In a game of defenses and inches that came down to the very last second on 4th down, the No. 9 Baylor Football team (11-2, 7-2) rightfully earned their 3rd Big 12 title in program history in a 21-16 victory over No. 5 Oklahoma State (11-2, 8-1)! The Big 12 title game gave the Bears a chance to avenge their first season loss against a phenomenal Cowboys team that—should they have won the conference championship—was poised to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State had every statistic on their side, but Baylor, starting a backup QB in head coach Dave Aranda’s second year at the helm, improved on both sides of the ball from the first challenge in early October and stuffed the Cowboys’ and Big 12’s dreams of notching the 4th pick in the CFP in a season of destiny. And while the entire defense is to be celebrated for their outstanding play (and particularly in the first half), it was 6th-year senior S Jairon McVea (pictured above) who had an excellent day and made the game-winning solo tackle to secure the Baylor victory. Redshirt freshman QB Blake Shapen won MVP of the game after setting a Big 12 Championship and AT&T Stadium (college games) record with 17-straight completions in the first half of the Big 12 title, according to Baylor Athletics, but the award should’ve also honored McVea for his role in snagging the Baylor win. Shapen was on fire though in his second career start, completing 23 of 28 passing attempts for 180 yards and 3 TDs. Despite totaling fewer offensive yards, 242 to OSU’s 333 (averaging about 4 yards per play) in the Big 12 title, the Bears won their fourth win over a Top 25 opponent for their most top-25 wins in a season since 1974. Baylor also picked up 7 penalties for a loss of 49 yards.
The Bears got the ball to start the game and Shapen immediately threw a 22-yard pass to senior RB Trestan Ebner and Ebner followed with a 10-yard run. Shapen passed for 14 and 4 yards to senior WR Tyquan Thornton and freshman TE Gavin Yates, but Ebner fumbled the ball on his 4-yard rush to turn it over to Oklahoma State at their own 30-yard-line. Sophomore LB Matt Jones forced a fumble that the Cowboys recovered, but after a 14-play drive, Oklahoma State only recorded a field goal to go up 3-0. The Bears had a 3-and-out with Shapen completing an 8-yard pass to senior WR R.J. Sneed and senior RB Abram Smith rushing for 1 yard on 2 carries, but on Oklahoma State’s second play, senior S JT Woods picked off Cowboys QB Spencer Sanders’ pass and returned it 33 yards to the OSU 11. Shapen threw a 9-yard pass to senior WR Drew Estrada before running for no gain and finally hit junior TE Ben Sims in the end zone for a 2-yard score and 7-3 Baylor lead. The subsequent Oklahoma State drive ended with Jones intercepting Sanders’ pass (Jones’ first interception of his career) at the Cowboys 37 after senior DT Chidi Ogbonnaya recorded a QB hurry. Shapen’s first pass to Thornton was incomplete, but an OSU pass interference moved the Bears up to the 22. Smith rushed for 1 yard and OSU had an offsides penalty to further push the Bears to the 17-yard-line. Shapen was sacked for a loss of 8 yards, but completed a 21-yard bomb to Thornton to end the 1st quarter.
On 1st and goal, Shapen threw a 4-yard pass to Estrada for a TD (Estrada’s first of his career at Baylor) and Baylor’s 14-3 lead with 14 points scored off of OSU’s turnovers. Sophomore DT Siaki Ika and senior S Jalen Pitre recorded tackles for loss to force OSU’s 3-and-out, but the Bears’ offense had a 3-and-out of their own with Ebner catching a pass for no gain, Ebner rushing for 1 yard, and Shapen’s pass to Thornton going 7 yards. On the Cowboys’ next drive, Pitre had another tackle for loss and junior LB Dillon Doyle and junior DL Brayden Utley combined for a tackle for loss to force an OSU punt. Shapen threw passes of 5-yards and 11-yards to sophomore TE Drake Dabney and Thornton before Smith rushed for 21 yards on 3 carries. Ebner added 4 yards on the ground, but Shapen was sacked for a loss of 15 yards and penalized for intentional grounding on 1st and goal. Shapen threw an 8-yarder to Sims and connected with Thornton in the end zone on a 13-yard score to give the Bears a 21-3 lead. The Cowboys moved 69 yards on a 10 play drive, but were forced to end on a field goal in the final score of the half (21-6) after consecutive pass break ups by senior CB Kalon Barnes and Pitre and a QB hurry by McVea. Smith rushed for 24 yards on 3 carries and Shapen completed passes of 5, 1, and 17 yards to Thornton, Estrada, and Sims, respectively. Shapen gained 8 yards on the ground, but his next pass to Sneed was incomplete. Smith ran for 5 yards and Shapen threw 3 incomplete passes before freshman K Isaiah Hankins’ field goal attempt was blocked at the end of the 2nd quarter.
The Cowboys quickly moved the ball to open the 3rd quarter, but on 2nd and 10 at the Baylor 40, Utley hurried Sanders and Sanders’ pass was intercepted by McVea for the Cowboys QB’s third pick of the day. Ebner rushed for a loss of 2 yards and gained 5 on a catch and Estrada caught a 6-yard pass, but the Bears failed to convert on 4th and 1 at their own 36 for a turnover on downs. Ika notched a tackle for loss during the OSU drive that ended with the Cowboys’ first TD of the day to go up 21-13. Shapen showed his speed on a 28-yard rush, Smith gained 8 yards on 4 carries, and Doyle added 2 on the ground to get a 1st down, but Baylor’s trick play with Thornton attempting a pass ended with a “sack” and intentional grounding after Thornton threw the ball out of bounds. The penalties on the drive forced the Bears back and ended with a Baylor punt, however, the Cowboys’ next drive moved 15 yards before Sanders’ pass was broken up by McVea and intercepted by Utley (Utley’s first interception of his career) for the QB’s fourth interception of the game. Smith lost 2 yards, Estrada caught a 5-yard pass, and Shapen almost fumbled the snap, but senior OL Grant Miller caught it to close the 3rd quarter.
Hankins attempted a 39-yard field goal but he missed it, and OSU got the ball back on their own 21. Ika and Bernard combined to sack Sanders for a loss of 9 yards, but Ebner muffed the punt return and the Cowboys recovered it at Baylor’s 30-yard-line. Junior DL TJ Franklin and Ogbonnaya sacked Sanders for a loss of 12 yards and OSU got an intentional grounding penalty to move them back. The Cowboys lost 3 yards on 3 downs starting at the Baylor 1-yard and were forced to kick a field goal on 4th and goal to tighten Baylor’s lead to 21-16. Shapen passed for 8 yards to Estrada and Smith rushed for 8 yards on 2 carries, but Shapen was sacked twice for a loss of 6 and 13 yards, so the Bears had to punt the ball away. Sophomore LB Garmon Randolph hurried Sanders and the Cowboys punted the ball back. Smith lost 2 yards on the ground, Shapen was sacked for a loss of 3 yards, and Sims caught a 7-yard pass on the Bears’ final drive of the Big 12 title game. OSU took 3 minutes and moved the ball 89 yards on 17 plays in their last series. Jones notched a QB hurry, but Sanders was the most efficient he’d been all game. On 3rd and 3 at the Baylor 6, junior CB Mark Milton got a pass interference penalty and the Cowboys were moved up to Baylor’s 2-yard-line. Within the next 4 plays, Cowboys RB Dezmon Jackson gained 1 yard on 2 carries, Pitre broke up Sanders’ pass on 3rd and goal, and McVea chased Jackson down toward the pylon for no gain to end the Big 12 title game.
5 Baylor athletes saw rushing attempts including Smith (17 carries for 63 yards), Ebner (5 carries for 17 yards), Doyle (1 carry for 2 yards), Shapen (9 carries for a loss of 9 yards), and Thornton (1 carry for a loss of 11 yards). 8 received passes including Thornton (6 catches for 71 yards and 1 TD), Estrada (6 catches for 33 yards and 1 TD), Sims (4 catches for 34 yards and 1 TD), Ebner (3 catches for 27 yards), Sneed (1 catch for 8 yards), Dabney (1 catch for 5 yards), Yates (1 catch for 4 yards), and Miller (1 catch for a loss of 2 yards). The defense amassed 79 tackles with 8 for a loss of 35 yards (Bernard, Doyle, Pitre, Jones, Ika, Ogbonnaya, Franklin, Utley), 2 sacks for a loss of 21 yards (Bernard, Ika, Ogbonnaya, Franklin), 1 forced fumble (Jones), 4 interceptions returned 48 yards (McVea, Woods, Jones, Utley), 4 pass break ups (McVea, Pitre, Barnes), and 5 QB hurries (McVea, Jones, Ogbonnaya, Utley, Randolph).
No. 7 Baylor will face No. 8 Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day at 7:45 p.m. (CT)!!!