OU football: Just in the Nik of time, Sooners save their season with 34-31 win at Baylor
WACO, Texas — Nik Bonitto dropped a sure interception, and you thought uh-oh, that might stop the greatest comeback in Oklahoma history.
The Sooners, down 25 points in the second quarter, had stormed back on the banks of the Brazos River to take the lead in the final two minutes, but Baylor’s offense finally had awakened.
Given new life, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer again threw in Bonitto’s direction. But the redshirt freshman from Fort Lauderdale stepped in front of Josh Fleeks and made a much tougher play, a diving interception that sent the OU sideline into delirium and every Sooner outpost into the same.
Talk about redemption. For Bonitto. For an OU defense that was in tatters only a couple of hours earlier.
OU beat Baylor 34-31 in one of the wildest games in Sooner history.
Baylor had scored two offensive touchdowns in regulation its previous two games. Then the Bears scored two in the first quarter and two more in the second quarter. Baylor led 28-3 in the second quarter and 31-10 at halftime.
Baylor ran just 16 plays in the second half and had just three first downs. The Sooners, without a takeaway since September, recovered a third-quarter Baylor fumble, then Bonitto saved the game.
“Getting that turnover (Patrick Fields recovered after Parnell Motley stripped the ball from Baylor tailback JaMycal Hasty), we stripped that ball, get it back, then it was kind of on from there,” Lincoln Riley said. “Like the monkey off your back.”
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For much of Saturday night, this was the USC Orange Bowl. The West Virginia Fiesta Bowl. Bedlam 2002. Over early and embarrassed often.
Jalen Hurts was downright bad. The defense was awful. Unbeaten Baylor looked like the team on a mission. The College Football Playoff committee, which has the Bears ranked 13th despite a 9-0 record, was summarily shamed. The Sooners looked like an Alamo Bowl team.
Then came a second half that never will be forgotten in Sooner annals.
Hurts stayed tough. OU receivers made big plays in the wake of receiver CeeDee Lamb, who was held out for medical reasons. The running game gained tough yards and finally broke a huge play — Kennedy Brooks dashed 32 yards on second-and-18 in the final four minutes, igniting a drive that led to Gabe Brkic’s 31-yard field goal that broke a 31-31 tie.
“Well, that was fun,” said Riley. “Can’t say enough about how well we played (in the second half). As a coach, there’s a lot of great wins. And we’ve been lucky to have a ton of ‘em here. But coming back like we did, this one is up there for sure. I’m beyond proud.”
Now the Sooners stay in the national title hunt. It won’t be easy to get there. OU will have to win out, then hope the committee likes what it has seen. Winning out won’t be easy. These same Baylor Bears could be waiting in Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game.
But the Sooners know they are capable of most anything. The biggest rally in OU history had been 21 points down. Now it’s 25, after a wild night in Central Texas when the Sooner defense grew up.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.