- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
In a matchup of the Big 12’s most prolific passing offense and the conference’s top pass defense, there was a clear winner.
Oklahoma knocked off Baylor 42-34 on Saturday night at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium behind a terrific performance from the Sooners' secondary. The much-maligned group held Baylor to 172 passing yards and the Sooners' offense used another solid day from quarterback Landry Jones and the return of healthy Damien Williams to keep OU’s BCS berth hopes alive. Here are some key moments from the Sooners' win over the Bears.
Kenny Stills’ 15-yard catch on OU’s first drive
One play after Stills dropped a perfect throw, Jones went right back to the junior receiver. The Sooners were in their four-wide package with Stills, Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard to the left of the formation. Shepard and Saunders ran clearing routes for Stills who ran an in route and caught the ball two yards short of the first down then gained five yards for the first down.
It was a key play because it kept the Sooners from having to settle for a field goal on their opening drive. In addition, it showed Jones’ confidence, as well as offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s confidence, in Stills to go right back to him after the dropped pass. It was an excellent play call and Stills rewarded the Sooners’ trust in him.
OU scored on a 5-yard touchdown catch by running back Brennan Clay three plays later.
This was a key play because it was an early glimpse at OU’s game plan which put much of the burden of covering Williams on Hurst. And Hurst showed he was up to the challenge on this play and throughout the game.
Baylor was in its four-receiver set with Williams as an outside receiver on third-and-10 at OU’s 43-yard line. Williams ran an hook route and Hurst, who had obviously seen the play in the film during the week, didn’t hesitate to jump the route and almost intercepted the pass. The ball was batted into the air and Williams eventually caught it before being slammed to the ground by Hurst. It was a terrific early sign that Hurst was up to the challenge of covering one of the nation’s top receivers one-on-one.
The Bears settled for a 58-yard field goal by Aaron Jones.
Brennan Clay’s kickoff return
Baylor went with a squib kick after cutting OU’s lead to 21-17 with 32 seconds left in the first half. Clay made them pay with a 36-yard return to the Bears’ 45-yard line as he continues to make the Sooners' coaches look good for putting him back to return kickoffs.
Clay picked the ball up at the OU 20-yard line and got solid block from Trey Millard to create a crease, then weaved through defenders before being caught from behind by Clay Fuller. Several Sooners, including Aaron Ripkowski and Corey Nelson, had quality blocks to spark the momentum-changing return.
Jones found Justin Brown for a 35-yard touchdown two plays later. Clay’s return was arguably the biggest play of the game as it completely took the momentum away from the Bears, who appeared poised to head into their locker room with renewed hope and energy.
The Damien Williams show
After Baylor cut OU’s lead to 28-26 midway through the third quarter, the Sooners turned to Williams. The junior running back touched the ball six times on a 12-play scoring drive, capped by his 17-yard touchdown run.
In addition to his scoring run, Williams had a critical 16-yard reception on third-and-8 at the Baylor 48. OU was in its four-wide set and the Bears rushed just three defenders. Focusing on stopping the Sooners'receivers, BU left Williams one-on-one with linebacker Eddie Lackey. It was no contest as Williams shook loose on an out route, then broke Lackey’s tackle along the sideline to pick up the first down. It was a great read and throw by Jones, who allowed him to catch the ball in stride and pick up extra yardage.
It was a glimpse at why Williams has become OU’s featured back. He does everything well and can take advantage of defenses that don’t respect his receiving ability. Probably one of the easiest third-and-8 conversions of the season for the Sooners thanks to a scheme that created a mismatch.
Williams scored on the 17-yard run four plays later.
Hurst blankets Williams on BU’s next possession
This play was the perfect example of the reason OU’s defense held the Bears passing game to 172 yards through the air.
On the Bears' next possession after Williams' touchdown run, BU faced third-and-4 at its own 31-yard line. The Sooners used their seven-defensive-back package with Hurst lined up on Williams in the slot. Hurst refused to let Williams inside of him, placing himself between Williams and BU quarterback Nick Florence. Yet Florence threw the ball to Williams anyway, simply because the senior standout is his safety net and has made key plays in key situations throughout the season. The ball hit Hurst in the back without Williams even getting a chance to make a play.
Terrific coverage by Hurst and a small sampling of OU’s coverage for most of the night. The Sooners forced BU to make plays on Saturday instead of giving up big plays like they had in Waco in 2011.
The Bears understood the urgency of the situation, contemplating going for it on fourth-and-4 at their own 31. So much so, they got a delay of game before they finally ended up punting. BU coach Art Briles was right in being concerned in that moment because the Bears didn’t score another point until 1:26 left in the game with the Sooners clearly on their way to victory.
1dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon