Oklahoma knows better than anybody that winning in November translates into Big 12 championship game berths and College Football Playoff appearances.
The Sooners were experts at it, winning 23 straight November games.
But Baylor ended Oklahoma’s domination Saturday with an emotional defensive performance that made the Big 12’s most dynamic offense look ordinary before an overflow crowd of 46,782 at McLane Stadium.
Holding the Sooners to a season-low 260 yards, the No. 18 Bears handed No. 4 Oklahoma its first loss of the season, 27-14, snapping a 17-game winning streak dating back to last season.
When it was over, Baylor fans rushed the field to celebrate the Bears' first win over the Sooners since 2014. That 48-14 win in Norman was the last time Oklahoma lost in November.
Only it wasn’t over.
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Baylor called time out with three seconds remaining to kick a field goal. The Oklahoma coaches had to call their players back out of the tunnel as Isaiah Hankins nailed a 32-yard field goal as time expired.
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Then the fans stormed the field again.
Baylor coach Dave Aranda wanted to win by more than 10 points since the Bears had dropped a 24-14 decision at Oklahoma State on Oct. 2. Aranda wanted to hold the point differential edge in case a tie between teams means the difference in reaching the Dec. 4 Big 12 championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Aranda said he wouldn’t have called for the field goal if Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks hadn’t scored with 2:26 remaining to cut Baylor’s lead to 10 points at 24-14.
“It was something that was talked about early in the week,” Aranda said. “We were really trying to not let them score. That was really when it came up again. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. When that happened, we wanted to get back on the scoreboard to help with that differential.”
Baylor had taken Hankins’ 42-yard field goal off the board with 1:27 remaining due to a personal foul against Oklahoma that gave the Bears a first down, providing them an opportunity to run more time off the clock.
Aranda tried to explain his reasoning to Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley during their postgame handshake, but he clearly didn’t agree with the decision.
“I know why Dave tried to kick the field goal,” Riley said. “I don’t agree with it. I still think above all else, there’s a code of sportsmanship that I believe in. I wouldn’t have done it. But that’s his decision, that’s his football team.”
The Sooners (9-1, 6-1) can still reach the Big 12 championship game with wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State in the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Bears (8-2, 5-2) travel to Kansas State next weekend before ending the regular season against Texas Tech on Nov. 27 at McLane Stadium. A pair of Baylor wins coupled with an Oklahoma State win over Oklahoma would provide the Bears their best path to the Big 12 championship game.
The Bears improved to 6-0 at McLane Stadium this season, and were glad they could share it with their fans after the game despite the strange circumstances where they rushed the field twice.
“It was a crazy situation,” said Baylor linebacker Terrel Bernard. “We knew we were going to try and kick the field goal there and then you see just a mob of people on the field. We’re all standing around trying to figure out what’s going on. They went into the locker room and we didn’t know what was going on.”
The Sooners came into the game leading the Big 12 with 477 yards and 42.7 points per game, but the Bears limited them to 78 yards rushing and put a lot of pressure on Oklahoma starting quarterback Caleb Williams by sacking him three times and sacking Spencer Rattler twice after he entered the game late in the third quarter.
Hurried by Baylor’s pass rush, Williams threw interceptions to cornerbacks Kalon Barnes and Al Walcott.
“We came in knowing that we were definitely going to pressure the quarterback,” Bernard said. “Once we started stopping the running game, pushing them back behind the sticks a little bit and then putting our sub packages in, we got after it a little bit later on.”
Saturday's victory was Baylor’s first win over a team ranked in the Top 5 of the Associated Press poll since the Bears defeated then-No. 4 Oklahoma State, 35-25, in Stillwater with Bryce Petty.
The Bears delivered their most inspired defensive performance of the season despite a tumultuous start to the week when outside linebackers coach Joey McGuire was named Texas Tech’s head coach on Monday. Baylor quality control coach Caleb Young reportedly took over outside linebacker coaching duties, and defensive coordinator Ron Roberts motivated his team to play at a high level.
“I give a lot of credit to Ron,” Aranda said. “There were some changes on his side of it staff-wise, some movement. I think there’s probably a lot of emotion on that side of it early in the week. I haven’t really been a part of anything like that. Focus-wise, distraction-wise, I think all of that was real. To keep your eyes on the target and to keep guys working things they can control as opposed to things outside of it, I think was huge today.”
After throwing a last-minute interception to seal TCU’s 30-28 win last week in Fort Worth, Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon was motivated to bounce back. The Bears missed several scoring opportunities in the first half, but Bohanon led them on a 51-yard drive to open the third quarter that ended with Hankins’ 32-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead.
The Bears missed another chance to score when RJ Sneed fumbled after catching a Bohanon pass as Nik Bonitto recovered at the 16.
Then Abram Smith came through with the biggest offensive play of the game as he broke away for 75 yards to the 8. Bohanon scrambled for a five-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 17-7 edge with 13:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Smith recorded his fourth straight 100-yard rushing performance as he carried 20 times for 148 yards to push his season total to 1,203 yards.
“I’ll say Abram Smith means a lot to this team,” Bohanon said. “He’s been a guy that fought through some injuries. Seeing a guy come in, don’t complain, always smiling, always positive talking to everybody, just seeing him come out and play his heart out, that’s one thing you’re going to get from Abram. You’re going to get everything he's got no matter how he’s feeling.”
With Rattler replacing Williams, the Sooners moved into Baylor territory to the 48, but Bernard sacked him for a nine-yard loss. Following Oklahoma’s punt, the Bears capitalized by driving 80 yards on 11 plays with Bohanon finishing it off with a 14-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 24-7 with 3:57 remaining.
As in a 31-24 win over Texas on Oct. 30, Baylor fans began chanting “S-E-C.”
Bohanon was a major running threat all afternoon as he collected 107 yard on nine carries while hitting 12 of 21 passes for 117 yards and a score.
“I think the coaches saw the ends kind of squeezing in and trying to make plays on the running back, so I was literally just reading the end,” Bohanon said. “Just make a play. See what that guy does, and take what he gave me. I think we just out-physicaled them. I think the physicality we have every play gives us the edge.”
It wasn’t much of an offensive first half for the Big 12’s two most prolific scoring teams.
The Bears drove 60 yards on their first offensive possession, converting fourth-and-two when Smith escaped Sooners defenders for a five-yard gain to Oklahoma’s 40. But when faced with another fourth-and-two at the 4, Bohanon threw the ball over Tyquan Thornton in the end zone.
After Barnes intercepted Williams’ pass into double coverage at Oklahoma’s 37, the Bears failed to capitalize when Hankins missed a 51-yard field goal attempt wide right. The Sooners matched the Bears with Gabe Brkic’s missed 51-yard field goal.
Another drive into Oklahoma territory ended when Delarrin Turner-Yell intercepted Bohanon’s over thrown pass at Baylor’s 22.
This time the Sooners pieced together a nine-play, 78-yard drive that ended with Williams’ two-yard touchdown run with 10:20 left in the second quarter after he set it up with a 15-yard pass to Eric Gray out of the backfield.
The Bears responded with a 75-yard drive that was keyed by Bohanon’s 16-yard pass to Drew Estrada. Oklahoma’s Key Lawrence was called for a facemask penalty on the play to give the Bears a first down at the 9.
Bohanon finished off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Thornton to tie the game at 7-7 with 4:44 left in the second quarter.
“We felt that we literally didn’t finish drives,” Bohanon said. “We were playing physical. We put an emphasis on scoring a little bit more because we left some points on the board. For sure, the game could have been worse than it was.”