By Michael Kinney
NORMAN– After back-to-back wins against Kansas and Iowa State, all appeared to be on track at Oklahoma. The messiness of their three-game losing streak was in their rearview window.
However, those same issues cropped back up Saturday when they hosted Baylor. Turnovers, suspect play calling, defensive breakdowns and a lack of physicality led to a 38-35 loss to the Bears at Memorial Stadium.
It was the lack of physical play that seemed to stick out as the biggest concern for coach Brent Venables.
“I don’t know. We have to be better there and improve that,” Venables said. “It’s an area that we need to work on and improve.”
Trailing by 10 late in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma (5-4, 2-4 Big 12)) reeled off a 13 play, 75-yard drive that ended with Eric Gray plunging into the endzone from one yard out. The touchdown cut the deficit to 38-35 with just 4:10 left in the contest.
After kicking off, the Sooners needed their defense to come up with one stop in order to get the ball back to their offense with a chance to tie or take the lead. Unfortunately for OU, Baylor (6-3, 4-2) had other ideas.
The Bears pounded the ball down the Sooners throat. But on a 3rd and long from near midfield, Baylor tailback Craig Williams broke loose for a 41-yard gain. Instead of running into the endzone, he down the ball just short of so the Bears could run out the clock.
“Just trying to be a team player and understanding the situation,” Williams said. “We practice these things all the time in practice. Just understanding that I didn‘t need to score and give OU the ball back, it was just the right play.“
Williams finished the day 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. As a team, the Bears rolled up 308 yards on the ground.
Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-34 passing. However, he also tossed three interceptions in the first half.
“We’re throwing it high, it’s getting tipped and tips are picks,” Venables said. “We threw it up way over the middle and you can’t do that. Baylor is a good and disciplined football team, and they took advantage of some bad decisions. I love the fight and a lot of things that we did, particularly in the second half. I thought we came back and responded in a great way. Obviously, those aren’t ever very good. We held them to 10 points with the interceptions and we have to be better.”
Gray rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. It was his third straight 100-yard rushing game and sixth of the season. He also registered career highs in receptions (eight; tied) and receiving yards (58).
“It’s frustrating for us. Those are the types of things that you practice all week to prevent,” Gray said. “In all games, especially ones that are tight, that’s what matters. The details matter.”
The Sooners took advantage of some sloppy tackling by Baylor on the game’s opening possession. They drove 70 yards before quarterback Gabriel scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown run to put OU up 7-0.
However, the Bears answered right back with an 11-play drive that ended with a Williams TD run.
On the ensuing possession, Gabriel had a pass that tipped at the line of scrimmage before it was picked off in Oklahoma territory. That set up a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jordan Neighbors.
The points kept rolling in the first half. Oklahoma picked up touchdowns from Gray and Marvin Mims. Yet, they still trailed .24-21.
But with Baylor driving toward another score, sophomore Billy Bowman came up with an interception on the OU 20-yard line and 3:10 on the clock.
“I was really trying to just make the tackle. I saw their quarterback throwing it and didn’t know if I could get to the ball or not,” Bowman said. “Then it went through his hands, and I just caught it.”
However, Dillion’s third interception of the first half gave the ball right back to the Bears. Baylor led by three at halftime.
The Sooners are back on the road Nov. 12 when they take on West Virginia in Morgantown. Kick off is set for 11 a.m.
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