Only 17 points stopped Oklahoma and Oklahoma State from being undefeated and ranked in the Top 2 on the eve of Saturday’s Bedlam match in Stillwater.
An early season 7-point upset by Texas put the only blemish on the No. 5 Sooners;’ 10-1 record. Since then, OU has won six in a row, including a narrow 30-29 victory over then No. 12 TCU last Saturday.
And the Cowboys were a perfect 10-0 until last Saturday when No. 7 handed them their only loss by a score of 45-35 in Stillwater.
Even so, the stakes are high this Saturday as the Sooners and Cowboys face off at 7 p.m. in Stillwater. ESPN’s Gameday will be there because of the gravity of the game.
If Oklahoma wins, they will win the Big 12 championship because OSU and TCU would both have two losses and even though Baylor has only one loss, it is to Oklahoma.
A victory would put the Sooners in contention for a spot in the four-team national playoff as Big 12 champs.
But all is not lost for the Cowboys.
If they beat Oklahoma, OSU could win the Big 12 if Baylor loses to TCU Friday or to Texas on December 5. Ranked No. 9, a series of upsets could vault the Cowboys into playoff contention, although it seems like a long shot right now.
At worst, OSU could spoil the season for their in-state rivals and start a two-game winning streak against Oklahoma.
Last season, OSU had lost five Big 12 games in a row before pulling off a 38-35 upset of No. 18 Oklahoma in Norman. Speedster Tyreek Hill (who was later kicked off the team with legal problems) fielded a punt with about a minute to go and ran it back 92 yards for the go-ahead score.
OSU coach Mike Gundy upped his record against OU’s Bob Stoops to 2-8. OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph, who had been pulled out of a redshirt season due to injuries, passed for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
The Sooners haven’t forgotten the embarrassment of losing that game at home to a top rival.
“You dream about going into the last game with everything right there in front of you,” said OU backup quarterback Trevor Knight. “And it’s going to be an electric atmosphere next Saturday, and I can’t wait for it.”
“We set goals at the beginning of the season, we’re one step away from achieving those goals,” said OU receiver Sterling Shepard. “I feel like guys will be locked in and ready to roll for next weekend.”
OU held a comfortable lead in the game against TCU but starting quarterback Baker Mayfield was benched in the second half due to concerns about a concussion and the Sooner offense went flat. Mayfield is expected to play Saturday.
With less than a minute to go, the Horned Frogs scored a touchdown and pulled to within one point. They went for two and OU’s Steven Parker saved the day by knocking down a pass in the end zone.
It was the kind of play the Sooners didn’t make last season during an 8-5 campaign.
“I’m really proud that Steven Parker came up with a huge play there at the end,” said Stoops. “That was a huge play. On the sideline, it looked like he was up there, like he could have dunked it on a 12-foot rim. He was way up there. It was a great play by him.”
OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he was surprised that TCU went for two because their defense was playing well at that point.
“On the road, they say go for the win and we made a play when we needed to,” Mike Stoops said. “For our guys, I thought, for 52 minutes we controlled the game and just lost it there down the stretch. I wish we would’ve finished better, but winning championships is never easy. Beating a team like Baylor, you have to earn it. That’s what our players have to realize. We can finish better and we need to learn from this experience, but we came out on top, but we need to play better. I didn’t think our rush game was great. We didn’t pressure enough. There’s some things we have to get better at before we go up to Stillwater next week.”
OU running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon both injured their ankles against TCU but returned to action.
Perine provided the winning margin with a 72-yard touchdown run in the third quarter – the longest of his career. He also went over the 1,000-yard mark for the second season in a row. Perine had 189 yards against TCU.
Shepard got 111 receiving yards against TCU and is now in second place (behind Mark Clayton) on OU’s career receiving chart with 3,308 yards.
“He always makes plays,” OU center Ty Darlington said of Shepard. “He finds a way to make plays in whatever capacity that he can. He made some plays tonight and we’ve got to be able to protect them, whoever is back there, so he can have more time to find Shep down the field.”
Cornerback Zack Sanchez got two interceptions in the first half, bringing his season total to six and career total to 14. The turnovers were key in OU building a lead over TCU. Sanchez has five interceptions in the last three games he has played in.
Sanchez also recovered the last-minute onside kick by TCU to seal the OU win.
“Zack was great again,” said Bob Stoops. “The interceptions were huge, and the onside kick. Fortunately he didn’t re-hurt it at all, but he’s still favoring that ankle, but he’s still fighting through it.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson congratulated Stoops after the game.
“Every ballgame we’ve had against each other in the last five years has been close,” Patterson said. “We talked about it being a great battle. He told me it was a gutsy decision to go for two. He’s a good man and I like him and his team a lot. You know so many of these kids on the other team through recruiting, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that there’s never any bad blood between Oklahoma and TCU. There’s been heavy competition, but never bad blood, which is exactly what I think college football is supposed to be about.”
One week after Baylor saw their championship hopes fade, the Bears ended the perfect season for the Cowboys.
Baylor had not won in Stillwater since 1939.
“This is our fifth time in eight years with the way the schedule has fallen, and this is our first time to come out of here with a good taste in our mouth,” said Baylor coach Art Briles. “It’s an extremely tough place to win with the environment, but it’s also because they’re an extremely good football team. They’re always a good team.”
Rudolph threw for 430 yards against Baylor but the Cowboy run offense came up short with only 8 yards while the Bears ran for 304 yards. Baylor had 700 yards of total offense while OSU had 441 yards.
“I’ve been mentioning throughout the year that we need to get going with the running game,” said Gundy. “The flip-side, though, is that we had two or three stops there on defense, but we couldn’t overcome it and score. When you play those guys with the talent they have on the perimeter, it’s difficult to catch up when you get behind by more than 10 points.”
Baylor had the ball for more than 35 minutes compared to less than 25 minutes for the Cowboys. Baylor’s offense ran more than 100 plays.
“They got us early in the game with the quick scores,” Gundy said. “When we did get some stops on some turnovers, we didn’t take advantage of it on offense. Then we let the game spread out a little bit, and the catch-up routine was not a very good fit for us based on what we were trying to do in the game. We got behind, and we became one-dimensional. That wasn’t effective for our team.”
OSU safety Jordan Sterns said the Cowboys will need a great effort to beat No. 5 Oklahoma.
“We just can’t make mistakes,” Sterns said. “The first play of the game (against Baylor), I made a mistake and it led to a touchdown. I can’t let that happen. We just have to keep working hard.”
Linebacker Seth Jacobs said OSU is in a good position despite the one loss.
“We’re blessed,” Jacobs said.”We’re very fortunate. A lot of people, in situations like this after a loss, could be down, but at least we still have a lot to play for.”
Backup quarterback J.W. Walsh believes OSU can still win the Big 12.
“As far as a Big 12 contender, there’s nothing better you can ask for,” Walsh said. “Playing for the Big 12 title and having the chance to say you’re the top dog in a Power Five conference is great. I think we’ve done a really good job this year of showing that we are a real contender. Next week we’re going to be very fired up for the opportunity.”
“Hopefully, we come out with a little more fire than we did this week,” said OSU receiver David Glidden. “It’s Bedlam for a Big 12 championship so that should say enough.”
OSU’s Emmanuel Ogbah got his 12th sack of the year against Baylor. He has 27 career sacks, just four less than the team record.