Sunday, November 19, 2006
By Jerry Hill
Tribune-Herald assistant sports editor
This might have been Baylor’s Senior Day, but Oklahoma’s super sophs and a freshman sub showed the Bears who’s boss.
With Reggie Smith scoring on a 42-yard interception return, Juaquin Iglesias taking a free kick 88 yards for a touchdown and freshman Chris Brown rushing for 169 yards, the 16th-ranked Sooners’ kiddie corps sent Baylor’s seniors out with a 36-10 loss Saturday afternoon at Floyd Casey Stadium.
“We were embarrassed those last three games, and all three of them were on TV,” said senior cornerback C.J. Wilson. “There’s a reason why Fox Sports puts you on TV, so you can show something. And we didn’t.”
While the Sooners (9-2, 6-1) kept their hopes alive for a possible Big 12 South title, the Bears lost their fourth in a row to finish 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big 12.
“We just couldn’t find any rhythm,” Baylor head coach Guy Morriss said. “This would happen. And then we’d get that fixed and something else would break loose. We were just totally out of sync, for some reason.”
The Oklahoma defense had something to do with that, sacking redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Szymanski five times and picking him off twice.
Baylor’s “Air Raid” offense was held to a school record-low minus-48 yards rushing and 140 yards total — the fewest since a 127-yard effort in a 41-0 loss to Texas in 2002.
“When it came down to it, we didn’t get the ball in our playmakers’ hands,” said Szymanski, who was 22-of-45 for 188 yards. “OU is too good a team to not take advantage of the turnovers that were forced. That’s going to come back to haunt you, because OU’s going to score points. And if we don’t put any points on the board, then we’re not going to be able to hang with them.”
If there was a silver lining, at least the Baylor defense showed up.
After back-to-back embarrassing performances in road losses to Texas Tech (55-21) and Oklahoma State (66-24), the Bears forced five turnovers and gave up just two long scoring drives all day.
“We actually looked like ourselves today,” said senior cornerback Anthony Arline, who had a second-quarter interception return that the offense failed to turn into points.
“I’m not happy with the loss, of course, but at least we kind of stopped that streak of just playing horrible defense,” said senior safety Maurice Linguist. “We did a good job of flying around and giving our offense a few more opportunities.”
After going three-and-out on its opening series, Oklahoma put together an impressive 10-play, 85-yard scoring drive.
Brown, filling in for the injured Adrian Peterson and Allen Patrick, picked up 47 yards on five carries. And then quarterback Paul Thompson lofted a perfect pass to tight end Joe Jon Finley over the coverage of safety Alton Widemon.
The Sooners nearly turned a botched conversion kick into a two-point conversion, but Finley dropped a pass from holder Hays McEachern after a bad snap.
Szymanski’s first critical mistake of the game came just two plays later, when he underthrew Thomas White on a post route. Smith picked it off and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to give OU a 13-0 lead with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
Smith returned the favor when he fumbled a 56-yard Daniel Sepulveda punt that Braelon Davis recovered at the Sooners’ 24-yard line.
Unable to pick up a first down, the Bears had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Havens that cut the deficit to 13-3 with 2:02 left in the opening quarter.
Oklahoma looked like it would extend the lead when Thompson hit Malcolm Kelly with a perfect pass over cornerback James Todd.
But after stiff-arming Linguist, Kelly looked like he just dropped the ball, with free safety Dwain Crawford recovering for the Bears at the 6.
“I’m not going to take credit for something I didn’t necessarily do,” said Linguist, who was credited with a forced fumble on the play. “I was just trying to hustle and make something happen. Whether I hit it, or I distracted him and he hit it out himself, I’m just glad the ball came back to us.”
Twice in the last eight minutes of the half, the Bears had chances inside the Sooners’ 40 and came up empty.
On the first one, senior running back Mario Price fell down catching a two-yard pass from Szymanski on fourth-and-three from the 38.
But the more frustrating series came after Arline’s 15-yard interception return to the 38.
Szymanski picked up a first down with a short pass to Paul Mosley on fourth-and-two. But two sacks and a bad snap later, and the Bears were looking at fourth-and-40 from their own 42.
“It’s very critical at that particular point,” Morriss said. “If we go in 13-10, I think maybe the momentum shifts our way. But those are things that we’ve got to be able to overcome.”
What the Bears couldn’t overcome was Oklahoma’s 23-point scoring spree in the third quarter.
It took the Sooners just five plays to go 75 yards, capped by Thompson’s 21-yard pass to a wide-open Kelly.
And then the floodgates opened.
Starting with a 52-yard interception return by Smith and a seven-yard TD run by Brown, OU scored 16 points in a stretch of 2 minutes and 16 seconds.
After Szymanski was sacked for a safety by Alonzo Dotson, the nephew of former Baylor all-American Santana Dotson, Iglesias returned the ensuing free kick for an 88-yard touchdown and 36-3 lead with 5:30 still left in the third quarter.
“Jauquin did a great job of hitting the seam and taking it,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
Davis recovered another fumbled punt return by Smith — a play that was reviewed and upheld by the replay official.
But after getting sacked for a 14-yard loss, Szymanski wound up pooch-kicking on fourth-and-23 from OU’s 37.
The Bears blew another scoring chance early in the fourth quarter. After sophomore running back Jacoby Jones picked up 23 yards on a short pass in the right flat down to the Sooners’ 16, Szymanski missed White on a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
Davis provided the only fourth-quarter scoring when he picked up a Brown fumble and sprinted 56 yards for a touchdown, cutting inside Thompson at the 20.
“When I picked it up, I saw nothing but green,” said Davis, who scored on a blocked punt as a true freshman in 2003. “Normally I could easily outrun somebody, but (Thompson) is pretty athletic and had a good angle on me. I just cut back, and there was nobody there.”
Still needing help from Texas A&M, Oklahoma can win the Big 12 South with a win over Oklahoma State, coupled with an Aggies’ victory over Texas.
“We’re going to focus on doing our part,” Stoops said. “That’s all we can do. All I’m thinking about is how we’re going to play Oklahoma State.”