Oklahoma football: What is it we learned about OU in Baylor loss?

You are what your record says you are, but in the case of this year’s edition of the 9-1 Oklahoma football Sooners, that may not be the case.

Saturday’s 27-14 loss to No. 18 Baylor was not the Sooners’ worst performance of the season — certainly not based on the level of the competition — but it easily was the most devastating.

The way Oklahoma lost this game not only was a gut punch of a reality check but, to be perfectly honest, somewhat surprising, given that head coach Lincoln Riley and the Sooners had an entire extra week to prepare for Baylor.

The signs have been there all season. With the exception of a pair of double-digit wins in two of its previous three games, which frankly provided some hope that things were starting to turn around, it only served to mask the fact that five of Oklahoma’s nine wins this season have been by seven or fewer points. And here’s the kicker: The combined overall record of those five opponents is 32-51.

Baylor finished off the Sooners in the final quarter

Baylor handed the Sooners a 13-point loss. It probably should have been a 10-point loss, but that’s another story. I suppose the one silver lining was Oklahoma was still in this game, trailing just 10-7 heading to the fourth quarter. The score at that point, however, was not indicative of how dominant the Baylor performance had been on both sides of the ball. And that dominance became a full-scale stampede in the final quarter.

The Oklahoma defense had held Baylor to 254 total yards through three quarters, but the fourth quarter was no contest as the Bears put away the game, scoring 17 points and rolling up 159 yards of offense.

True freshman quarterback Caleb Williams, who for most of his 14 quarters since taking over starting quarterback role for the Sooners had performed like a superstar, appeared flummoxed by the active and highly physical Baylor defense and, for the first time this season, looked more the first-year player that he is.

Before Williams reentered the game late in the fourth quarter, after being replaced in the third quarter for a couple of OU offensive series, he had completed 8 of 17 passes for 84 yards. He had also been sacked three times and thrown two interceptions, which served to compound his frustration level.

In 109 pass attempts before Saturday, Williams had thrown just one interception. On Saturday, he threw two interceptions in his first 14 passes.

Coming into the game, you would have thought that the mobility and running ability of Williams would work more to the advantage of Oklahoma, but it turned out to be the running of Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon that delivered the most damage and was a huge factor in the Bears’ ability to put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Bohanon had not run for more than 36 yards in a game this season, but he dented the Sooners’ defense for 117 yards on 12 attempts, an average 9.75 yards per carry, and two touchdowns.

The Bears torched the Sooners for 296 rushing yards, with 137 of that coming in the fatal fourth quarter.

Of Oklahoma’s 10 offensive possession in the game, four consisted of just three plays. That is not going to cut it against a good defensive team like Baylor. Moreover, the Sooners were just two of nine on third-down conversions.

The loss at Baylor is owned by the entire Oklahoma team

You can’t put this loss totally on the backs of the two Sooner quarterbacks, though. The Sooner run game was limited to 78 yards and just 2.8 yards per rush. There were multiple dropped passes, a continuation of season-long poor tackling, nine penalties called against Oklahoma for 96 costly yards and an uncharacteristic two missed field goals by normally reliable Gabe Brkic.

It was a calamity of mistakes and missed opportunities.

Lincoln Riley called the offensive performance “a little stale,” when he addressed reporters after the game. That’s putting it mildly. Most everything Oklahoma tried on offense seemed totally predictable to the Baylor defense. That’s on Riley, and kudos to Baylor had coach Dave Aranda and his staff for putting together a better game plan and defensive scheme in a week’s time than the Sooners were able to do in twice the time.

Williams and Rattler both appeared to have plenty of time to get through their receiving progressions, but too many times they could not find an open receiver and ended up getting sacked or throwing into tight coverage . The Sooner receivers need to do a better job of getting separation. After all, it’s extremely tough to cover all the receiving options when the quarterback has that much time to survey the field.

The Oklahoma defense was just good enough to keep the Sooners in the game for a long while, but the Offense was unable to garner enough consistency to take advantage when the defense was able to get stops.

The not very encouraging news for OU moving forward is that the challenge isn’t going to get any easier the next two weekends with games against Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Both of those teams have outstanding defenses, Nos. 1 and 2 in the Big 12, so all that went wrong against Baylor (only the fifth best defense in the Big 12, incidentally, in yards allowed) does not bode well for the Sooners win prospects in their final two regular-season contests based on the stale — more like smelly — performance we witnessed against Baylor.

The loss to Baylor was a team loss that extends through the coaching staff as well. A team with as much talent, facilities and history as the Sooners are blessed with needs to be playing up to its capability and with much greater consistency.

The 14 points and 260 yards of total offense were both the fewest in the Lincoln Riley coaching era at Oklahoma.

The question of this Oklahoma team now is do they have it in them to rebound from this one blemish in the win-loss column, get it behind them and not allow one loss to turn into one or two more?

The Sooners’ chances of making it into the College Football Playoff are probably now a long shot, but the pathway to the Big 12 championship game remains open and in OU’s control.

Win and you’re in. The Sooners have sadly left themselves with no margin for error.