A perfect day weather wise did not translate into a perfect day football wise, as the Bears drop their first conference game of the season to the Oklahoma State Cowboys 36-25. The defense was often put into short fields, the offense gave up a safety, and the kickoff coverage team gave up two huge returns, including a TD to start the second half. The Bears somehow kept the game close, and showed an admirable amount of fight, but the execution wasn’t there consistently on offense, and the defense struggled to get off the field as OSU converted in multiple 3rd and long situations.
Blake Shapen and the offense looked ok, if you only looked at the box score. But, the group wasn’t close to the rhythm and consistency they showed last week in Ames. Shapen finished 28-40 for 345 yards, 2 touchdowns, but also 2 very costly picks in the second half. Richard Reese was the best back once again, rushing for 85 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown added in. The return of Monaray Baldwin shined some light on the day, as the sophomore went off for 7 catches, 174 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Oklahoma State was very safe with the ball and really took what the defense gave them. They found some running success, carrying the ball 46 times for 166 times for 3.6 yards per carry. Spencer Sanders was a big part of that, going for 75 yards on the ground with a touchdown. Sanders, who has historically loved to turn the ball over against Baylor, only gave it up once, throwing for 181 yards on 20-29 passing. Dominic Richardson had 24 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Brennan Presley was their top performer out wide, catching 8 passes for 86 yards. Mike Gundy brought his normal brand of tempo to Waco, and it worked well, preventing the Bears from subbing regularly, while really taking the McLane crowd out of the game.
I don’t have much to critique the defense with. They played solid for most of the game, though they had some big 3rd downs that could’ve swung the game. They were put into rough situations from turnovers, failed 4th down attempts, or short fields from special teams. Only 27 of Oklahoma State’s 36 points can be attributed to the defense, as 9 of them were from a safety and special teams.
Really, the game boiled down to a team that seemed fully bought into what they wanted to do, and a team that still isn’t quite sure what its identity is. From the fan reaction I saw throughout the game, the result was due to Blake Shapen, playcalling, the line, the receivers, RB vision, the crowd, or whatever else you want to think of. To me, that’s an accurate picture of Baylor football, a mixed bag of good and bad with indecisiveness and a coaching staff still learning who they have added in. There’s a lot of things to criticize, but I am still proud of the fight the team showed. This is the first conference loss of the year, and with how everything else in the Big 12 is playing out, nothing is off the table because of this loss. We lost to this team last season and many were claiming the sky was falling, only to watch the staff and players find a stride as the season wore on, resulting in a nice conference trophy.
Baylor gets a well deserved off-week next weekend, followed by a Thursday night fight in Morgantown against West Virginia. Aranda and company will have plenty of time to digest everything from this game and try to show out against the Mountaineers.