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COWBOYS FOOTBALL BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP: Baylor 21, Oklahoma State 16

OSU saved their worst offensive performance of the season for their most important game of the season.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Championship-Baylor vs Oklahoma State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

We all wondered how Oklahoma State would respond after a draining, emotional win over Oklahoma in Bedlam.

The defense came out a bit flat and Baylor’s freshman QB, in just his 2nd start, completed his first 17 passes and was dropping dimes.

The offense?

Implosion. Four Spencer Sanders interceptions would doom Oklahoma State’s dreams of a spot in the college football playoff.

Baylor would move well on their first possession, but a fumble in OSU territory would end that. Oklahoma State put together a nice opening drive that stalled inside the Bears’ 10-yard line (and this would be a nasty narrative for the game), so the Cowboys would settle for a FG to take an early 3-0 lead. The defense would snap out of it to force a three and out, but then OSU went this direction on the subsequent six drives...

2 plays, INT
4 plays, INT
3 plays, PUNT
3 plays, PUNT
10 plays, FG (there’s that narrative I mentioned)
8 plays, INT

The first two interceptions would give Baylor extremely short fields which they took advantage of, and one field position battle gave them the ball on OSU’s side of the field that they converted for a TD. The Bears’ game plan was well designed and mirrored Iowa State’s, taking advantage of a lot of short passes and some TE seam routes, and one TD pass and catch that was, I have to say, chef’s kiss.

The Cowboys found themselves down 21-6 at the half but got the ball to start the 3rd quarter. Positive?

(see last INT listed above)

As has happened so often this season, Jim Knowles’ defense and a couple of miscues by the opponent would allow OSU to stay in this. Other than the short field scores, Baylor’s offense would net one fumble, five punts, and one turnover on downs. Their special teams would fair worse, posting two FG attempts (one blocked, one missed) and one muffed punt that resulted in...can you guess...another Oklahoma State FG. The turnover on downs was a head-scratcher for me, and it resulted in the Cowboys' only touchdown that completely changed the tenor of the game.

Overall (courtesy of ESPN), OSU would win all the statistical categories...except one.

Not gonna lie, this hurts.

Oklahoma State, for as bad as their offense appeared due to the INT’s and punts, would have five drives make it inside the Baylor 10 yard line, three of those inside the five WITH FIRST DOWNS. Results?

1 TD
3 FGs
1 turnover on downs

That last one, with the game on the line, was brutal.

The Cowboys would get the ball back with no timeouts, 3:14 left in the game, and 90 yards to paydirt. After a pretty methodical and impressive march down the field, OSU would have a 3rd and 3 at the Baylor six. Sanders went for the fade to Tay Martin and the Bear’s Mark Milton was flagged for pass interference.

First down OSU on Baylor’s two. Clock running at just a little over a minute left and Baylor was out of time-outs.

Oklahoma State would roll out a package I don’t recall seeing this year, with extra lineman as blockers on the right edge. After two tries the Cowboys had barely gained a yard. This was screaming for a misdirection play of some kind. On third down they ran a nice play-action out of the same formation, and one of the extra lineman slipped out to the end zone and for a moment was WIDE open.

Twas not to be, however, as Sanders’ first read was the lineman running shallow and by the time he came off that and went to the other option the Baylor defender had recovered and made a nice play to break up the throw. Then, on fourth down with the season on the line, OSU would put the ball in Dezmond Jackson’s hands and he came THIS close...

Four drives inside Baylor’s 10 would result in nine points. Gundy needs to give a couple of those schollies he took away from the offense BACK so we can bring in more offensive linemen.

Not gonna take anything away from Baylor, their defense balled out and the offense took advantage of opportunities. I am curious about the confusion on that last fourth down when it appeared that Baylor tried to call a timeout, only to have the refs huddle, say play on, and the Cowboys had to rush back into position for the play.

I will say that OSU’s offense struggled all season with injuries at lots of positions. Jaylen Warren was out, Pressley was limited due to some kind of flu bug, they were missing their starting center and the backup, who played admirably last week, got eaten alive today. It just seemed like it was never really able to turn everyone loose at the same time.

That being said...the offensive game planning is questionable at best. OC Kasey Dunn, in his second year, said this after the game...

Dude, you left enough plays in the book that you could call two or three more games using only those and have some left over. Only one “trick” play was used in a game that saw the offensive line getting blown up almost every play. For all of you calling for Illingworth, please, he would have been killed. Baylor has a very good defense, not insurmountable, but you have to keep them off-balance, and Kasey Dunn’s play-calling decidedly did not do that.

Then you add to that Spencer Sanders.

The first time he saw Baylor he threw three picks. Against OU he should have had three, but one was dropped that would have been a pick-six. Granted, two of his INTs today were somewhat a result of him being hit as he threw, but his first was an absolute howler and another was one he should have thrown in the ground (the one to Pressley that was high and behind him as he was hit and Baylor grabbed the deflection). Sanders has enough talent AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THIS KIND OF DEFENSE to overcome a couple of those, but you saw how hard it is to overcome four.

I truly don’t know how I feel about Spencer continuing at QB. He does have another year should he choose to exercise it, and if he does it is HIGHLY likely he is the starter next season. I can’t fault his competitiveness, kid leaves it all on the field.

But the defense is NOT likely to be as stingy next season despite eight returning players, and the offensive line needs to get a LOT better if we’re gonna have a tree standing back there. Never mind I don’t trust Gundy with QB decisions (but I’m not going down that rabbit hole right now).

We’ll have plenty of time to get into all that as we go through the winter and focus on spring football since hoops won’t be playing in March/April.

For now, let’s try to enjoy an 11-win season with what should be a NYr’s six bowl birth. They’ll have four weeks to get healthy.

Then we can watch all the gadget plays get rolled out for the bowl game.