Here are some observations from Baylor’s 41-12 win over Oklahoma on Thursday in Waco.
1. Self-inflicted errors: Mistakes ended up killing OU. A failed fourth-and-goal conversion at the Baylor 1-yard line on a Blake Bell sweep was a missed opportunity. The failure to move the ball in the second quarter resulted in a long field goal attempt for Michael Hunnicutt, which the Lou Groza semifinalist pushed wide. Baylor went 69 yards in five plays to take the lead for good on a Bryce Petty 5-yard touchdown run. On another Baylor possession, Eric Striker jumped offsides on third-and-9 at the Baylor 8. That drive turned into a 93-yard march the Bears eventually finished off with a 10-yard Petty scoring run. Bell threw an interception on the first play of the next drive, leading to another Baylor score with OU’s defense gassed. Only one of OU’s seven offensive possessions in the first half ended in points. OU had more penalties (14) than one of the most penalized teams in the nation.
2. Credit Baylor’s defense: As you simultaneously question the play calling of Josh Heupel, give credit to an aggressive Baylor defense. There were questions about Baylor’s defense coming in, but the Bears suffocated the Sooners and set the tone even before Baylor’s vaunted offense got going. Baylor held OU without a touchdown (its lone touchdown) until 3:20 was left in the third quarter and forced Bell into two interceptions.
3. OU ‘D’ didn’t play poorly: The Sooners played well on defense in the first quarter (and didn’t play poorly overall), but the fatigue led to missed tackles, penalties kept them on the field and Baylor capitalized, with third-string running back Shock Linwood the main beneficiary (23 carries, 182 yards). Petty had three passing scores, but only 204 yards in the air. Even when OU failed to convert on fourth down at the Baylor goal line in the first quarter, Dominique Alexander came up with a safety on the next Baylor offensive possession. OU’s “D” didn’t fare poorly considering Baylor is the best statistical offense in the nation.
4. Ineffective run game: The first OU running back to touch the ball in the run game – Damien Williams – didn’t do so until 3:46 was left in the first quarter. Granted, OU didn’t run many plays at all in its first two drives, but Trevor Knight ran the ball twice before any OU running back did. Everything the Sooners did well against Texas Tech (ball control, sticking with the run) they didn’t do early against Baylor. Both Baylor and Texas Tech have dangerous offenses that required the Sooners to keep the ball away from them. OU was able to against Tech. Baylor, meanwhile, ran for 255 yards on 54 carries.
5. Targeting … or not?: It certainly didn’t look like an eye for an eye when Baylor DB K.J. Morton lit up Sterling Shepard on a pass route in the first quarter and was allowed to stay in the game. The hit initially resulted in a 15-yard penalty and an ejection for Morton, but the ejection was overturned after video review. Meanwhile, Shepard did not return, a big blow for an OU offense that struggled the rest of the game.