Based on series history, the Baylor Bears have as much chance of saving their Big 12 title hopes with a Saturday victory in Stillwater, Okla. as building a snowman on an August afternoon in McLane Stadium.
That’s not a swipe at these Bears (8-1, 5-1 in Big 12), who rank No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings and can regain control of their destiny in the league championship race by defeating No. 8 Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0) in Boone Pickens Stadium (6:30 p.m., KDFW, Ch. 4).
But it is an indictment of Baylor’s recent efforts in a venue that hardly qualifies as the primary house of horrors for visiting Big 12 football teams.
The Bears have lost in their past 11 trips to Stillwater, including an 0-10 mark during the Big 12 era. Baylor’s last victory in the venue came in 1939, a mere 16 years before the birth of coach Art Briles.
Every other Big 12 member, including recent additions TCU and West Virginia, has won at least once in Boone Pickens Stadium since the Bears’ 13-0 victory on Oct. 7, 1939 under then-coach Morley Jennings. Since that day, league flyweights Kansas and Iowa State have combined for 20 victories in Stillwater. Oklahoma? Too many to count.
Baylor? Goose egg.
The Curse of Stillwater is real enough that it has been a topic of locker-room conversation this week. Offensive tackle Spencer Drango, a fifth-year senior, has been part of two teams that were stymied in Stillwater, including the 2013 squad that saw its national title hopes and 9-0 record disappear with a 49-17 loss to the Cowboys.
Saturday marks Baylor’s first trip back to Boone Pickens Stadium since that setback.
“If you dwell in the past, then you’ll get beat again,” Drango said. “We have a big task ahead of us. This current administration has never won in Stillwater, so it would be a really good place to win. We might be due.”
Informed of the Bears’ 76-year victory drought in Stillwater, cornerback Terrell Burt said: “It’s really been that long? That’s crazy, 1939.”
Crazy but true.
For the Bears, stopping the streak at 11 in a row is essential if the team plans to win or share a third consecutive Big 12 title after last week’s 44-34 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1). Baylor got an assist in that department, Briles said Monday, when MRI results revealed no structural issues to the lower back of quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
This current administration has never won in Stillwater, so it would be a really good place to win. We might be due.
Baylor OT Spencer Drango
The freshman from Stephenville said he played most of the OU game in pain after getting hit by Sooners’ defensive back Jordan Evans on the third snap of Baylor’s opening drive. Evans was flagged for a late hit on the play.
Stidham said he was “very relieved” that the MRI showed only deep bruising, which means he will remain in the lineup against OSU.
“It was pretty painful after the game, but I’m feeling a lot better,” Stidham said. “I’ll be over it within the next day or two.”
The big question, at this point, is when the Bears will be over their losing streak in Stillwater. Briles said the Cowboys’ stability under coach Mike Gundy, now in his 11th season at his alma mater, contributes to the challenge of winning in a venue where Briles is 0-4 as the Bears’ coach. All four losses have been by 27 or more points.
“Every time we’ve gone to Oklahoma State since I’ve been here, it hasn’t been good,” Briles said. “They’ve been really good every time we’ve gone up there. They’ve been in the system a long time. That’s kind of the bottom line. Those guys have seen a lot, done a lot, they understand a lot. I have a lot of respect for them. They’re a tough out.”
Despite the dismal series history, a couple of recent historic milestones are worth noting. Baylor was winless in Norman, Okla. before last year’s 48-14 triumph over the Sooners. Entering that contest, the Bears had lost 11 consecutive games in the Sooners’ home stadium; the same length as their current losing streak in Stillwater.
76 Years since Baylor’s last win at Boone Pickens Stadium, a 13-0 triumph in 1939
Also: OSU enters with a 10-0 record. In program history, the Cowboys never have reached the 11-0 plateau in any season. So there will be some history-related pressure Saturday on OSU as well as Baylor.
Drango believes the experience of collecting last year’s initial win in Norman should help the Bears’ veteran players in Stillwater.
“I think so,” said Drango, who missed the Stillwater trip in 2013 because of season-ending back surgery. “I think it just proves it’s possible to win at a place that’s historically difficult. We showed that.”
Burt said the Bears’ ongoing chances to win a Big 12 title and make a late playoff push will motive players in efforts to break the Curse of Stillwater.
“Even though our playoff chances are slimmer, it’s not over yet. We haven’t given up on the season,” Burt said. “We’re going to keep playing hard and do what we’ve got to do to win every game we can.”
Especially the one Saturday in a venue where Briles has never won and the Bears have not won in 76 years.
Baylor at Oklahoma State
6:30 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/4