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It was a disappointing performance for an Oklahoma Sooners team looking to make its annual “Championship November” push for the Big 12 title and potentially a place in the College Football Playoff.
Both goals are technically still in play, but they just became a lot more difficult to grasp moving forward.
The Sooners were outplayed in just about every facet. Even though the defense played a great game through the first three quarters, the inability of the offense to sustain a drive meant the Sooners’ defense was forced to stay on the field longer than it should, and the Bears pounded away on the ground.
A lot went wrong for Oklahoma on Saturday, and now they head back to Norman looking to make corrections before hosting a hot Iowa State team looking to get back into the Big 12 title picture themselves.
Baylor Bears bullied the Oklahoma Sooners offense
The Oklahoma Sooners offense got whipped all game long. Baylor was more physical in the front four and the secondary. On a day when the officials were leaving the flags in their pockets, the Oklahoma wide receiver corps couldn’t make anything happen down the field.
In the first half, when the Sooners offensive line did create time for Caleb Williams to throw, he couldn’t find anyone open, and when he did let it loose, the receivers couldn’t come up with the plays in contested situations.
In the second half, the Baylor pass rush started to create havoc on both Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler when he entered the game.
At every level, the Bears’ defense was better than a Sooners offense that didn’t appear to handle Baylor’s physicality.
Couldn't stop the Baylor running game
The Bears came into this contest with one of the best running games in the country. That held up on Saturday as they pounded the Sooners’ defense for 29 yards rushing. Baylor averaged 6.3 yards per attempt on 47 attempts.
Through the first half, it seemed like the Sooners were able to contain it a bit. And when they could get Gerry Bohanon and the Bears into longer down and distance situations, they were able to get off the field.
Unfortunately, in the second half, with the offense unable to move the football, the defense couldn’t hold up any longer under the rushing barrage of Abram Smith and Gerry Bohanon. They each went for more than 100 yards on the ground in the Baylor win.
When the Sooners needed a stop in the fourth quarter to get the ball back and try and win the game, the Bears went on an 11-play 80-yard drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock and extended Baylor’s lead to 24-7.
Errors Killed Oklahoma
Caleb Williams threw two interceptions, and Gabe Brkic missed two field goals. The Sooners again had the most penalties and yards in the game, being penalized nine times for 85 yards on the day.
On a day when Baylor was playing as well as it was, the Sooners didn’t need to give anything away. They left six points on the field with Brkic’s misses, and the turnovers gave Baylor decent field position to work with. It didn’t amount to anything for the Bears, who weren’t able to turn those turnovers into points, but the Sooners couldn’t afford to give away possessions like that. It was a microcosm of the type of game the Sooners played on Saturday.
Missed Opportunities by the Bears kept it close in the first half
The Baylor Bears should have been up 14-0 in the first half before Oklahoma took a 7-0 lead.
Quarterback Gerry Bohanon had several missed throws early on, but two that could have accounted for touchdowns.
First, he overthrew a Baylor wide receiver streaking down the left sideline that would have had a walk-in touchdown. Second, on a fourth and 2 inside the five-yard line, Bohanon threw high and inside to an outbreaking wide receiver who had leverage on the Oklahoma cornerback. On that same play, there was a receiver coming wide open underneath on the slant that would have gone untouched for the short touchdown.
The Bears didn’t need Bohanon to have a good day, because the running game was so effective. But he was better in the second half, which is what led to the Bears scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter, and literally running away with the game.
Oklahoma's running game stifled again
At this point, it’s safe to say there’s a trend at play as the Oklahoma Sooners running game was stifled yet again. This time it wasn’t a bad Kansas or Texas Tech defense that held Kennedy Brooks and the offensive line in check; it was one of the best defenses in college football in the Baylor Bears.
The Bears came into this game ranked 35th in the nation in rushing yards per game. After limiting the Sooners to 78 rushing yards and just 2.8 yards per carry, it’s safe to say they’ll climb in the national rankings.
That doesn’t bode well for a Sooners team that will next face Iowa State, who ranks 12th in the nation heading into this week, and then follow up with Oklahoma State, who ranks fourth.
For something that’s been so good for the Sooners during the Lincoln Riley era, these last three weeks represent a low moment for the Oklahoma Sooners rushing attack.
Baylor Bears brought the Kryptonite
There was no second-half rebound for Caleb Williams and the Oklahoma Sooners today like there was against Kansas. No Sooner magic. Whatever the Sooners tried to do offensively, the Baylor Bears had an answer for.
They got after Caleb Williams from the jump and never let him get settled in as either a runner or a passer. For the first time in his young career, he looked frustrated by what was happening on the field.
Very little worked for the Sooners offense, and it was one of their worst performances of the Lincoln Riley era.
It’s still very early in Caleb Williams’ career, and he will grow from it, but it was a tough time to take a loss for a Sooners team that needed a quality win on their resume to have a shot at playing meaningful games in January.
That Field Goal at the end meant something
While it won’t stand as a popular decision with Lincoln Riley and among Sooners fans that Dave Aranda opted to kick a field goal with time winding down in the Sooners loss, it was a decision that could have Big 12 championship game ramifications.
As it stands, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Iowa State are all within a game of each other at the top of the Big 12 standings. According to the Big 12’s tiebreaker rules, in the event that three or more teams are tied, the scoring differential could come into play after head to head.
For the Bears to bounce back from two conference losses to find their way into the Big 12 title game, they may need those three points. Every point matters.
Unlikely Quarterback Controversy
Though it was for a brief time, the Oklahoma Sooners replaced Caleb Williams with Spencer Rattler.
Williams was having a rough game and dealing with an injury (though unsure of the severity) to his throwing hand. At the time Rattler came into the game, the Sooners were down just 10-7. Rattler didn’t bode much better as the Sooners punted to end the two drives that he was at the helm.
There’s no going back for Lincoln Riley at the quarterback position. Spencer Rattler’s personal quarterback coach made it pretty clear that the former starter would be on his way out the door whenever Oklahoma’s season ended. Whether it’s the NFL or another college squad, Spencer Rattler will be playing somewhere else in 2022.
This is Caleb Williams’ team. For better or worse. On Saturday against the Bears, it was for worse. He did come back at the end of the game and lead the Sooners to just their second touchdown on the day to make it 24-14, but by that point, the game was largely over.
Don’t be surprised if Riley creates a shroud of mystery heading into their matchup with Iowa State next week, but I’d be surprised if the Sooners made another quarterback change in 2021.