Fourth-ranked Baylor’s perfect season and its bid to remain in the mix for a BCS national championship vanished into the cold night air on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium after the Bears slipped up in their most formidable test to date in 2013.
Oklahoma State opened the eyes of a national television audience not merely by winning but by doing so handily, overwhelming Baylor 49-17 and satisfying the tastes of its firebrand fans — the loud super-majority of a stadium-record crowd of 60,218 — who arrived hungry to see the Bears’ ambitions go to ruin and those of their Cowboys advanced in the sub-freezing Oklahoma temperatures.
The Cowboys, winners of seven consecutive since what now seems an inexplicable loss to West Virginia in September, haven’t lost to Baylor at home since the start of WWII — in 1939.
They kept both streaks intact on Saturday by doing what no one on Baylor’s schedule has even dreamed of this season: locking down the nation’s top offense.
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Holding Baylor 44 points and 232 yards below its season per-game averages was “not something we anticipated,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
“But when you play at home in front of a crowd like this, and you get on a roll, sometimes that can happen.”
The inside track to the Big 12 championship and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl now belongs to the Cowboys (10-1, 7-1), who need only to beat Oklahoma in its regular-season final on Dec. 7.
Baylor (9-1, 6-1) travels to Fort Worth next Saturday to play TCU and closes the regular season at home against Texas.
The Cowboys, Bears and Longhorns all have one loss in the conference, but Oklahoma State owns the tiebreaker with victories over both.
“Props to them,” said Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. “Coach Gundy did a great job of getting his guys ready, and we have to do the same.
“A loss does not define this team. We have a lot to play for still. We have to get back right and have a great week of practice. We have to play TCU and beat TCU and then get ready for Texas.”
Baylor, playing again without two of its offensive standouts, missed almost all of its lines in delivering a forgettable performance and looking nothing like the team that dominated on both sides of the ball in winning its first nine games.
The Bears turned the ball over three times, and their defense was exploited for 594 yards and gave up seven touchdowns after allowing only 14 all season entering the game.
The nation’s third-rated passing attack seemed to finally miss Tevin Reese, out for the season with a wrist injury, and was out of sync and unable to find any separation from opposing defensive backs.
The running game stumbled without Lache Seastrunk, out a second straight game with a groin injury, and backup Glasco Martin and starting left tackle Spencer Drango.
Twice the Bears drove to within Oklahoma State’s 3-yard line and twice were undone by fumbles, including once in the first quarter when Baylor couldn’t score from the 1-yard line.
The second on a fumble mishap was last returned 78 yards for a touchdown by Cowboys defensive back Tyler Patmon.
Petty had two touchdown passes to Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood, both in the fourth quarter.
“They were Big 12 champs two years ago and have maintained over the last six or eight years,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Without question there are rodeos, and this is not their first one.
“Games are all about momentum and if we put that first one in and go up 7-0, you know.”
The Cowboys, meanwhile, won for the 17th time in their past 18 home games by doing very little wrong.
Cowboys quarterback Clint Chelf chewed up the Bears with 370 yards on 19-of-25 passing and three touchdowns. He ran for another.
Chelf set up the second of Kye Staley’s two touchdowns by taking a return pass from Josh Stewart of a lateral and running 48 yards to the Bears’ 5.
Oklahoma State tried to play keep-away and control the time of possession with its running game, which went for 154 yards on 46 carries.
Yet, scores on their first four touchdowns came off quick-strike drives and took very little time.
After recovering a fumble, the Cowboys drove 99 yards in seven plays in the first quarter, capped by Staley’s 2-yard touchdown run.
After opening its first drive with eight consecutive running plays, Oklahoma State went down field field on its second, with Chelf throwing for gains of 28 yards to Charlie Moore, 51 to Marcell Ateman and 18 yards to Stewart on second-and-19.
The Cowboys took a 14-0 lead by going 80 yards in five plays, including one pass from Chelf to Brandon Shepherd for 25 yards and another from the quarterback to Moore for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Oklahoma State needed only three plays and 1:37 on the opening drive of the second half to extend its lead.
Chelf tossed his second touchdown, 56 yards to Tracy Moore, that put the Cowboys in control.
“He was really effective throwing the ball,” Gundy said of Chelf. “He made good decisions. I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s accomplished.”
Baylor’s first best opportunity was its second possession, which began at the Cowboys’ 46. Petty took a keeper around the left side and ran unimpeded downfield with what appeared to be a sure touchdown before tripping over his own feet and falling down at the 1.
Shock Linwood fumbled on second-and-goal at the 1 while trying to extend the ball across the goal line. The Cowboys’ James Castleman slapped the ball out of Linwood’s hands as the Baylor running back lay straddled atop a pile of players.
“That’s not Shock’s fault, that’s my fault,” Petty said. “My feet just left me a little bit … I have to finish that.”
Except for the loss to West Virginia (4-7), the Cowboys would be in the hunt for a national title.
“Things happen in life,” Gundy said. “One thing we tell our players – after a play, practice or a game there’s no one who can go back and fix it. Life is about moving on and accepting the next challenge.
“I was as upset about the West Virginia game as I’ve ever been. Things don’t work. Most of the time they don’t work. You have to figure out how to get it done.”