Oklahoma football: Takeaways a pivotal part of 25-point turnaround

WACO, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Theo Wease #10 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs for a touchdown against Jordan Williams #38 of the Baylor Bears in the second half at McLane Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
WACO, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Theo Wease #10 of the Oklahoma Sooners runs for a touchdown against Jordan Williams #38 of the Baylor Bears in the second half at McLane Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

A week ago, it was an Iowa State 20-point fourth-quarter comeback that nearly erased a 21-point Oklahoma football advantage and came dramatically close to stealing a home game from the Sooners.

On Saturday night in Waco, Texas, in front of a capacity Baylor home crowd that was so loud and amped up you actually couldn’t hear the television broadcast crew call the game, Oklahoma mounted an unbelievable second half comeback that will go down as one for the record books.

After falling behind 28-3 in the second quarter and looking very much like a team that was in the process of being stomped on and buried alive before a McLane stadium record 50,000-plus screaming fans and a national TV audience, the Sooners showed the resilience and character of a champion, storming back in the second half in relentless and dominating fashion.

Typically, it is Oklahoma that starts fast, but on this night, it was undefeated and 13th-ranked Baylor that had its foot on the gas early, aided by two costly turnovers by Jalen Hurts.

Following a Sooner field goal to take a brief 3-0 lead on their opening possession, Baylor responded with a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to go up 7-3. That triggered a 21-point blitzkrieg by the Bears.

Hurts hurt the Sooners early, and Baylor took full advantage

Hurts fumbled  deep in Sooner territory late in the first quarter trying to evade the Baylor pass rush. The Bears turned the OU miscue into seven points three plays later. On the next Oklahoma possession, with around four minutes gone in the second quarter, Baylor’s Grayland Arnold picked off a Hurts pass at the Bears’ 20-yard line returned it 71 yards to the OU nine. From there, it took the Bears just one play to reach the end zone and increase its lead to a stunning 28-3.

By this time, as one writer covering the game wrote afterwards, it seemed frighteningly similar to the Rose Bowl in the 2005 national championship game with USC. You could add the 2003 Big 12 Championship with Kansas State to that same painful memory.

At the half, Baylor held a 31-10 advantage, had outgained the country’s No, 1 offense 238 yards to 157 and appeared every bit the world beaters this November night and in complete control of the game.

But then a funny thing happened following the intermission. Two different teams took the field for the second half.

It’s never over till it’s over 

The Sooners received the kickoff to start the second half and marched 74 yards in 12 plays to cut into the Baylor lead and make it a two-score game at 31-17. That’s when, in my opinion, the turning point in the game occurred. Baylor started its opening possession of the second half at its own 25. On first down, JaMycal Hasty broke off an 18-yard run but had the ball knocked loose by the Sooners’ Parnell Motley and recovered by freshman Patrick Fields.

It was Oklahoma’s first takeaway in six games (dating back to Sept. 28). All of a sudden, the Sooners were set up with a short field on the Baylor side of the 50-yard line and a chance to draw even closer.

Eleven plays later, from the Baylor two-yard line, Hurts appeared to score on a quarterback run. but the ball popped loose just as he was crossing the goal line and was recovered by the Bears for a touchdown-saving touchback.

At that point, it appeared that the air had been sucked out of the Sooner comeback. Little did anyone know that it would just be a temporary setback, a prolonging of the inevitable — or what some like to call Sooner Magic.

Baylor went three-and-out on its next three second-half possessions and ran just 16 total plays after halftime. Meanwhile, Oklahoma scored 24 unanswered points in the final two quarters, capped off by a 31-yard, game-winning field goal by Gabe Brkic with 1:45 left on the game clock.

A second Sooner takeaway, an interception by linebacker Nik Bonitto with Baylor driving and in field goal range with 29 ticks remaining, sealed the deal and enable the comeback kids from Norman to seize victory from what early on almost certainly looked like the jaws of defeat.

Oklahoma ran 57 plays in the second half to just 16 by Baylor and held the Bears to just 69 yards of offense over the final 30 minutes. The comeback from a 25-point deficit (28-3 just 19 minutes into the game), was the biggest in OU’s 125-year football history and the largest over a ranked team in the six-year history of the College Football Playoff.

Here are some more compelling numbers that tell the story of this game:

5.5 — Oklahoma averaged a season-low 5.5 yards per play against a good Baylor defense.

10 — Oklahoma has forced a punt on the opening possession in all 10 games this season.

14 — Baylor’s 14 points in the first quarter was the most the Sooners have allowed in the opening quarter all season. OU had outscored its opponents 114-21 in the first quarter coming into the Baylor game.

19 — Oklahoma has now won 19 consecutive games in the month of November, dating back to 2014.

20 — Days before these same two team are likely to meet again, on Dec. 7 in the Big 12 Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

21 — Oklahoma’s 21-point halftime deficit (31-10) was the largest overcome to defeat an FBS team that entered the game 9-0 since NCAA classification began in 1937, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

23 — The Sooners have won 23 of their last 24 true road games.

24:20 — Oklahoma’s time of possession (out of 30 minutes) in the second half against Baylor.

28 — Without CeeDee Lamb in the lineup, the Sooners shortened up its passing routes. The longest pass Jalen Hurts completed all night against Baylor was 28 yards.

38 — Before Saturday, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule had led his Temple and Baylor teams to 38 consecutive wins when leading beginning the fourth quarter. Baylor led the Sooners 31-17 after three quarters.

40 — Oklahoma has won 40 of its last 43 games against Big 12 opponents.

411 — Total offense by Jalen Hurts in the game (297 passing and four touchdowns and 114 yards rushing).