Sooners do just enough to hold off Baylor
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2012
11/11/12 at 5:52 AM
NORMAN - You knew things were out of whack when the cheerleader ran onto Owen Field to retrieve her pom pom. When Gabe Ikard walked onto Owen Field for the coin toss wearing a crimson polo instead of a helmet and pads. When missing from Owen Field, on several defensive plays, were Oklahoma linebackers.
Some afternoons you simply do whatever's necessary to win. This was OU on Saturday in a 42-34 survival of Baylor.
The Sooners turned it over on back-to-back possessions in the second half. They allowed the Bears to rush for 252 yards.
And yet they emerged with their fifth straight Big 12 Conference victory. They are still breathing down Kansas State's neck, and still in position for a BCS bowl berth if they keep winning.
"It was an exciting game. I thought (Baylor) did a lot of things well," coach Bob Stoops said after notching his 146th win to pass Bud Wilkinson for second on OU's alltime list (behind Barry Switzer's 157). "I was equally pleased with our team to come out with a good, solid win."
First, what the 4-4, 1-5 Bears did well.
They persevered. They trailed 14-3 after the first quarter, 28-17 at halftime and 42-26 with under two minutes to play. They fought back each time, however, and forced OU to recover an onside kick with 1:25 remaining to seal it.
Baylor ran the ball down the Sooners' throats. OU played anywhere from five to seven defensive backs - using seven DBs and no linebackers on several snaps to slow the Bears' spread - so Baylor retaliated with 51 rushing attempts for those 252 yards.
"We couldn't stop it inside and we couldn't stop it outside," OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "Our tackling was atrocious. They exposed some things."
Thus it took Tony Jefferson's tackle on Baylor's 2-point try to keep the Sooners ahead 28-26 with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter.
OU got the ball and drove 75 yards in 12 plays to Damien Williams' 17-yard touchdown run. That provided some breathing room, at 35-26, with 2:10 to go in the third.
"It was a pivotal point in the game," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said, noting Williams had fumbled and Landry Jones had thrown an interception to end the previous two series, "and we responded in a positive way."
OU's defense forced a three-and-out after Williams' score. Then, out of his favored short-yardage formation, Blake Bell used Bronson Irwin and Aaron Ripkowski blocks, and then a burst into the secondary to rumble 55 yards for a touchdown.
The Sooners' fourth rushing TD of the day made it 42-26 two plays into the fourth quarter. Baylor tacked on a late touchdown and 2-point conversion, but could not come up with the ensuing onside kick.
So what to make of this strange day? What to make of the wind blowing pom-poms across the field during the first drive of the afternoon?
"It was a factor," Bob Stoops said.
What's weird is that Jones looked better throwing into it. Like in the first quarter, when his only miss out of 11 passes was Kenny Stills' drop, and he staked OU to a 14-3 lead.
"Sometimes you get into a rhythm, then switch and all of a sudden the wind's with you," Heupel explained. "Ultimately, he performed well enough to get us a win."
Jones finished 25-of-36 for 277 yards, with two touchdown and one interception. He was able to manage one big play with the wind, a 35-yard TD pass to Justin Brown that made it 28-13 right before halftime.
"It came in sideways," Jones said. "A great play by Justin. Not a good throw by me."
Jones also was sidetracked by Ikard's concussion. OU's center was ruled out of action last Thursday. He came out for pregame warmups in uniform, but Stoops admitted he was playing possum to keep Baylor in the dark.
It would be up to true freshman Ty Darlington to make all 76 snaps.
"I can't say enough about the job Ty did," Jones said.
Heupel took some of the pressure off by tweaking OU's scheme. Williams took more off with 23 carries, 99 yards and a pair of scores.
The defense helped some by limiting Baylor quarterback Nick Florence, the nation's leader in passing yardage coming in, to 172 yards on 12-of-33 inaccuracy.
There was a problem even there, however.
"It's hard to win a game when you give up 80-90 plays and don't get a turnover," defensive end David King lamented.
The Sooners couldn't steal from Florence, and couldn't consistently stop the run. That's a serious concern with Madden offenses West Virginia and Oklahoma State next on the schedule.
At least OU goes forward intact, now 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the league, having survived Saturday's gusts, Baylor's guts and the absence of their captain and offensive line anchor.
OU UP NEXT
At West Virginia
6 p.m Saturday
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430, KITO fm96.1
Original Print Headline: Sooners find way to survive
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU's Blake Bell runs for a 55-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
OU's Jalen Saunders tries to get past Baylor's Bryce Hager. Saunders caught five passes for 50 yards. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World