WACO, Texas — Several Oklahoma defenders bounced around at midfield, confidently nodding their heads after a brief squabble with Baylor players during pregame warm-ups.
The Sooner defense backed that up early, holding the nation's best offense firmly in check for the first quarter-and-a-half.
By the end of the game, though, a handful of important defenders were bruised and battered on the sideline, sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper had been ejected for punching an opponent and the unit found itself exhausted and frustrated by No. 6 Baylor's 41-12 rout Thursday night at Floyd Casey Stadium.
“To beat a team like Baylor, you have to play great as a team,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “And we didn't play good enough today as a team in all aspects, really. It gets down to everything. Offense, defense, special teams.”
None of Oklahoma's players or coaches would explicitly say it, but Baylor gained all its momentum — and most of its offensive yards and points — after the Sooners' offense couldn't stay on the field long enough to give its defense time to rest.
The OU defense forced Baylor to punt on two of its first three offensive possessions, and the Sooner offense moved into the red zone after several personal foul penalties were called against Baylor late in the first quarter.
But Oklahoma's offense failed on a fourth-down attempt from the Baylor 1-yard line, getting no points out of its first opportunity to take a lead.
Two plays later, freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander sacked Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty in the end zone for a safety. Jalen Saunders returned the ensuing free kick to the Baylor 12, but the offense again bungled a golden opportunity and settled for a field goal and a 5-3 lead.
The Baylor offense continued to struggle, though, missing a 52-yard field goal attempt on the next drive. Oklahoma responded by taking just 1:27 off the clock and missing a field-goal attempt of its own, giving Baylor the ball back midway through the second quarter.
The Bears' offense found its footing, and Petty rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to cap a five-play, 69-yard drive and give Baylor a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Oklahoma's offense came up empty again, but Jed Barnett's punt pinned the Bears on their own 7-yard line with 4:13 before half. The Sooners quickly stopped Baylor on third-and-9, but linebacker Eric Striker had lined up offside, giving the Bears a second opportunity.
Nine plays later, Petty rushed for his second touchdown and the Bears took a 12-point lead.
On Oklahoma's very next offensive snap, quarterback Blake Bell threw the first of his two interceptions, and Baylor added another touchdown to take a 24-5 lead into the break.
All told, the Sooner offense ran seven plays inside the Baylor 12-yard line before halftime, and got almost nothing to show for it. It converted just one of its eight third-down attempts.
“I don't wanna say we got tired, but I mean, you can tell that stuff took a toll on us,” said sophomore linebacker Frank Shannon. “We kept going back out there, so it showed in our play.
“It was real frustrating, but we're a team so we've just gotta put that behind us.”
After halftime, senior cornerback Aaron Colvin, junior nickelback Julian Wilson and freshman linebacker Jordan Evans — all vital pieces of OU's defense — left the game with injuries.
After Baylor's last touchdown and extra point, Tapper's emotions got the best of him during a skirmish and he punched a Bears player.
“Our guys were really motivated to play and really excited to get here and play,” Mike Stoops said of his players' emotions. “That's just part of the game.
“Again, we just didn't play nearly consistent enough to beat a top-ranked team like this.”