OU football: Sooners seek redemption against Baylor
Although No. 12 Oklahoma (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) won’t have to prepare for Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III when it hosts Baylor (4-4, 1-4) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, the Sooners said they’re not overlooking an offense that reloaded from a year ago.
Baylor won’t have RGIII — taken by Washington in the first round — but will bring the nation’s top total offense (581.5 yards per game), including the nation’s leading passer, quarterback Nick Florence, who averages 377.7 yards per game this season.
“They have great schemes and great speed across the board,” coach Bob Stoops said. “Their quarterback in an experienced guy; you put that all together, and they haven’t missed a beat.”
Normally that wouldn’t be an issue for the Sooners, who previously held a 20-game winning streak over the Bears. But this time, OU has waited 12 months to repay a debt for last season’s 45-38 loss in Waco.
Senior safety Javon Harris said he has watched the game film more times than he can count, including Baylor senior receiver Terrance Williams’ infamous game-winning catch. (See page 12.)
Before the 2012 season started, members of the defense talked about how they wanted to redeem themselves from last year’s busted coverages. Learning from last year’s mistakes and correcting them in practice is something Stoops said will help right the ship for the Sooners this year.
“I would think (the defense) would remember (last year’s game), not only because how they played last year, but also because of what Baylor’s doing this year with all the yards and points they’re putting up,” Stoops said.
Even newcomers to the team — like freshman wide receiver Sterling Shepard — are using last year’s devastating loss as a reminder that even solid offensive performances don’t always yield wins.
“That’s why it’s important to keep putting points on the board in this game,” Shepard said. “We know that they’re capable of doing that on offense, too, so we just have to keep getting open and make those plays because we know it will keep us in the ballgame.”
In last year’s loss, OU put up 605 total yards of offense, including more first downs and more offensive plays than the Bears. But it came down to the last play of the game — a catch with eight seconds remaining — that made the difference in the game’s result.
“Previous to the last drive, we drove it down the field and scored a touchdown, and at that point, it is out of your offensive hands and your defense has to go up there and make a play,” senior quarterback Landry Jones said. “Robert Griffin made a great play at the end of the game to win it for them.”
Although Baylor continues to pack the big punch on offense this season, the Sooners have an advantage going up against a Bears defense ranked dead last — No. 120 out of 120 — that allows an average 527.3 yards per game.
Earlier this year against West Virginia and the offense led by quarterback Geno Smith, the Bears surrendered 807 yards of offense.
“I think for us, the more people we can get in, the fresher we will be, especially with no-huddle,” Jones said. “It’s better for us in spreading the ball around so they can’t stay on one guy or double one guy.”
Two keys for Baylor will be ball control and forcing turnovers, both facets of the game that No. 2 Kansas State and No. 4 Notre Dame used to secure previously rare wins on Owen Field.
“It’s important to control a certain rhythm to the football game because of the environment, but at the same time, you have to be you,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We can’t change our game plan just because we are changing area codes.”
OU needs this win in order to stay in contention for the final Big 12 standings that will help improve the team’s bowl selection.
Likewise, Baylor earned its first conference win of the season last week against Kansas and is looking to pick up where it left off last weekend.
And although the Bears have never beaten the Sooners on Owen Field, Florence said Baylor has a leg up on OU and will be bringing the swagger it gained last year to Norman.
“We absolutely have confidence from last year and we will feed off of that, but at the same time, it’s a totally different year,” Florence said. “It’s a new time, and let’s write a new chapter this year.”