No. 6 Baylor pounds No. 10 Oklahoma to validate its BCS mettle

Let the record show that No. 6 Baylor looked comfortable Thursday in its new role as budding goliath in the world of big-time college football.

The Bears, known mostly for their point-per-minute offense while climbing into the BCS national title chase, showed much more than long-range touchdown passes and timely scoring runs while dismantling No. 10 Oklahoma 41-12 in Floyd Casey Stadium.

The Bears also flashed a stellar defense, holding Oklahoma to three points on seven first-half snaps inside the Bears’ 12-yard line while the game was on the line and the Bears’ offense was sputtering.

But a three-touchdown surge in the final 7:02 of the first half, including a 47-second stretch when the Bears (8-0, 5-0 in Big 12) scored two touchdowns, turned the momentum in Baylor’s direction for keeps in front of a capacity-plus crowd of 50,537, the fourth-largest in stadium history. The 8-0 record marks the first time in school history that Baylor has begun a football season with eight consecutive victories.

The Sooners (7-2, 4-2) looked nothing like a top 10 team while falling by double digits for the second time in two trips south of the Red River this season. Oklahoma also was pounded by unranked Texas 36-20 on Oct. 12 in Dallas. The 29-point setback was the fourth-largest defeat in OU coach Bob Stoops’ tenure, surpassed only by losses to Southern California (55-19 in 2004), Oklahoma State (44-10 in 2011) and Texas (45-12 in 2005).

Baylor did the honors Thursday, holding the Sooners to 237 total yards keeping OU out of the end zone until the 3:20 mark of the third quarter, when quarterback Blake Bell found Roy Finch on a fourth-down scoring toss to cut into a 31-5 deficit. Oklahoma finished 4 of 17 on third-down conversions.

After managing just 56 yards on its first 20 snaps, the Baylor offense picked up the pace thereafter. And the Bears did it in short-handed fashion.

Tevin Reese, the team’s top big-play receiver (25 yards per reception, 8 TDs in first seven games), had zero catches and did not play in the second half because of a dislocated wrist. Running back Glasco Martin (six carries, 13 yards), the team’s primary power runner, spent the second half in street clothes after sustaining a leg injury and will have an MRI Friday. Leading rusher Lache Seastrunk (6 carries, 19 yards) was slowed by a second-quarter leg ailment.

But the Bears still thrived behind quarterback Bryce Petty, who rushed for a pair of first-half touchdowns, and freshman tailback Shock Linwood (23 carries, 182 yards), who handled the brunt of the rushing load once Seastrunk and Martin were slowed.

Linwood’s rushing total marked a career high. Petty, who scored multiple rushing TDs in a game for the first time in his career, ground out 45 yards and threw for 204 yards, with three touchdowns. Two of the scoring strikes went to receiver Antwan Goodley (six catches, 80 yards).

“We’re talented. We’re committed. This is a very special team,” Petty said after the Bears improved to 2-22 in career matchups against the Sooners. “Our defense played outstanding. I’m not sure I’ve seen them play better.”

Until the midpoint of the second quarter, this one showed all the signs of a defensive struggle. Oklahoma led 5-3, despite gaining just 32 yards on the Sooners’ first 18 snaps (1.8 yards per play). Dominique Alexander’s sack of Petty in the Baylor end zone, followed by Jalen Saunders’ 55-yard return of the ensuing free kick, helped the Sooners build the lead without the benefit of any offensive punch.

Once Baylor found its offensive stride, the Bears seized control and extended their school-record winning streak to 12 consecutive games. By doing so on the same night that No. 3 Oregon fell to No. 5 Stanford in Thursday’s late-night showdown, the Bears may have put themselves in position to climb in Sunday’s updated BCS standings.

“Our attitude was, ‘Take no prisoners.’ And we went out there and played lights out,” safety Ahmad Dixon said. “I hope this will change the outlook on our defense. I’m hoping this will change the outlook on our whole team. We knew the importance of this game. And we showed the sky’s the limit for us.”

A potential downside is the injury to Reese, a senior leader and one of Petty’s favorite targets. Coach Art Briles said Reese will miss the remainder of the regular season and “hopefully be back for the bowl game.”

“I hate that for Tevin. Any time you miss a senior leader back there, it hurts,” Petty said. “We definitely had some adversity there when he went out.”

Asked about the message the team showed with its lopsided win, defensive end Chris McAllister said: “We showed we can play with anybody. We know our goal wasn’t to win eight games. We’re trying to win the Big 12 championship. It’s going to take an entire season to do that.”

Based on what Baylor showed Thursday night, the Bears may win much more than a Big 12 title by the time the season ends.

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