Three and Out: Baylor's defense makes a statement in 41-12 win over Oklahoma
After weathering a slow, mistake-filled start, No. 5 Baylor dominated No. 12 Oklahoma to improve to 8-0. Here are three takeaways from the Bears' 41-12 victory:
• Baylor's defense makes a stand: The Bears' high-flying offense was a well-known commodity entering Thursday night, but Baylor's defense took a star turn against the Sooners. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett's unheralded unit came in limiting teams to an average of 4.17 yards per play, and it shut down Oklahoma repeatedly in this one.
The Sooners, who put up 38 and 34 points, respectively, in their previous two games, were stuffed twice at the goal line in the second quarter (once to force a turnover on downs, once to force a field goal). As Oklahoma tried to make things interesting before the half, Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey picked off a pass from quarterback Blake Bell. The Bears promptly scored their third touchdown in a seven-minute span, extending their lead to 24-5 at the break.
Oklahoma managed only 98 yards in the first half. They finished with a meager 237.
The Sooners finally found the end zone late in the third quarter, as Bell connected with Roy Finch for a 10-yard score. But the outcome was already well in hand. Baylor's offense gets most of the headlines, but on Thursday, its defense showed it may be equally worthy of praise.
• Sooners' struggles: While Baylor's defense provided a stiff test, Oklahoma's offense could seemingly do no right. Bell completed only 15-of-35 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The Sooners combined for 87 rushing yards on 34 carries. Most glaringly, the offense's play-calling lacked imagination, as neither Bell nor backup quarterback Trevor Knight could establish any sort of sustained success.
For a program in need of a win to stay in the Big 12 title hunt, Oklahoma made far too many mistakes. That ultimately proved costly once Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, running back Shock Linwood (who stepped in for an injured Lache Seastrunk and carried 23 times for 182 yards) and receiver Antwan Goodley found their footing.
• What's next for the unbeaten Bears? After taking advantage of a light early-season slate, Baylor was expected to face a challenge on Thursday night. Yet Briles' squad had little trouble dispatching of Oklahoma, and it will continue to make a BCS push in the weeks ahead. Baylor's remaining schedule isn't easy, however. It will play Texas Tech next week before closing with Oklahoma State (Nov. 23), TCU (Nov. 30) and Texas (Dec. 7). Do any of those foes have the firepower to beat Baylor? If the Bears' defense continues to keep pace with its high-scoring offense, this program has a legitimate chance to run the table in the Big 12.