The No. 7 Bears’ Cinderella story concluded in conference play as they fell to No. 6 Oklahoma 30-23 in overtime during the Big 12 Championship game. Although Baylor previously challenged the Sooners in the regular season two weeks ago and lost on a last minute field goal, the Matt Rhule-led squad put up a tougher fight this time around, bouncing back from two 10-point deficits while starting three different QBs. Junior QB Charlie Brewer completed 3 of 6 passing attempts for 15 yards and added 6 carries before he suffered a brutal hit and left the game. Redshirt freshman Gerry Bohanon filled in for Brewer and completed 4 of 15 attempts for 56 yards and 1 TD as well as 9 carries for 15 yards. After Bohanon left the game with a shoulder injury, Rhule threw true freshman Jacob Zeno in the mix despite the QB only having one quarter of experience against Kansas last week. Zeno’s lack of previous playing time seemed only a minor issue as he nearly led the Bears to a Big 12 Championship upset, completing 2 of 6 passing attempts for 159 yards and 1 TD with 4 carries. The Bears had zero turnovers and finished with 265 yards and 4 penalties for 37 yards.
The Baylor offense got off to a slow start (and continued sluggish play throughout most of the game) as they couldn’t move the ball downfield despite junior RB John Lovett’s immediate 12-yard rush and Brewer’s passes of 3 and 7 yards to junior RB Trestan Ebner and sophomore TE Christoph Henle. A sack on Brewer for a loss of 7 yards stalled Baylor’s drive and they were forced to punt. After a massive 71-yard OU run, the Sooners scored on a 6-yard rush and took the 7-0 lead. Baylor’s next three downs resulted in negative yardage as Ebner lost 1 yard on a rush and the Bears had a false start penalty. Oklahoma moved the ball to their end of the field, but senior DE James Lockhart sacked OU QB Jalen Hurts for a loss of 8 yards, holding them to a field goal. An OU unsportsmanlike conduct gave the Bears good field position and senior RB JaMycal Hasty’s 19-yard return put the offense near midfield. Brewer and Ebner both lost 2 yards a piece on rushes and Brewer’s pass to sophomore WR Tyquan Thornton was incomplete, so the defense had to quickly return to the field, ending the first quarter at Oklahoma 10-0.
On the Bears’ opening drive in the second quarter, Brewer ran for 7 yards and then lost 7 yards on a sack, giving the ball back to the Sooners. Baylor’s defense held up on Oklahoma’s next possession after junior DT James Lynch sacked Hurts for a loss of 9 yards and forced a fumble that sophomore LB Terrel Bernard recovered at the OU 29 yard line. The Bears capitalized on the turnover as redshirt freshman K John Mayers kicked a 44-yard field goal to put Baylor on the board, 10-3. Oklahoma booted the ball away on their next drive and Bohanon replaced Brewer on offense, rushing for 9 yards before Lovett ran 9 yards and got a first down. Bohanon threw a pass to Hasty that lost 4 yards and each of his next two were incomplete, forcing another Baylor punt. When OU got the ball back, Hurts was immediately intercepted by senior LB Jordan Williams who returned it 5 yards to the Oklahoma 23 yard line. Bohanon was sacked for a loss of 10 yards and threw an incomplete pass, but he connected with Thornton on a 33-yard ball who ran it in for the first Baylor score, tying the game at 10-10. Lynch added his second sack of the day (this one for a loss of 7 yards) and followed with a QB hurry to give Baylor the ball back. The Bears had the last possession of the half and Bohanon rushed for 14 yards on 2 carries prior to connecting with Thornton on a 29-yard pass, but he threw 3 consecutive incompletions, so Mayers kicked a 28-yard field goal and gave the Bears the 13-10 lead going into the second half.
Baylor had the first possession of the third quarter, which resulted in 1 total yard after Bohanon completed a pass to sophomore WR Josh Fleeks for a loss of 2 yards and ran for 3 yards, giving the ball back to the Sooners. Oklahoma notched a 24-yard field goal to close their drive, tying the game up again at 13-13. The Sooners forced a Baylor three-and-out and took the lead with an 18-yard score. On the final Baylor drive of the third quarter, Bohanon rushed for 3 yards on 2 carries and Hasty added 12 yards on 2 carries, but Bohanon was sacked for a loss of 3 yards and the Bears returned the ball to Oklahoma.
OU added another 24-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 23-13, but after Bohanon left the game because of injury issues, Zeno entered the game for the first time since his fewer than 10 minutes of play in Lawrence. On Zeno’s second play, he threw an 81-yard bomb to Thornton for a TD, closing the gap at 23-20. Oklahoma had to punt on their following drive and Zeno’s next two passes were 18 yards to senior WR Denzel Mims, which was returned due to a Baylor penalty, and 78 yards to senior WR Chris Platt. Ebner rushed for 7 yards on 2 carries, but the Bears settled with a 27-yard field goal to tie the game. Neither team added any more points to the board for the rest of the fourth quarter, so the Big 12 Championship game moved into overtime. Oklahoma got the ball first and after Williams was flagged for a face mask penalty, the Sooners scored on a 5-yard rush to take the 30-23 lead. Zeno threw 2 incomplete passes while facing QB hurries and was sacked for a loss of 10 yards on 3rd and 10. With the game on the line and on 4th and 20, Zeno was on the run again and threw a final incomplete pass, finalizing Oklahoma’s next Big 12 Championship title.
6 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Lovett (3 carries for 19 yards), Bohanon (9 carries for 15 yards), Hasty (3 carries for 12 yards), Ebner (4 carries for 4 yards), Brewer (6 carries for minus 3 yards), and Zeno (4 carries for minus 12 yards). 7 received passes including Ebner (2 catches for 84 yards and 1 TD), Platt (1 catch for 78 yards), Thornton (2 catches for 62 yards and 1 TD), Henle (1 catch for 7 yards), sophomore WR R.J. Sneed (1 catch for 5 yards), Fleeks (1 catch for minus 2 yards), and Hasty (1 catch for minus 4 yards). Baylor’s defense amassed 84(!!!) tackles with 8 tackles for a loss of 36 yards (Williams, Bernard, J. Lynch, senior DT Bravvion Roy, Lockhart), 3 sacks for a loss of 24 yards (J. Lynch x2, Lockhart), 1 forced fumble (J. Lynch), 1 fumble recovery (Bernard), 1 interception returned 5 yards (Williams), 1 pass breakup (senior S Chris Miller), and 2 QB hurries (senior S Henry Black, J. Lynch).
The Bears will most likely play in one of the New Years Six bowl games, which will be announced tomorrow.