This is a new weekly post where we will discuss a “what if?” in Baylor Athletics history. These what ifs could include good or bad scenarios, such as changing the outcome of a game, or stopping someone from declaring for the draft early, or reversing an injury among many other possibilities.
This week: what if Bryce Petty had not gotten a surprise visit from the turf monster and tripped on the one yard line in the 2013 football game at Oklahoma State? I know this is a painful wound to reopen for Baylor fans (I was a freshman that year and had travelled all the way to Stillwater to watch the game in the below freezing weather), but I think it’s interesting to see how that play could have changed both this game and the season for the Bears.
For those of you that somehow don’t know about the play I’m discussing or have blissfully ripped it from your memories, here it is in all of its… glory?
Following Petty’s stumble, Shock Linwood would proceed to fumble the ball on Baylor’s own 1 yard line.
Oklahoma State then quickly moved out of the safety danger zone and went up 7-0, never looking back.
Let’s take a look at where the flow of the game was up to that dreadful slip. Baylor received the opening kickoff and moved the ball 27 yards into Oklahoma State territory before punting. Oklahoma State then moved the ball 33 yards before turning it over on downs in their own territory on a 4th and 1. Baylor got the ball back, rushed for a first down, then completed an 8-yard pass to Antwan Goodley before the run and tumble occurred.
So, let’s say Bryce Petty hadn’t spontaneously forgotten how running works within a few yards of the goal line and had walked in for an easy touchdown. What would that have meant for this game? Well, given the flow of the game up to that point, I think juking the 7-yard line and scoring six would’ve changed everything. Momentum was leaning heavily in Baylor’s favor. The defense had held on a 4th down stop and the offense was moving the ball well. A touchdown here would have put Baylor up 7-0, quieting the Stillwater crowd. Best case scenario, the Baylor defense is hyped up and gets another stop. Baylor’s offense turns that into more points and they start to run away with it in Boone Pickens Stadium like they had done so many other times that season. Worst case scenario, Oklahoma State comes back and answers with a score and the game begins to transition into a shootout. Even this would have given Baylor at least a coin flip of a chance at winning the game, as shootouts seemed to favor the high-powered Baylor offense.
That being said, I believe Baylor would have had a better chance at winning this game than losing it if Petty took it in for a TD. So, let’s go ahead and take the leap of faith and look at how the rest of the season would have turned out if there was no trip and Baylor beat OSU. Baylor was undefeated going into this game, with a win over then #12 Oklahoma under its belt. This game would’ve added a win over #11 Oklahoma State as well. If the rest of the regular season results stayed the same, Baylor would’ve entered the post season undefeated.
The 2014 BCS National Championship was the last of the BCS era, featuring a matchup between 13-0 Florida State and 12-1 Auburn. SEC Kool-Aid drinkers aside, an undefeated Baylor with wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas would’ve almost certainly made it to the National Championship. This is especially true since Baylor was ranked higher than one loss Auburn in the BCS computer and human polls going into the Oklahoma State game. So, it would have almost certainly been a Baylor/Florida State national championship.
Sadly, this is where the rosy what ifs come to an end. I’m fairly certain that Baylor would have lost to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston’s Florida State team. Baylor’s defense, while better than most years, clearly had plenty of holes. Winston would have exploited these. Baylor’s offense, while still probably able to score a good amount, would’ve definitely been hampered by the extraordinary 2013 FSU defense. So, I think Baylor would have ended the season as the runner up, at 12-1. But, considering that Baylor lost in the Fiesta Bowl to UCF that year, I think any Bear fan can agree this what if would have been a much better outcome. If only Oklahoma State hadn’t enlisted the 7-yard line as their ace open field tackler, this what if could have been a reality.
Have another “what if” you want explored in the coming weeks? Disagree with any of my analysis? Let me know in the comments!