it sounds (and it does sound strange) it shouldn’t have been that close.
Jalen Hurts was awful in the first half, turning the ball over twice that led to 14 Baylor points, plus a second-half fumble on the goal line that cost the Sooners a TD. However, other than that he was nails in the second half and was as responsible for digging the Sooners out of their 25-point hole as he was in getting them in it. He went 30-42 for four TDs and a pick on the night and added 114 yards rushing on 27 carries.
Kennedy Brooks had 93 yards on 18 carries, while Rhamondre Stevenson had 23 yards on six carries. CeeDee Lamb did not play for what was called medical reasons, although there were unconfirmed rumors it might have been some sort of suspension. Several other Sooners picked up the slack. Lee Morris caught no touchdowns but did lead all receivers with seven catches for 86 yards. Charleston Rambo had five catches for 50 yards, while Brooks added four for 22. A.D. Miller had three for 47, Theo Wease had two for 31 and a TD, Nick Basquine had two for 11, Austin Stogner had two for eight and a pair of TDs, and Jadon Haselwood had one for 16. Brayden Willis had only one catch for two yards, but it went for a TD.
In order for a comeback like this to happen, usually something weird has to occur. There were a number of those things in this game, but the single biggest one was the fact that the Sooners almost literally had the ball the entire second half and wore the Baylor defense down to a nub as a result. OU had the ball for an astounding 24:20 in the second half, and 41:11 for the entire game. To put that into perspective, that’s only three and a half minutes less than Army had the ball against us in the game last season.
The Sooners ran 58 plays in the second half to only 16 for Baylor, and outgained the Bears 368 to 69, most of which came on the final possession of the game for Baylor. The Bears picked up only four first downs in the second half, two of them by penalty, to the Sooners’ 22.
The Sooners won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Baylor picked up one first down on the opening possession, then was forced to punt. A 19-yard punt set the Sooners up at their own 47. Brooks ran for three, then four. After a false start pushed it back to third and eight, Hurts hit Miller for 17 yards to the Baylor 34. Brooks then ran for another first down at the 23, but the drive stalled, and the Sooners settled for a 39-yard Gabe Brkic field goal with 9:25 to play in the first quarter that made it 3-0 Sooners.
Baylor would answer on the ensuing possession with a 10-play, 78-yard TD drive. Baylor QB Charlie Brewer took it in from two yards out with 5:26 to play in the first quarter to give the Bears a 7-3 lead.
After the Sooners went three-and-out, and went backwards while doing it, Baylor took over on their own 46. Five plays later they were in the end zone again, on a 30-yard pass from Brewer to Denzel Mims, and it was 14-3 Baylor with 1:51 to play in the first quarter.
And that’s when the wheels fell off the Sooner Schooner – metaphorically, this time. Tre Brown returned the ensuing kickoff deep into Baylor territory (and lucked out when the Sooners recovered his fumble at the end of the play), but OU was called for holding and had to start at their own six. They moved it out to the 43, but Hurts put his hand down to maneuver while scrambling and left the ball on the ground when he did it. Baylor recovered at the Sooner 27. Brewer took it 23 yards to the OU four on the next play, and on the first play of the second quarter, Brewer took it the last four yards, and it was 21-3 Bears and the alarm bells were ringing loudly.
They only got louder on the ensuing possession. The Sooners moved to the Baylor 36, but on third and 11, a bad Hurts pass was picked off by Grayland Arnold and returned 71 yards to the Sooner nine-yard line. On the next play, Brewer hit Mims for the TD, and it was 28-3 with 11:02 to play in the second quarter. It looked like it was all over but the shouting.
But the Sooners didn’t quit. They embarked on a long drive on the ensuing possession, moving to the Baylor 33 in eight plays. Facing fourth and five from there, Hurts’ pass was deflected and fell incomplete. A flag was thrown, but the officials announced there was no penalty (clearly for pass interference) because the ball had been tipped. Lincoln Riley vociferously complained that the Sooner receiver was being held prior to the pass, and the officials conferred and agreed. The penalty, the only one on Baylor all night, kept the Sooner drive alive. Six plays later (and after another Hurts fumble that he managed to recover himself) Hurts hit Stogner from five yards out, and the Sooners had closed the Baylor lead to 28-10 with 5:06 to play in the first half.
Baylor answered with a 14-play, 61-yard drive for a field goal with three seconds left in the half that made it 31-10 going into the locker rooms. Nobody in the stadium would have known or expected it at the time, but those would be the last points Baylor would score on the night.
The Sooners took the opening kickoff of the second half and moved smartly to the Baylor 33. A holding penalty there left them facing third and 13, but Hurts converted with a pass to Rambo for 28 yards to the Baylor three-yard line. Three plays later, Hurts found Stogner again in the end zone, and it was 31-17 with 9:16 to play in the third quarter.
After a touchback, Baylor took over on their 25. JaMycal Hasty busted a run on the first play of the possession, but Parnell Motley punched the ball out, Pat Fields recovered, and the Sooners were in business at their own 45, having forced their first turnover since September.
Hurts hit Brooks for a short gain, then hit Morris for nine and a first down. Brooks ran for five, then Hurts carried for six, five, and four, and the Sooners faced third and one at the Baylor 24. Stevenson picked it up and was fortunate to fall on his own fumble to preserve the possession. Four plays later, Hurts was not so lucky. He fumbled just before crossing the goal line to cut the Baylor lead to seven, and the Bears fell on it in the end zone for a touchback, and it looked like that might sink any hopes of a comeback.
But Baylor went three-and-out and punted the Sooners back to their own 10. After an incomplete pass, Hurts ran for six yards, then hit Morris for 15. Another Hurts run for five was followed by an incomplete pass and a 12-yard connection to Wease that gave the Sooners a first down at the Sooner 48. Hurts ran for seven, then hit Morris for 15 more on the final play of the third quarter to give the Sooners a first down at the Baylor 30. Four plays later, the Sooners faced fourth and one from the Bear 21. Hurts converted with a tough two-yard run. On the next play, he hit Wease on the left side, and Wease curled away from a defender and jetted to the pylon for a 19-yard TD that made it 31-24 with 12:58 to play in the game.
Baylor once again went three-and-out. The Sooners took over at their own 23 after a 54-yard punt with a chance to tie the game. They would do just that. The drive started with a 10-yard completion to Rambo. Three plays later, on third and eight, Hurts found Brooks in the right flat, and Brooks made a man miss and picked up 11 yards and a first down. Another pass to Brooks went for five, then after a false start penalty, Hurts carried for nine and Brooks for 10, and OU had a first down at the Baylor 35. Hurts then hit Haselwood for 16 and Miller for eight before Brooks carried for three and a first and goal at the Baylor eight. Three plays later, Hurts found Willis from two yards out, and the game was tied at 31 with 5:25 to play.
Baylor picked up one first down on a pass interference penalty on the first play of the ensuing possession, then went backwards on the next three plays. The Baylor punt was downed at the OU 27. A Sooner rusher had hit the kicking leg of the Baylor punter, who went down like he had been shot, but the flag was only for running into the kicker, and Baylor declined the penalty.
The eventual game-winning drive didn’t start out so well, as Hurts was sacked for a four-yard loss on first down. However, on the next play, Brooks busted a run through the left side for 32 yards and a first down at the Baylor 45. Hurts ran for 11, then connected with Morris two plays later for 13 more and a first down at the Baylor 21. On the next play, disaster nearly struck, as a bad snap went straight past Hurts and 15 yards into the backfield. Hurts calmly went back, scooped up the ball, and heaved it out of bounds, straight over an OU receiver’s head. The drive stalled at the Baylor 14, and Brkic came on to hit a 31-yard field goal to put the Sooners on top 34-31 with 1:45 to play.
That was way too much time, and it looked like Baylor might ruin the comeback, as they moved to the OU 40 in five plays. Given that their kicker has a cannon, they may have been in his range already from there. On the next play, Nik Bonitto dropped what would have been the game-clinching interception. The play after that, Bonitto undercut a receiver in the left flat and did not drop the game-clinching interception, sealing the victory with 29 seconds to play in the game.
The incredible win put the Sooners into first place in the Big 12. They are technically tied with Baylor at 6-1 in conference but hold the tiebreaker on the Bears. However, because both Texas and Kansas State lost yesterday, every team besides OU and Baylor has at least three conference losses with two games to play. Both the Sooners and Baylor each only need one more win to secure their spot in the Big 12 Championship Game. Some weirdness will have to happen for there not to be a rematch of this game on December 7 at JerryWorld.
What happens in the CFP rankings remains to be seen, although the Sooners figure to move up at least one spot, anyway. It says here that they will be at seven or eight when the rankings come out on Tuesday night. We still need some chaos to happen ahead of us to get us to the Playoff, but all we can do is win and see what happens.
The final home game of the season kicks off at 7 Saturday night against TCU. See you there.