At least it felt like they were trying today.
That’s what someone said to me in the third quarter when we were down 25 after having had opportunities earlier in the game to get within a score on two separate occasions. At least it felt like they were trying today.
The good news is that I completely agree — our guys looked like they were trying. The bad news is that for a bunch of reasons, it wasn’t enough. Baylor had the chance to make a game of it early, to take the lead if things broke our way right around halftime, but we couldn’t do it. On one drive inside the five, Seth Russell threw an interception into about five different Sooners (reportedly, the WR ran the wrong route, but it looked like Seth just missed the LB standing there). On another, we got down to the 2 before one of our OL decided to retaliate by throwing a punch, pushing us back 15 yards. We got the ball back right before the half on an Orion Stewart interception and looked to be gaining momentum with Blake Lynch moving into the backfield and Seth starting to gain confidence, then a fumble killed that drive, too.
I could keep going. The bottom line is that coming off back-to-back losses and against a team like Oklahoma and with only 63 scholarship players at your disposal, you need to do things more or less perfectly to win the game. From almost the word “go,” we didn’t. But even then, we still had a chance before it all fell apart again.
To give you a glimpse into how post-game threads work sometimes, I wrote everything above this paragraph before Seth’s gruesome-looking injury in the third quarter that changed the real impact of this game. I left it all because, as awful as it was to see Seth suffer what was probably another season-ending injury, that injury put the whole game back into perspective for me on what really matters. So, too, did the response of the Oklahoma players and fans (as well as our own) as he was carted off the field.
For the last 18 months or so — the time that has caused so much turmoil inside and outside Baylor Nation about our program and University — Seth Russell has been one of the guys that we could be unashamedly proud of. After suffering a broken neck last season against Iowa State that may have caused others to decide never to play again, he recovered in time to win his job back. He found out his mentor and coach Art Briles was fired when he was helping people on a mission trip in Brazil, never contemplated leaving (as he easily could have) in the aftermath, and made himself open to any and all questions ever since. He’s been the undisputed leader of a team that desperately needed leaders more than anything else. I’m proud of him for all of that, and I’m proud of him for the fact that while he was sitting on that cart with what looked like a broken leg, knowing he might never play football again (for the second time), he was shaking hands and high-fiving his competitors. Losing a football game shouldn’t matter when we have guys like that we can celebrate, regardless. That this guy, who has done everything right as a Baylor Bear, can be so unlucky should remind us all to be thankful for what we have and to keep our priorities straight. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning a lot lately, but that it never hurts to learn again.
Moving back into the game for a moment to wrap things up, I still agree with the statement above that our guys never quit, even after losing Seth. They played hard; they just didn’t have enough against what I’ve always believed was a legitimately good team in Oklahoma.
Also, there are a few bright points that I wanted to highlight going forward. Zach Smith, for one, looked pretty dang good at QB once he came in after Seth’s injury. That’s good, because we have three regular season games remaining, we’re going to need him. The aforementioned Blake Lynch also showed something at RB, which may be useful information going forward if Terence Williams is banged up or Shock Linwood gets in trouble again. With those guys and JaMycal Hasty, who led the team with 75 rushing yards, there’s plenty to look at with hope for next year. I’d include KD Cannon’s 120+ passing yards and 2 TDs in that if it seemed likely at all that Cannon would return next year.
Keep an eye on the Seth Russell thread that’s already on the front page. I’ll update it as often as I can with new information as we get it.