NORMAN – The Sooners’ recent resurgence took a detour Saturday in Norman, as OU dropped a hard-fought game to Baylor, 38-35. The Sooners’ mistakes were really the difference, as three first-half interceptions led to 10 Baylor points in what turned out to be a three-point game.
Dillon Gabriel was 22-34 on the day, for 261 yards, two TDs, and the aforementioned three picks. In fairness, two of those were tipped balls that weren’t really his fault, and the first of them featured an obvious DPI call that wasn’t flagged and would have negated the pick. Marvin Mims bounced back from his tough day in Ames last week with 120 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Eric Gray had eight catches out of the backfield for 58 yards, while Jalil Farooq had three for 39. Brayden Willis added three for 27, while Drake Stoops had three for 13 and a score.
Gray led the Sooners in rushing with 106 yards and a pair of scores on 23 carries. Gabriel added 70 yards on nine totes, while Marcus Major had 23 yards on six carries. Farooq carried twice for 15, while Stoops had one for eight.
Baylor won the opening toss and deferred. After a touchback, the Sooners started the game on their own 25. Willis ran for six, then two plays later Gabriel hit him for 19, and OU had a first down at the 50. Gabriel scrambled for 25 yards, then a no-gain run, and a penalty left the Sooners with second and 15 from the BU 30. Gray took a short pass and ran for 14 on the next play, though, and carried for five and a first down after that. Three plays later, on third and nine from the 10, Gabriel scrambled in around the left side, and the Sooners led 7-0 with 11:13 to play in the first quarter.
Baylor answered with an 11-play, 63-yard TD drive to make it 7-7 with 5:54 to play in the first quarter. On the ensuing possession, a tipped Gabriel pass was picked off (and a blatant pass interference penalty went uncalled, shockingly) and the Bears were in business at the OU 26. Three plays later, it was 14-7 Baylor, and the Bears would not trail again on the day.
The Sooners answered quickly. A beautiful 63-yard bomb from Gabriel to Mims capped off a three-play, 75-yard drive, and it was tied at 14 with 3:01 to play in the first quarter. After a Baylor punt, another tipped Gabriel pass was picked off, this time leading to a field goal that made it 17-14 Bears with 12:59 to play in the first half.
The Sooners moved the ball to the BU 35 on the ensuing possession, but failed on a fourth and one from there, turning the ball over on downs. A 51-yard run on the next play put Baylor at the Sooner 14, and they would punch it in three plays later to take a 24-14 lead with 9:06 to play in the first half.
Oklahoma stormed back again, as Gabriel hit Mims for 33 yards on the opening play of the ensuing drive. Eight plays later, Gray took it in from the five, and the Sooners had closed the gap to 24-21 with 6:46 to play in the first half.
The Sooners blunted a Baylor drive on the next possession with a Billy Bowman pick, but Gabriel was picked right back for his third interception of the first half. After a Baylor three-and-out, OU drove to the Bear 24. Gabriel carried for what would have been a first and goal at the seven with five seconds left in the first half, but two penalties on OU center Andrew Raym on the same play (only the 15-yarder was enforced) pushed it back to the Baylor 39. Zach Schmit’s 55-yard field goal attempt at the first half buzzer missed, and the Sooners went into the locker room trailing 24-21. Those lost three points would prove important.
Baylor took the second half kickoff and went nine plays and 75 yards for a TD that made it 31-21 with 10:56 to play in the third quarter. After an exchange of punts, the Sooners closed the gap again. Gray ran for four, nine, and six more, then Mims caught one for eight, and a face mask penalty moved it another 15 to the BU 35. Gray ran for 12 and Major ran for 14 more, then Gabriel hit Stoops on a short pass right that Stoops took in from nine yards out, and the score was 31-28 with 4:52 to play in the third quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Baylor put the Sooners in big trouble with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that made it 38-28 with 9:15 to play in the game. The Sooners stayed in the game with a 13-play, 75-yard TD drive to cut the Bear lead to 38-35 with 4:05 to play. However, the defense simply couldn’t get a stop and Baylor ran out the clock after kneeling on what would have been a 50-yard TD run, and OU fell 38-35.
Next up is our first trip to West Virginia since 2018, and potentially our last trip ever, depending on the vagaries of scheduling in the temporarily 14-team Big 12 the next couple of years. See you in Morgantown.