Oklahoma football: Sooners hold off Baylor upset bid

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 23: Denzel Mims
WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 23: Denzel Mims /

The third-ranked Oklahoma football team found itself in an unexpected dog fight at Baylor on Saturday night and had to hold on for dear life to secure a 49-41 victory.

The game was still in doubt as Baylor scored a touchdown to pull within eight points of the Sooners with a little over a minute and a half remaining in the game and then recovered an on-side kick to take possession at the Bears’ 48-yard line. On a third-down-and-10 play, Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo sacked Baylor quarterback Zach Smith, causing a fumble that was recovered by Sooner linebacker Caleb Kelly.

That is how the game ended. With Baylor out of time outs, Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield took a knee on three snaps and allowed to clock to run down and preserve the OU victory, its 14th consecutive win and 17th in a row in Big 12 Conference play.

It was a game of scoring runs by both offenses. Oklahoma scored on its opening possession, set up by a 64-yard return by Jeff Badet on the opening kickoff and finished off on a 24-yard touchdown pass by Mayfield to tight end Mark Andrews.

Oklahoma scored twice more in the opening quarter to take a 21-7 lead and increased their advantage to 28-10 with 10 minutes still to go in the second quarter. Baylor went 75 yards on three plays in a little over a minute to cut the Sooner lead to 28-17 right before halftime, and came out on fire in the third quarter scoring the first 14 points of the quarter to take over the lead from the stunned Sooners, 31-28, with 2:45 to go in the third stanza.

Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense took control back at that point, reeling off 21 unanswered points on a 48-yard touchdown pass to Badet and two touchdown runs by true freshman Trey Sermon. That appeared to put the game away, with the Sooners up 48-31 with a little under nine minutes left in the game.

Only no one told  coach Matt Rhule’s Baylor bunch that they were out of the game, and they continued to fight on with Smith and wide receiver Denzel Mims continuing to torch the Oklahoma secondary through the air. Smith completed 33 of 50 passes for 463 yards. Eleven of those receptions were made by sophomore wide receiver Mims, who had 193 receiving yards and three touchdown catches in the game.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

Mims’ final TD catch came with 1:41 to go on a 6-yard grab at the back of the end zone.  On instant replay it appeared that the Baylor receiver failed to completely control the ball before his feet came down outside of the back line in the end zone. The officials ruled, however, that it was a completed catch, and that set up the on-side kick recovery that followed on the ensuing kickoff by the Bears, a play that sent shock waves throughout the Sooner Nation.

Mayfield completed 13 of 19 passes for 283 yards and three touchdown passes, but it was the Sooner run game that ultimately made the difference in the contest and allowed Oklahoma to escape the upset bid.

Sophomore Abdul Adams had 164 yards rushing on 11 carries, but it was the freshman Sermon and his fresh legs who took over the game for the Sooners in the fourth quarter, running through and around the tired Baylor defenders for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone.

Oklahoma won the total yards battle, rolling up 625 yards of offense to 523 for Baylor. It was not a good outing by defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ defense, who held the Bears to just 6o yards rushing but had all kinds of difficulty at the back end containing the Baylor receivers, who were consistently wide open and averaged 14 yards per catch. The Sooner secondary gave up two receptions of over 70 yards, something they had not done in their three previous wins.

Ten penalties for 110 yards by Oklahoma, including a couple of personal foul calls and an unsportsman-like-conduct call against Mayfield, did not help the Sooners cause.

So Oklahoma was able to avoid the upset, but it was a scary performance against a team that clearly does not have the same talent level as the Sooners.

OU has a bye week coming up, which I’m sure Lincoln Riley and his coaching staff will put to good use in cleaning up some of the mistakes and sloppy play that almost cost the Sooners dearly against a Baylor team that was well coached and had a very good game plan against the nation’s third-ranked team.