The term survive and advance is widely used during the NCAA basketball tournament in March. That was the war cry for the Sooners on Saturday night as Oklahoma held on for a 49-41 victory in Waco over the Baylor Bears. In avoiding what could have been a devastating loss early in the season, Oklahoma will head into the bye week with the longest winning streak in the nation in tact.
Game of Runs
Oklahoma scored the first 14 points of the game with back-to-back Baker Mayfield touchdown throws to Mark Andrews and Dimitri Flowers. The Sooners appeared to be in control as they scored two more times to stretch the lead to 28-10 with 10 minutes left in the first half of play.
The Baylor offense exploded in the second and third quarter of play. Twenty-one straight points gave the Bears its first lead of the contest at 31-28. The scoring barrage was anchored by quarterback Zach Smith. Smith connected with Denzel Mims and Chris Platt for 71 and 72 yard scores, collectively.
Oklahoma responded as you would expect a championship team to. Although, the response came from an unexpected place. The Sooners went to the ground with true freshman Trey Sermon. Sermon reached pay-dirt twice pacing a 21-0 run by Oklahoma to make it a 49-31 lead.
Just as you thought that would bury the heavy underdog Baylor team, they came back for one last run. After a Connor Martin field goal cut the lead to 15, Smith once again connected with Mims for a six-yard score to cut the lead to eight points. After recovering an onside kick, the Bears would be 52 yards away from a potential touchdown to set a two point conversion attempt to tie the game. However, the Sooner defense finally stiffened as Ogbonnia Okoronkwo sacked Smith and forced a fumble on third down. The ball was recovered by Caleb Kelly to preserve the win.
Oklahoma fans had to be feeling like it was groundhog day. This was eerily similar to a performance against Texas Tech a year ago. The Oklahoma secondary appeared to be the strength of the defense coming in. It looked like a glaring weakness once again as Smith threw for 463 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Thomas was particularly ineffective as he was burned on multiple long touchdown passes for the Bears.
With the Bears consistently dropping into coverage in the third quarter, Sooner head coach and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley went to the ground. Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon carried the offense late in the game. Building off of his 99-yard touchdown run in the first half, Adams totaled 164 yards on 11 carries. Comparatively, Sermon was the bell-cow in the fourth quarter. Sermon carried the ball 12 times for 148 yards with a pair of scores. In trying to get out of the shadows of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, the running game had its most productive game of the season.
The Sooners may have hit their bye week at the perfect time. Oklahoma is banged up in the secondary and among the offensive line. Robert Barnes, Will Johnson and Cody Ford all missed this game and Jordan Thomas went out late in the game with an apparent lower leg injury. The extra week should do wonders in getting back to full strength.
These types of games can be season defining games. Does this game serve as a wake up call for the Sooners? Can they rebound and play with the same intensity and sense of urgency as was shown against Ohio State? The Cyclones come to Norman in two weeks before the annual Red River Shootout in Dallas. How Oklahoma responds to this contest will be a big determining factor in how far they can go this season.