OU football: The seven unsung plays that created the Sooners' comeback win over Baylor
WACO, Texas – The Sooner football team assembled for some video motivation last week. Included in the clips were the Patriots’ 34-28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51.
You know. The 28-3 game.
Now comes 28-3 Part II. The Sooners rallied from that exact same score to defeat Baylor 34-31 Saturday night at McLane Stadium.
The seeds of such of such a comeback were planted a few days earlier.
"We literally watched that this week,” OU cornerback Parnell Motley said. “It's crazy how ironic it is. We watched how the Patriots faced adversity and how things went. It showed us how to face adversity.”
The Falcons could have put away the Patriots on any number of snaps. Same with Baylor and OU. You remember all the massive plays — Nik Bonitto’s interception and Gabe Brkic’s field goal and Jalen Hurts’ second-half touchdown passes.
But don’t forget the other plays that made the impossible dream possible. Here are seven plays from Saturday night, any one of which could have sunk the Sooners. Instead, the plays went OU’s way, and eventually so did the game.
1. Second quarter, Baylor up 28-3. OU faced fourth-and-5 from the Baylor 33-yard line. Hurts threw to Charleston Rambo, who was popped by Baylor defender Jameson Houston and the pass fell incomplete. A flag was thrown, but other officials quickly alerted their colleague that Baylor linebacker Jordan Williams had tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage, negating any pass interference.
But after a conference, defensive holding was called instead. First down OU. The Sooners scored six plays later to draw within 28-10.
“We felt we were off the field,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “They put the ball back on the field, they score.”
2. Final 20 seconds of the second quarter, Baylor led 28-10 and faced second-and-4 from the OU 11-yard line. Quarterback Charlie Brewer threw a fade to R.J. Sneed in the corner of the end zone. Safety Brendan Radley-Hiles played physical with Sneed the entire route, the ball fell incomplete and no penalty was called. Baylor settled for a field goal and led 31-10 at halftime instead of 35-10.
“Felt like we had some momentum there at the end of the half, as crazy as that may sound,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said.
3. Early third quarter, OU trailed 31-10, and center Creed Humphrey was called for holding on a third-and-3 incompeletion. Rhule accepted the penalty, setting up third-and-13 from the Baylor 31 instead of fourth-and-3 from the Baylor 21.
“That was a hard one,” Rhule said. “Wish I would have made them kick it.”
That’s because on third-and-13, Rambo took a short pass from Hurts, turned the corner and went all the way to the 5-yard line. Three plays later, OU scored and suddenly had life, trailing 31-17 with 9:46 left.
4. Early fourth quarter, same score, OU faced fourth-and-1 from the Baylor 21-yard line. Hurts faked a handoff to tailback Kennedy Brooks, then slithered out of a tackle by Williams and fell through a crack in the wall to gain a yard and a half. The next play, Hurts threw a touchdown pass to Theo Wease, and OU trailed just 31-24 with 12:58 left.
“I think you win games on third down and in the red zone,” Hurts said. Or fourth down by reaching the red zone.
5. Early fourth quarter, Baylor leading 31-24, the Bears faced third-and-9 from their 23-yard line. For one of the few times all half, Brewer found an open receiver. But Tyquan Thornton dropped the pass beyond the first-down marker. After a punt, OU had the ball and the chance to tie a game that had seemed hopelessly lost.
“We catch the ball, we’re rolling,” Rhule said. “We didn’t catch it.”
6. Late fourth quarter, game tied 31-31, OU faced second-and-19 from its 23-yard line. To that point, Sooner tailbacks had combined for 80 yards on 22 carries. Riley had enough faith to stay with his running game. But Brooks took a handoff from Hurts, hit a seam on the perimeter and zipped 32 yards.
“They made really nice plays,” Rhule said. “Our tackling started falling apart. I said this week, ‘We’re going to take away Jalen Hurts in the run game, run the tackle on the perimeter. We did it the first half, not quite as well the second half.”
7. Late fourth quarter, same possession, first down at the Baylor 21-yard line. A wild snap by Humphrey bounced all the way back to the Baylor 38. Hurts ran it down, and nobody could have blamed him had he fallen on the ball. Instead, Hurts scooped it up, turned and, while drifting toward the sideline, flung a pass well beyond the line of scrimmage. The incompletion was maybe his best play of the game, saving massive yardage.
Two plays later, Brkic’s 31-yard field goal gave the Sooners the lead.
Soon enough, Bonitto intercepted a Brewer pass, and the Sooners had a victory for the ages, courtesy of a bunch of plays that are easier to forget, but impossible to win without.
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.