The Big 12 championship came down to one play. And a few inches.
The Baylor Bears made it, holding on for a thrilling 21-16 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
Oklahoma State faced a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 30 seconds left and running back Dezmon Jackson headed to the edge and the near pylon. But the ball never broke the plane as Baylor safety Jairon McVea chased Jackson down.
“Had a chance to win, obviously,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Came up just a few inches short.”
That was the 147th of 148 plays run on the day. Baylor sealed the victory on a run by QB Blake Shapen on the final play, sparking a celebration on the Bears sidelines and among the Bears fans on hand of a crowd of 65,771.
The Bears won their first Big 12 football championship since 2014, securing a likely berth in the Sugar Bowl. It’s unlikely that the ninth-ranked Bears (11-2) will get serious consideration as one of the four-best teams for the College Football Playoff.
This is a Baylor team that saw its playoff possibilities dashed in a loss to TCU on Nov. 6.
No. 5 Oklahoma State (11-2), though, certainly had CFP dreams with a victory. Instead, the Cowboys will await their fate as a possible at-large team for a New Year’s Six berth. OSU certainly missed star running back Jaylen Warren, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
In the end, the Big 12 is expected to be shut out of the CFP for a second straight season.
But credit Baylor for coming through with a remarkable defensive stand to win it.
Oklahoma State had a chance for the game-winning drive, taking over with just over three minutes left on its own 10, and marched down the field. The Cowboys had a first-and-goal from the 2 and it felt like they would punch it in eventually.
But Jackson gained 1 yard on first down. He was stuffed for no gain on second down. Quarterback Spencer Sanders couldn’t connect with Jaden Bray on third down. And then Jackson came up just short on fourth down.
There’s no question that Baylor won this championship with its defense. The Bears didn’t score and had only 36 yards of total offense in the second half.
The Bears scored their points in the first half. They capitalized by turning two interceptions by Sanders into touchdowns, and then scored on a 13-yard pass from Shapen to Tyquan Thornton.
The 2021 season will be one of the more remarkable stories in Baylor history. This is a program that went 2-7 in Dave Aranda’s first season and were projected to finish eighth in the preseason media poll.
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