Oklahoma State came into Waco knowing that a win would make them bowl eligible and validate their win over Texas as more than just a moment of magic. Instead, it was the Bears who delivered a statement game with some magic of their own.
The Cowboys went into halftime down 14-10 knowing that penalties and special teams blunders had squandered what should have been a healthy lead. Taylor Cornelius opened the game continuing his newfound confidence in running the football, striding into the end-zone from six yards out to put his team up 7-0. Baylor’s quarterback Jalan McClendan answered with a running score of his own to level the game after a speedy 6-play, 69-yard drive.
Matt Ammendola hit the only field goal his three tries on the day to put the Cowboys back on top 10-7. It looked as if Oklahoma State would be able to walk into the visitors’ locker room with a narrow halftime advantage. Instead, a special teams meltdown gifted the Bears the midway lead.
After their ensuing drive stalled, the Cowboys were forced to punt backed up against their own 30 when Baylor’s Trestan Ebner burst through the feeble orange protectors to emphatically THUMP the ball off its flight and followed it into the end-zone to cap a seven-yard blocked punt return. 14-10 Bears at the half.
Oklahoma State came out of the half with renewed vigor and began to resemble the team that confidently knocked off Texas last weekend. After an initial three-and-out, two quick Tylan Wallace touchdowns gave the team a healthy 24-14 lead with seconds left in the third quarter. For a second time though, the Cowboys collapsed as the quarter ran down, giving up a shocking 75-yard touchdown on the ground to Baylor running back John Lovett on a simple draw play. The Cowboys’ defense made an extremely poor showing on the slow-starting, awkward touchdown: shoved off the ball at the line of scrimmaged and badly juked in the secondary to give up the score. What should have been a 10-point lead turned into a narrow 24-21 advantage at the end of the third.
To their credit, the Cowboys opened up the fourth quarter strong. Justice Hill scored from two yards out to restore a big of breathing room for the visitors. 31-21 Cowboys. Hill had a welcome return to his powerful best, finishing with 18 carries for 119 yards and a score, but the Cowboys breathing room was short lived. Disappointed with McClendan’s inability to move the offense, Baylor coach Matt Rhule decided that starting quarterback Charlie Brewer was fit to return from concussion protocol. The Baylor offense took flight. Brewer found the versatile running-back-turned-receiver Jalen Hurd for a 36-yard laser strike to cap off an 8-play, 86-yard drive. 31-28 Bears.
Although they had the opportunity to kill off the game with a long drive, Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich opted for a handful of predictable J.D. King carries and short throws. Taylor Cornelius struggled to feel the Baylor pressure and the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs. Still fresh off the bench, Brewer showed no signs of rust. In another eight plays, he led his team down the field and delivered another clutch touchdown throw, allowing a leaping Denzel Mims to high point the ball over the diminutive and late-reacting A.J. Green, Jr. and give Baylor a 35-31 lead with just seven seconds remaining. Unlike the visitors, the home team was able to see out the quarter and held on for the win, handing Oklahoma State its fourth loss in the last six games.
It doesn’t get any easier anytime soon. Bedlam and visit to No. 7 Oklahoma awaits, followed by a home game against a West Virginia team that’s sure to be higher than its current No. 13 ranking after a last minute win over Texas.