NORMAN, Okla. — Even a COVID-19 ridden Oklahoma football team is a pretty good one.
Despite missing four defensive starters, the No. 13 Sooners shut down a misfiring Baylor offense that showed such promise last week against Kansas State.
Though Oklahoma’s offense didn’t perform at its usual Big 12 leading level, the Sooners still gutted out a 27-14 win over the Bears on Saturday night at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
The Sooners (7-2, 6-2) clinched a spot in the Big 12 championship game Dec. 19 against conference leading Iowa State. Following last week’s 32-31 win over Kansas State, the Bears (2-6) dropped their sixth loss in the last seven games heading into the Dec. 12 season finale against Oklahoma State at McLane Stadium.
Oklahoma played for the first time in two weeks after last weekend’s game at West Virginia was postponed until Dec. 12 due to rampant COVID-19 issues throughout the athletic department.
But Baylor’s offense could do little against a makeshift Oklahoma defense despite driving inside the 30 three times in the first half. The Bears finally scored when Charlie Brewer hit Tyquan Thornton for a 25-yard touchdown with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
After hitting the game-winning 30-yard field goal as time expired against Kansas State, John Mayers missed field goal attempts of 46 and 47 yards on the Bears’ first two offensive possessions of the game.
With Qualan Jones and John Lovett out with injuries, Trestan Ebner started at running back before going out with a high ankle sprain. But the Bears picked up just 25 yards on the ground. That left much of the burden on Brewer, who hit 30 of 56 passes for 263 yards with two interceptions and his touchdown to Thornton.
"It put some pressure on Charlie," said Baylor coach Dave Aranda. "We would lose a running back, and the biggest factor there was protection. The deeper we got into that position, the more true empty sets we would get to try to simplify who’s coming and who’s not coming for Charlie. We were challenged at that position for sure tonight."
Brewer also ran for a two-yard touchdown with 59 seconds left in the game after the Sooners opened up a 27-7 lead. But Brewer wasn't happy with his performance.
“I have to do a better job,” Brewer said. “If we can’t run the ball, I’ve got to make something happen in the passing game.”
Though Oklahoma redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler wasn’t as dynamic as he’s been in past games, he hit 20 of 28 for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part,” said Baylor linebacker Abram Smith. “We forced them into a lot of three-and-outs. We slowed down their running game.”
Following the opening kickoff, the Sooners drove 72 yards on 10 plays to the 3 before Baylor put up a tremendous goal line stand to hold Oklahoma to Gabe Brkic’s 20-yard field goal.
Brewer hit tight end Ben Sims for 15 yards and Gavin Holmes for seven yards to the 32 on fourth-and-four. But after stalling at the 29, Mayers’ 46-yard field goal attempt was well short of the crossbar.
The Sooners could get nowhere on their second drive after Baylor linebacker-safety Jalen Pitre sacked Rattler for a 10-yard loss on the first play of the drive.
The Bears got great field position at Oklahoma’s 35 when Reeves Mundschau shanked a 12-yard punt. But after the Bears stalled at Oklahoma’s 29, Mayers’ 47-yard field goal attempt was well short again.
"I mean I’ve got a lot of confidence in John," Aranda said. "I appreciate everything he’s done for us. My talks with him on the sideline were to keep your chin up and keep fighting."
With the Sooners unable to move the ball, Baylor’s offense showed some spark when Brewer hit Jaylen Ellis for 39 yards to Oklahoma’s 28.
Instead of attempting another field goal, Baylor went for it on fourth-and-11 at the 29. But Brewer’s pass to Holmes was intercepted by Oklahoma’s Tre Norwood and returned 32 yards.
Baylor stopped an Oklahoma scoring threat when safety Christian Morgan intercepted Rattler’s pass off Rhamondre Stevenson’s hands at the 1.
But the Bears couldn’t move and Marvin Mims returned Issac Power’s punt to Baylor’s 31.
Morgan’s pass interference penalty put Oklahoma at the 3 where Stevenson ran for the game’s first touchdown to give the Sooners a 10-0 lead with 1:04 left in the first half.
Oklahoma’s offense continued to pick up steam to open the second half by moving 52 yards on five plays with Rattler rolling left and hitting Theo Wease for a nine-yard touchdown to push the lead to 17-0 with 10:08 left in the third quarter.
"They started getting the ball out a little bit quicker there, and so there were more throws to the back," Aranda said. "We used the nickel (defense) quite a bit and they would throw the screen. Before I think they tried to get the shots and the deeper routes."
The Bears answered with one of their best drives of the night, moving 71 yards on 12 plays as Brewer hit six passes.
Baylor converted two fourth downs on the drive, beginning with his seven-yard pass to RJ Sneed to Oklahoma’s 32.
Facing fourth-and-three, Brewer spotted Thornton for a 25-yard touchdown to cut Oklahoma’s lead to 17-7 with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
After stopping Oklahoma, the Bears moved into Oklahoma territory again to the 40. But this time the Bears couldn’t convert fourth-and-10 as D.J. Graham intercepted Brewer’s pass.
The interception led to Brkic’s 50-yard field goal to give the Sooners a 20-7 lead with 13:30 remaining in the game.
The Sooners put the game away when they drove 80 yards on 13 plays to open up a 27-7 lead. On third-and-goal, Smith missed a chance for an interception when he deflected Rattler’s pass into the hands of Brayden Willis for an eight-yard touchdown with 5:17 remaining.
The Bears reeled off a 17-play, 96-yard drive with Brewer capping it with a two-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds remaining.