Sooners look to knock Baylor from unbeaten ranks

November 15, 2019 ▪ By Ray Dozier

For the third time in the last six years, Oklahoma and Baylor will be meeting with Big 12 Championship aspirations on the line. Saturday night’s title fight (6:30 ABC) also features another Heisman hopeful at quarterback. And, just like the other two times, the Sooners roll into Waco with one loss (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) while the Bears (9-0, 5-0) are unscathed.

Baylor held a 7-0 record in 2013, ranked higher in the polls. OU was 7-1. The Sooners lost to Texas, but still had a chance to at least tie for the Big 12 crown. BU was favored by two touchdowns. Robert Griffin III led the Bears to a 41-12 victory en route to taking the Heisman Trophy later that year.

Baylor was undefeated again two years later with an 8-0 mark and ranked higher in the polls. OU held an 8-1 record; the only loss was to Texas again. OU, a 2.5-point underdog, defeated the Bears, 44-34, behind Baker Mayfield’s leadership. Mayfield went on the claim the Heisman.

Unlike those past games, the Sooners are favored this time (10 points) and ranked higher. OU sits at No. 8 in the Coaches Poll, 10th in the AP, and CFP ranking. The Bears are 10th in the Coaches, 12th in AP, and No. 13 in the CFP.

But, unlike those two games, there are different coaches. Bob Stoops was Oklahoma’s boss, and Art Briles was Baylor’s skipper in those last two meetings. Lincoln Riley and Matt Rhule are in charge now. But just like the previous two contests, a Heisman hopeful will be featured — OU’s Jalen Hurts.

Hurts was atop the favorite’s list early in the season, but he’s struggled in the past two games, a loss to Kansas State and a one-point win over Iowa State. His QB rating dipped 41 points during the last two weeks combined.

The Sooners were a tale of two halves in last weekend’s 42-41 victory over the Cyclones. They cruised to a 35-14 halftime lead. Hurts completed 14 of 18 for 234 yards fired three TDs passes (two to Cee Dee Lamb) and ran for a couple of scores. In the second half, Hurts went 4 of 8 for 39 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception.

His interception led to an Iowa State touchdown late in the game. The Cyclones came out of the second half with their hair on fire. They took the second-half kickoff and marched 75 yards for a touchdown. Oklahoma later extended its lead to 42-21 on Kennedy Brooks’ 48-yard scamper.

ISU scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including cashing in on Hurts’ interception to close the gap to 42-41 with 24 ticks left on the clock. Cyclone coach Matt Campbell decided to go for two, but Parnell Motley intercepted Brock Purdy’s pass in the end zone. Lamb clutched the ensuing onside kick.

Lamb finished with 8 receptions for 167 yards and two scores, an effort that earned him his second Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honor this year.

Oklahoma’s running game was resurrected last week. After just six carries against Kansas State, the running backs got the ball 19 times. Brooks led the way with 132 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Trey Sermon is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Brooks will get the bulk of carries with help from Rhamondre Stevenson and T.J. Pledger.

OU’s defense again was sloppy — missing tackles and for the first time, allowed receivers to slip past the secondary. In the first seven games, the Sooners’ D allowed 19.4 points and 326.3 yards per game. Those numbers rose to 44.5 and 451.5 against the Wildcats and Cyclones combined.

Baylor has averaged 35.3 points (No. 27 nationally) and 459.6 yards per game this year. Bears’ QB Charlie Brewer has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,338 yards, 16 TDs, and 4 INTs.

Denzel Mims is Brewer’s top weapon at wideout. Mims has 44 catches for 675 yards and 8 TDs. The 6-3 receiver has burned Oklahoma’s secondary in the past two combined meetings—22 receptions for 306 yards and 4 TDs. Running back John Lovett is the team’s leading ball carrier with 532 yards (6.3 per carry) and 4 TDs.

The Bears have one of the top defenses in the country, allowing 19 points (No. 17) and 337.4 yards (No. 31) per game. The D has averaged 7.7 tackles for loss, including an average 3.2 sacks. DE James Lynch is the ringleader with 12.5 stops behind the line, including 8.5 sacks. Lynch also has logged 9 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and two blocked kicks. The linebacker trio of Terrel Bernard, Jordan Williams, and Blake Lynch have combined for 19 tackles for loss, including 6 sacks and 4 interceptions. Safety Grayland Arnold leads BU with 3 INTs.

The Bears have struggled in their last two games. They edged West Virginia (17-14) on Halloween and had to come from behind to beat TCU (29-23) in three overtimes last Saturday. Baylor’s win over the Horned Frogs was a game of field goals during regulation. John Mayers’ 51-yard field goal tied the game at 9-9 with 36 seconds remaining. Both teams began scoring touchdowns with the help of a short field in OT. Grayland Arnold picked off a TCU pass to end the game. The Bears amassed only 204 yards in regulation. Brewer completed two-third of his 33 passes in regulation for 127 yards and one interception in regulation.

Oklahoma’s offense must fire on all cylinders, something it hasn’t done well the last two outings. Riley must get back to his old ways of opening up the playbook.

The Sooners’ O-line must make their assignments against Baylor’s front six (the Bears run a 3-3-5 formation). Oklahoma’s front wall must give Hurts time to make the best decisions. Hurts must be more efficient with distributing the ball against this defense.

The same for OU’s defense — make assignments, make tackles, and don’t allow Mims and Co. to roam free past the secondary. Oklahoma’s front must put pressure on Charlie Brewer.

Sooners 35, Bears 31.

Fast Facts

  • OU leads the series 25-3, including four straight wins.
  • OU is 11-2 in Waco, including two consecutive victories.
  • Lincoln Riley’s record: 32-5 (.865) overall; 2-0 vs. BU; 10-1 on the road; 8-3 vs. ranked opponents; 22-3 vs. conference foes.
  • Matt Rhule’s record: 45-40 (.529) overall; at BU: 17-17 (.500); 0-2 vs. OU; 9-7 at home; 0-8 vs. ranked foes; 11-13 vs. conference opponents.
  • OU is wearing alternate Rough Rider uniforms for the 13 th time. The Sooners are 10-2 in those unis; 5-0 on the road.
  • ESPN’s College GameDay will broadcast its morning show in Waco for the third time. OU is 23-13 when GameDay is present; 1-0 in Waco. BU is 1-2 when GameDay is present; 0-2 in Waco.
  • OU is 12-3-1 in games played on November 16.
  • BU is 8-7 in games played on November 16.
  • Both teams met once on November 16; OU won 49-9 in 2002.

Articles by Ray Dozier