The Sooners never again will return to Floyd Casey Stadium. I don’t think they’ll mind, after a 41-12 drubbing at the hands of BCS No. 6 Baylor. Here’s what I saw and heard:
* This was not a good endorsement of Big 12 football. Both teams were bad early. Then Baylor said enough of that. The game drew a gaggle of national writers — USA Today, cbssports.com, espn.com, USA Today, etc. — and one of the pressboxers cracked late first quarter, “Can we still get a flight out tonight.” By the second half, much of the contingent was watching Oregon-Stanford on their computers. And who could blame them? This was bad football.
* Both teams seemed amped up in pregame. Then Baylor stayed that way — too much so. The Bears got a load of aggression penalties, and quarterback Bryce Petty overthrew receivers regularly. Then Baylor settled down, and that was that.
* It’s completely clear that OU coaches don’t trust Blake Bell to throw. At least early. Wonder why? Against both Tech and now Baylor, they eventually turned Bell loose and had him throw downfield. He was successful against Tech, not against Baylor. But I don’t understand this tip-toeing into the water. Fish or cut bait, I’d say.
* Then Josh Heupel gets all aggressive late first half. One minute left, OU takes over at its 28-yard line, down 17-5. It would have been some sort of admission if the Sooners had run out the clock. But I thought that’s what OU was going to do and what OU should have done. The first-half offense was a disaster. No reason to try for a miracle. Then Bell tried to hit Jalen Saunders on a short crossing pattern, didn’t see linebacker Eddie Lackey and presto, interception at the OU 38-yard line. Five plays later, Baylor led 24-5 with 13 seconds left in the half.
Not that that would have made much different. This OU offense wasn’t going to get anywhere near the points needed to beat Baylor.
Heupel said he thought that was a pretty safe pass. And the truth is, it is a safe pass. Bell just didn’t see the defender.
* OU’s defense played well early, not so well later. But here’s a scary stat. OU did not get a turnover, yet Baylor punted only three times. The Bears missed two field goals, failed on a fourth down and Petty was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
* Still, OU’s defense produced three three-and-outs (or equivalent). That’s not a terrible number. Baylor’s defense produced seven.
“It chipped away at our team’s performance,” Bob Stoops said of the offensive futility. “In the end, you have to stay on the field. I don’t know how many three-and-outs we had, but you can’t keep putting your defense out there against Baylor and expect to have opportunities.”
* I give Heupel props for the Trevor Knight package. I might have used it more. Let’s review the usage of Knight.
Second series, Knight comes in, goes for nine yards on an option play, then is stuffed on a second-down keeper. He goes out, the Belldozer comes in for a stuffing that showed this was going to be a long night. OU punted
First play of the second quarter, Knight comes in on 2nd-and-goal from the Baylor 7-yard line, and gains five yards. On third-and-goal, Bell returns for two straight Belldozer plays that go nowhere.
Next possession, first down, Knight runs a shotgun option for three yards. Then goes out.
Third quarter, 3rd-and-3 at the Baylor 10, Knight comes in and runs up the middle. No gain. Bell comes back and throws a fourth-down screen pass to Roy Finch for a touchdown.
Five snaps. Five Knight runs, 17 yards. Nothing special. But two of the plays were successful and a third was OK. That seemed like something to build on.
“As a competitor, you feel like you can make plays on anybody,” Knight said. “Credit to Baylor. They made the plays tonight. Wish we could’ve done a little more. Credit to them. They swarmed the ball. They have that confidence going, and it’s easy when you’re playing ahead and when your offense is scoring for you. They didn’t have to play from behind like we were.”
* Here’s the discouraging part for OU. Baylor just looked faster, in every element. Faster on offense, faster on defense, faster on the kicking game (which OU actually played well in on occasion). And this OU team is faster than last season, by Bob Stoops’ own testimony.
* On third or fourth down, needing three yards or less, the Sooners converted three of eight. One of the successes was a 4th-and-3 screen pass. I’m not sure 4th-and-3 is short-yardage. Otherwise, OU was 2-of-7. The simple explanation is, Baylor loaded the box, dared OU to beat the Bears with the pass, and OU was scared to try. That’s a total lack of confidence in your quarterback.
* I’m not saying the lack of quarterback confidence is misguided. I’m saying it’s there. And it’s an indictment of quarterback development, which has been a Stoops hallmark.
“We were horrible on third-and-shorts, fourth-and-shorts and goal line,” Stoops said. “They out-executed us, definitely. You’ve got to make those. You can’t come in here and have one touchdown in the middle of the quarter and think you are going to win. It’s just not going to happen. We didn’t execute near well enough to give ourselves a chance.”
* When this was still a game, here’s a key sequence. OU led 5-3, midway through the third quarter, and Bell made his best pass of the day, a 28-yard strike to Jalen Saunders. On the next play, Baylor was called for pass interference on a deep ball to Saunders. Suddenly, OU was at the Baylor 31-yard line.
Here are the next three plays: Bell pass, he is flushed from the pocket and throws incomplete on a deep slant to Saunders; Bell pass, he throws wildly on a back-shoulder sideline pattern to Durron Neal; Bell pass, overthrows a well-covered Jaz Reynolds on a deep post pattern.
I’m not criticizing the calls. OU had to air it out and see if it works. But the inconsistency of the pass game gave the Sooners little room to win this game. You can’t go 15-of-35 and beat a good team.
By the way, Michael Hunnicut then missed a 48-yard field goal. Baylor took over with 8:16 left in the second quarter and went on three touchdown drives. Then it was all over but the shoutin’.
* Here’s the kind of rhythm the Baylor offense found late second quarter. Touchdown drives of five plays/69 yards, nine plays/93 yards, five plays/62 yards. On those drives, Baylor faced two third downs. One was the infamous Eric Striker offsides, which negated a 3rd-and-9 incompletion and allowed Petty to come back and hit Antwan Goodley for five yards on a 3rd-and-4 slant. Get that stop, with the score 10-5, and about three minutes left in the half, and OU probably goes to halftime down 10-5 or 10-8. Then it’s a different game.
Baylor still would have won, but it’s a different game.
“We didn’t play nearly smart enough,” Stoops said. “Overall, they just outplayed and outcoached, and I mean all of us together.”
* The second half was played for contractual reasons. Television contracts, tickets purchased. No one except reveling Baylor fans were much interested. If anyone in America stayed with OU-Baylor and didn’t switch over to Stanford-Oregon, I’d be shocked.
* With that said, OU’s 71-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter was completely out of context with the rest of the game. An inside screen to Saunders went for 19 yards and I think was the only time the Sooners ran that play. I assume the Baylor defense showed something to make it work. Then Roy Finch scampered 23 yards on a reverse (OU opened the game with a Sterling Shepard reverse, which lost three yards) and Heupel came immediately back with a fake reverse that sprung Damien Williams for six yards. Then maybe OU’s best play of the night, 3rd-and-4, the Sooners loaded to one side, then LaColtan Bester went in motion from left to right, Bell rolled right and Bester was open for a six-yard catch. Not a big gain, but a cool play that clearly flummoxed Baylor. A good offense does a whole night’s worth of that kind of stuff. And then the touchdown on a little 4th-and-3 screen pass to Finch for 10 yards.
But then the offense went back to its dormant self.
* The best player on the field appeared to be Baylor tailback Shock Linwood, who some say is the third-team tailback. He came in as Baylor’s No. 2 rusher but was the third guy used, after Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin (man, Baylor’s tailbacks have some cool names). Linwood rushed 182 yards on 23 carries and seemed as fresh at the end as he did at the beginning.
* I came away less impressed with Petty than I thought I would. He’s not a great passer. He’s a good passer. He’s not a great passer. He’s going to be the all-Big 12 quarterback, and he’s a shifty runner, but he’s not a great quarterback. I’d say he’s a system quarterback.
* Not that there’s anything wrong with that. What OU wouldn’t give for a system quarterback.
* OU’s safety was totally cool. A true freshman linebacker, Dominique Alexander, sacking the all-Big 12 quarterback to pull the Sooners within 3-2 and get OU’s third stop in four Baylor possessions? That showed that the OU defense at least had some life.
“It’s a difficult task,” Alexander said of defending Baylor. “We prepared for it. We had a great gameplan going in … we executed it early.”