WACO, TX – Had you told me beforehand the Sooners would score 49 points against Baylor in the conference opener, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Had you told me Baylor would score 41, I’d have told you that you were nuts. In the event, both happened, as Oklahoma had to hold off a late Baylor rally to eke out a 49-41 win at McLane Stadium Saturday night. Baylor scored 10 points late in the game, recovered an onside kick, and were in a position to possibly tie the game before the Sooners forced and recovered a fumble to seal it.
Abdul Adams broke the school record for longest play from scrimmage with a 99-yard TD run in the first half. He finished the game with 164 yards on 11 carries . . . and was only barely the Sooners’ leading rusher. Trey Sermon came into the game in the fourth quarter and absolutely gashed Baylor, ripping off huge run after huge run. Sermon finished with 12 carries for 150 yards and a pair of TDs.
Baker Mayfield, meanwhile, was 13-19 for 283 yards and 3 TDs. He threw only six passes in the second half, as the Sooners found a groove running the ball.
Things didn’t start out looking like they would be close. Jeff Badet returned the opening kickoff 70 yards and gave the Sooners a great starting spot at the BU 29. Two plays later, Mayfield hit a wide-open Mark Andrews for 24 yards and a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game. After a Baylor punt, Mayfield struck again, hitting Dmitri Flowers for a 52-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
However, after Baylor missed a field goal, the Sooners were forced to punt on the ensuing possession. The punt was returned 24 yards to the Sooner 34, and a personal foul penalty took it to the Sooner 19. Baylor scored on the next play, and it was 14-7. Badet muffed the ensuing kickoff and was tackled at the Sooner one-yard line. However, Adams’ cross country run came on the next play, and it was 21-7 with 5 seconds to play in the first quarter.
After a Baylor field goal, Mayfield hit CeeDee Lamb on a juggling catch for 47 yards. Andrews then caught a ball for 24 yards and a first down at the Baylor three-yard line. Flowers took it in on a wildcat snap, and OU led 28-10. Baylor made it 28-17 at the half after a 71-yard bomb, the first of several concerning breakdowns in the Sooner secondary.
Another bomb, this one a 72-yarder, on the opening possession of the second half, made it 28-25 Sooners after Baylor succeeded on a two-point conversion. After a Sooner three-and-out, Baylor tied the game with a field goal. The Sooners then embarked on a nice drive behind Adams, moving the ball to the Baylor 33, but Marquise Brown fumbled it over to Baylor there. The Bears took advantage, driving for a field goal to take a 31-28 lead with 2:45 to play in the third quarter.
Fortunately, that seemed to spark the Sooners into realizing that the Bears were not going to roll over, although it should have been obvious to them long before that. The Sooners immediately moved 75 yards in five plays to retake the lead for good at 35-31. The scoring play was a beautiful wheel route from Mayfield to a wide-open Badet from 48 yards out, immediately after Mayfield had drawn an unsportsmanlike penalty.
After the defense held Baylor to a rare three-and-out, the Sooners again moved 75 yards for a TD. This time, other than a two-yard carry from Mayfield, the workload was solely on Sermon. He carried the ball eight times on the drive and took it in from 34 yards out to make it 42-31. After a Bear three-and-out, the Sooners rode Sermon’s 60-yard run to a first down at the Bear nine-yard line. Sermon finished it from there and it was 49-31 with 8:55 to play in the game. It looked like Sooner fans could exhale.
But Baylor picked up a field goal, and after the Sooners went three-and-out, Baylor moved for another touchdown. This time, they scored on fourth and goal on a pass to the back of the end zone that appeared to be incomplete due to the receiver stepping out of bounds. However, for some reason, the call on their field was confirmed, and it was 49-41 with 1:41 to play in the game. Baylor then executed a perfect onside kick and recovered it, and Baylor had the ball at their own 48 with a chance to tie the game. Two plays later, however, the Sooners finally sealed the game when Obo Okoronkwo stripped Baylor QB Zach Smith of the ball and Caleb Kelly recovered. The Sooners then kneeled out the clock to go to 4-0 on the season and drop Baylor to 0-4 on the year.
While Baylor played well, we cannot help but think that the Sooners came in believing that they were going to roll out the helmets and Baylor would roll over. To their credit, the Bears did not do that, and once the Sooners finally seemed to realize it, they took control of the game in the second half, until they gave that control back to Baylor after rebuilding their lead.
Honestly, this game can turn out to be a positive. After all, next week is an open date, followed by Iowa State, then Texas. There is more benefit in going into the open week after having to squeak out a win on the road against a bad team than rolling in believing your own press.
At the end of the day, a win is a win. On to the next one. Hopefully with some improved secondary play.