The biggest complaint against Baylor heading into Thursday night's game against Oklahoma was that the Bears hadn't played a team with a pulse.
The Sooners certainly had a pulse, ranked No. 10 in the BCS and coming off back-to-back wins against Kansas and Texas Tech.
But that pulse died just seconds before halftime when Bears receiver Antwan Goodley caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Bryce Petty to put Baylor up 24-5. Art Briles' team never looked back, winning 41-12 to start the year 8-0 for the first time in school history.
Baylor's win over Oklahoma was impressive because it wasn't even close to the best Baylor had played all year.
Petty was a modest 13-of-26 for 204 yards and three touchdowns. He was pressured often up the middle by Oklahoma's defense—an indictment on the Bears' offensive line—and was shaky throwing the deep ball, an area in which he normally excels.
Running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were hampered with groin and knee injuries, respectively. And wide receiver Tevin Reese was sidelined with a wrist injury, and he just hopes to be back for a bowl game.
For a time, Baylor seemed to be losing a player every minute or two. But that's where the Bears' depth shined. Backup running back and All-Name Team member Shock Linwood rushed for 182 yards with Seastrunk and Martin sidelined.
"We’ve said that we finally have Big 12-quality depth," Briles said after the game, according to Josh Friemel of the Dallas Morning News. "That’s something that I’ve been saying for about a year. It showed off tonight. When you lose Lache, when you lose Glasco, when you lose Tevin Reese and you still maintain and you’re still effective, that’s a good thing. That’s just the way it is.
"We’ve been very fortunate and hopefully our fortune will continue to be good for the rest of the season."
Where Baylor's offense lagged—lagging in the context of video game numbers, that is—the defense more than made up for it by essentially shutting down the Sooners offense.
Then again, Oklahoma had no identity or direction. That's been an issue all year.
Bouncing back and forth between quarterbacks Blake Bell and Trevor Knight on Thursday, the Sooners didn't know whether to commit to the inside run or zone read or perimeter passing game. Not having fullback Trey Millard was an obvious deficiency, and Oklahoma ran a bit of everything, none of it effectively.
Part of the heat for Oklahoma's offensive ineptitude is going to rightfully fall on coordinator Josh Heupel, but Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett also deserves credit for constantly having players in the right position. The Bears tackled well, defended passes downfield and had a presence in the backfield. It was a performance that shattered the narrative that the Bears only play pickup, backyard football.
Oklahoma's limited offense will only fuel critics who refuse to believe Baylor is a damn good team. And there's merit in continuing to wonder what Baylor would do against an opponent that can consistently score.
But the end result was that, on a night when it didn't play its best offense, when it was banged up, Baylor beat Oklahoma, still likely a nine-win team, by 29 points.
"I think we just showed we can play defense and compete with any team in this conference and the nation," Baylor defensive end Chris McAllister told ESPN's Max Olson.
That's worthy of national consideration. With Oregon falling to Stanford, the Bears' BCS championship hopes just got better.
The Bears still don't control their destiny. Florida State and/or Alabama would probably have to lose for Baylor to even think about a championship appearance, but Briles and Co. can't control that.
All they can do is keep winning, no matter how or what it looks like.
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