ARLINGTON, TX – It was the toughest of the 10 Big 12 Championship Games the Sooners have won, but OU outlasted Baylor in overtime 30-23 in JerryWorld Saturday to secure their fifth straight Big 12 Championship. The win, coupled with Oregon’s rout of Utah Friday night and LSU’s rout of Georgia on Saturday afternoon, left the Sooners solidly in the College Football Playoff field for the third straight season. Pairings will be announced Sunday at 11 a.m., and the Sooners are likely to face LSU in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on December 28.
After the disaster at Kansas State and some inconsistent play since, the Sooner defense finally seemed to come into its own in this game. They were dominant, except for literally a handful of plays. Baylor had 265 yards of total offense for the game, and 221 of that came on only four plays. On the other 52 plays they ran, the Bears gained 44 yards.
Jalen Hurts gave Baylor 10 points on turnovers and was shaky at times, but ended up 17-24 for 287 yards, one TD, and one pick, plus a lost fumble that, for once, wasn’t his fault. He was bottled up running most of the day, gaining only 38 yards on 23 carries.
Kennedy Brooks led the Sooner rushers with 59 yards and a score on 17 carries. Rhamondre Stevenson added 48 yards on only eight carries.
CeeDee Lamb was spectacular, and was named the game’s most outstanding player, grabbing eight balls for 173 yards. Brooks had a pair of catches for 24 yards, the same stat line as Nick Basquine, although Basquine had a score. Charleston Rambo had a pair of catches for 23 yards, while Austin Stogner had one for 12.
Baylor won the toss and deferred, and the Sooners promptly went three-and-out. Baylor took the punt at their own 17 and busted a 12-yard run on their first play of the game. They would not pick up another first down until late in the second quarter. Charlie Brewer was sacked on the next play, and Baylor punted the Sooners to their own 22.
OU would strike quickly from there. Hurts hit Lamb in the left flat, and Lamb spun away from a defender, broke another tackle downfield, and jetted down the left sideline before being caught from behind 71 yards later at the Baylor seven. Two plays later, Brooks took it up the middle for the TD from six yards out, and OU led 7-0 with 9:31 to play in the first quarter.
After another Baylor three-and-out, the Sooners took over on their own 39 after Lamb touched the punt and had to dive on it to save the possession. Hurts ran for three on first down, then Brooks ran for 13. Lamb then caught a pass across the middle for 26 yards and the Sooners were in business at the Baylor 19. Two plays later, Hurts hit Rambo for what was called incomplete, but appeared initially on replay to be a TD. However, while Rambo did get a foot inbounds, he was ruled to have been still securing the ball at the time, so the call stood. Hurts was sacked on the next play, and OU settled for a 44-yard Gabe Brkic field goal that made it 10-0 with 4:51 to play in the first quarter.
After a pair of Baylor three-and-outs sandwiched around a Sooner punt, OU took over on their own 29. Two plays later, Hurts was hit from behind as he was throwing by Baylor’s James Lynch and fumbled. Brooks reached the ball first but couldn’t secure it, and Baylor recovered at the Sooner 29. The Bears picked up only three yards on the ensuing possession and hit a field goal that made it 10-3 with 10:20 to play in the first half.
Baylor starter Brewer left the game at this point after a head to head collision, having completed only three of six passes for 15 yards. Bear backup QB Gerry Bohanon came in for Brewer. After an exchange of punts, the Sooners had the ball on their own 12. On the first and only play of the possession, Hurts was picked off by Baylor’s Jordan Williams and the Bears were in business at the OU 23. Bohanon was sacked for a loss of 10 on first down, then threw incomplete on the next play. Facing third and 20, Bohanon launched one to the front corner of the end zone that looked like it was going to be picked off but got through the Sooner defender to Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton for the TD. Despite having dominated the game, the Sooners were tied at 10 with Baylor with 2:59 to play in the first half.
The Sooners went three-and-out again and punted to Baylor at their own 47. Four plays later, on third and 11 from the OU 40, Bohanon threw a duck of an arm punt that should have been picked but was again, somehow, caught by a Baylor receiver. BU had a first down at the Sooner 11. Three incomplete passes later, Baylor hit a 28-yard field goal and, somehow, Baylor led at the half 13-10, despite having only 98 yards of offense and going 3-10 on third down conversions.
Baylor went three-and-out on the first possession of the second half and punted the Sooners to their own 31. Brooks ran for four, then hit Rambo for 19 to the Baylor 46. Brooks caught a pass for four, the Hurts ran for two. On third and four from the Baylor 40, Stogner caught a pop pass for 12 and a first down at the Baylor 28. Stevenson rumbled for 15 to the Bear 13, but the drive stalled there, and Brkic hit a field goal from 24 yards out that made it 13-13 with 7:53 to play in the third quarter.
Baylor went three-and-out yet again and punted the Sooners to their own 26. Hurts ran for two, then hit Basquine for four. Lamb caught one for 17 to give the Sooners a first down at the Baylor 49. Stevenson then ran for 17, 10, and two, then Hurts ran for two. On third and six from the Baylor 18, Hurts found Basquine in the end zone on a beautiful back shoulder throw, and the Sooners were back in the lead at 20-13 with 3:09 to play in the third quarter.
Baylor picked up only one first down on the ensuing possession, and a short punt gave the Sooners the ball at the 50 and a chance to really put their foot on Baylor’ neck. Brooks carried for six, then lost two, leaving the Sooners facing third and six from the Baylor 46. On the next play, Hurts scrambled around before finding Brooks wide open in the right flat. Brooks rumbled for 20 yards and a first down at the Baylor 26. Three plays later, Hurts hit Lamb for 17 down to the Bear seven. The Sooners were not able to move from there, though, and another Brkic field goal made it 23-13 with 10:31 to play in the game, and it looked like that would be more than enough, as the Sooner defense was dominating Baylor’s offense.
Baylor’s third string QB, Jacob Zeno, came in for Bohanon, and all of a sudden things changed, even though he only completed two passes. He was sacked on first down, then hit Trestan Ebner for an 81-yard TD that made it 23-20 with 9:41 to play in the game. The Sooners were able to move to the Bear 47 on the ensuing possession, but stalled there, and punted Baylor to their own 10. After a penalty erased an 18-yard completion by Zeno, he hit Chris Platt for 78 yards to the Sooner 17. It looked like Platt would score, but Tre Brown made a great effort to run him down from behind. As it turned out, that play probably saved the game, because the Sooner defense held from there and forced a field goal try. The kick was good from 27 yards, and the game was tied at 23 with 3:25 to play.
There was plenty of time to go down and win the game, and it looked like the Sooners might do just that. Brooks ran for 11 on first down, but the play was called back for holding. On first and 20 from the OU 15, Hurts hit Lamb for 31 yards out to the Sooner 46. They could not pick up another first down, however, and punted Baylor down to their own one-yard line. Baylor ran two QB sneaks and ran out the clock to send the game to overtime.
Baylor won the toss in overtime and elected to play defense first. Hurts hit Lamb for a short gain on first down, but Lamb was slung down by his face mask. The penalty made it first down at the Baylor 11. Hurts ran for six, then Stevenson took it in from there, and OU led 30-23.
On first down, Zeno threw incomplete after being pressured by Neville Gallimore. The same thing happened on second down, with Ronnie Perkins pressuring Zeno. On third down, Nik Bonitto and Jalen Redmond combined on a 10-yard sack. Baylor faced a do-or-die fourth and 20 from their own 35. After a time out, Zeno dropped back to pass and was pursued by Redmond. He made a desperation heave that fell short of anyone, setting off a raucous celebration as the Sooners secured their fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship.
As always seems to happen, all of the things necessary to get the Sooners back to the playoff after a midseason loss happened. Oregon lost to Arizona State, then itself took out Utah to leave the PAC 12 out of the Playoff yet again. LSU terminated Georgia, and Iowa and Wisconsin did away with Minnesota. All of that coupled with the Sooners winning out and beating a Top 10 Baylor team twice and a ranked OSU team was enough to put them back in at the four seed in the Playoff.
As for that, well, if you’re not in the Playoff, you don’t have a chance to win the title. That’s all we need, is the chance, and eventually we will get there. Hopefully, that starts two weeks from next Saturday. Maybe in Atlanta against LSU, or maybe Phoenix against Ohio State, or vice versa. Wherever or whoever, I’ll see you there.