Before we do the same, how about a few closing thoughts about OU’s miraculous comeback in Waco?
It’s still about turnovers and field position
You don’t hear football coaches and analysts talk as much about field position in the era of the spread – getting pinned deep in your own territory doesn’t represent a death sentence anymore. However, OU’s offensive generosity has repeatedly put the Sooners in tight spots this season by giving opponents the ball with favorable field position.
In the Sooners’ last three games versus the Kansas State Wildcats, Iowa State Cyclones and Baylor, OU turnovers gave opponents starting field position inside its own 35 yard line a total of six times. The six subsequent drives yielded a total of 35 points for the Wildcats, Clones and Bears. Baylor took possession of the ball on OU’s 27 in one case and OU’s nine on another in the first half. The Bears scored touchdowns on both.
Giving the ball away hurts a team badly enough, but gifting the other team points in the process can be fatal. It burned the Sooners against K-State, and they got off supremely lucky in the other two contests.
(On the flip side, OU had no shot at winning last weekend without two takeaways of its own.)
Script got flipped
Against Iowa St., the Sooners nearly blew a 21-point halftime lead. The OU defense initially appeared content in the second half to allow methodical drives to ISU in exchange for draining the clock. Lincoln Riley clearly didn’t count on his own offense completely stalling out. But for a TD in the third quarter, OU would have taken an L versus the Clones.
Take a look at OU’s final six drives against Baylor (plays-yards, time of possession):
- 14-75, 5:56
- 12-74, 5:44
- 11-53, 4:37
- 13-90, 4:59
- 13-77, 6:01
- 9-59, 2:30
Those are Army-like numbers.
We can draw two conclusions:
- OU stuck with its running game.
- Baylor’s defense played superbly against the most efficient offense in the country.
This might make for a compelling offseason project looking into game management and what constitutes a safe lead these days in college football.
Good night, Theo Wease
What worked for Baylor’s offense in the first half?
In the first half, Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Nixon set up quarterback Charlie Brewer for success. The passing game primarily consisted of RPOs and short drops with point-and-click throws that enabled the Baylor wide receivers such as Denzel Mims (six receptions for 92 yards and two TDs) to take advantage of matchups against OU defensive backs who were physically overmatched. In addition, the plan seemingly took pressure off of Baylor’s shaky offensive line to keep the OU pass rush from getting to Brewer.
Meanwhile, Baylor leaned on Brewer in the running game, too.
The Bears hit OU repeatedly with draws for Brewer and QB-centric RPOs. He also seemed to have a green light to take off from the pocket when he saw open space in the middle of the field, which was often. In the end, Brewer ran the ball 13 times for 83 yards and two scores in the first two quarters.
What happened in the second half?
For starters, Baylor barely had the ball. OU dominated possession in the third and fourth quarters, which helped the Sooners keep the ball for more than 40 minutes of game time. When the Bears did get the ball in their hands, OU bowed up against the QB running game.
Keep an eye on inside linebacker DaShaun White (No. 23) in the clip immediately above versus how he plays the run in the clip that preceded it. In this case, it appears as though White quickly diagnoses the run call and comes downhill to fill the B gap before Baylor’s right guard (No. 55) can engage.
With that path closed off, Brewer attempts to bounce outside. Unfortunately for Brewer, he ends up in the waiting arms of OU defensive end Ronnie Perkins (No. 7). OU’s Kenneth Murray (No. 9) also avoids the Baylor RB (No. 25) tasked with leading Brewer through the hole, putting the LB in position to help Perkins clean up.
The Sooners and Bears appear to be the most likely qualifiers for the Big 12 championship game during the first week of December. Could Baylor get revenge at AT&T Stadium?
OU would probably enter that game as a prohibitive favorite. Notably, the Sooners would have the best player in the conference, receiver CeeDee Lamb, back in their lineup. Despite the win, the impact of Lamb’s absence on Saturday stood out, especially in the first half.
Moreover, Baylor was feeding off a jacked-up crowd at McLane Stadium last weekend. The Bears’ early success and OU’s turnovers in the first half created a charged atmosphere inside the stadium that wouldn’t be replicated in Arlington.
Finally, even with the concerns about Jalen Hurts’ ball security this year, what are the chances that he hands the ball over to the Bears three times again?
The Bears are putting the finishing touches on a tremendous season, but right now, a rematch would point to a fifth straight conference title for the Crimson and Cream.