GAME NOTES: The 16th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners will attempt to continue their dominance of the Baylor Bears when the two teams hook up for a Big 12 Conference showdown on Saturday night in Waco.
Oklahoma opened the season with six consecutive victories to put the team in position to challenge for a nation title, but losses in two of the next three outings dashed those hopes. Fortunately, the Sooners were able to get back to their winning ways last weekend with a 45-7 romp over Texas Tech. Bob Stoops' team is now 8-2 overall, including 4-2 in Big 12 action, but just one victory this season has come in a true road game.
As for Baylor, it has suffered back-to-back losses to fall out of the national poll. The Bears, who are now 7-4 overall, dropped a 42-30 decision to Texas A&M in front of the home crowd last weekend, their first home loss of the season. Art Briles' group is 4-3 in conference, and this Saturday's game marks the regular season finale for the Bears.
"I feel terrible for our athletes, first and foremost, for our football team," said Briles after the A&M loss. "I thought our guys played extremely hard. There was a lot of passion, a lot of energy and a lot of effort."
Oklahoma has never lost to Baylor, winning all 19 previous meetings. Few of the contests have even been close in recent years, and the Sooners crushed the Bears last season by a 33-7 final.
The Sooners are loaded on the offensive side of the football, and the result has been 35.0 ppg and 471.1 total ypg. Landry Jones, the team's quarterback, has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,154 yards and 27 touchdowns against only six interceptions, numbers that certainly put him in contention for Big 12 Player of the Year. Ryan Broyles is sure to get some votes as well, as he has caught 94 passes for 1,196 yards and 11 touchdowns. No other player on the roster has even reached 400 receiving yards through 10 outings, proof of Broyles importance. As for the ground attack, Demarco Murray is expected to play through a rib injury last weekend, and he has 911 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns to his credit.
Murray caught a touchdown pass against Texas Tech last week, but the combination of Landry to Broyles proved to be most lethal for the Sooners. The quarterback finished with 317 passing yards and five touchdowns, while Broyles hauled in three of those scoring strikes.
"I think I've said all you can say about Ryan," said Stoops of his star receiver. "He's a great player. I love his competitiveness, his toughness. He just has a knack for adjusting to the football like nobody I've ever seen."
Opponents are posting 20.0 ppg and 369.8 total ypg against Oklahoma, which has some room for improvement against both the run and the pass. The Sooners are yielding 146.9 rushing ypg at a clip of 4.1 yards per carry, and the club is giving up 222.9 passing ypg at a clip of 11.7 yards per completion. Oklahoma has come up with 25 sacks and 20 takeaways, respectable totals, and the club has been solid on third down. Jeremy Beal is a player to watch, as he has posted 16 TFLs, including 7.5 sacks.
"Jeremy has been really special," says Stoops of Beal. "There's no doubt about it when you look at his consistency. Every year since he's started on the field as a freshman he has been there."
Texas Tech is a historically explosive offensive team, so the fact that the Sooners were able to limit the Red Raiders to seven points last week has to be viewed as a major accomplishment. Oklahoma posted three sacks and two takeaways in that contest, and it was certainly impressive that the defense held Tech to 6-of-18 success on third down conversion attempts.
Switching focus to Baylor, it put forth another solid offensive showing last weekend against Texas A&M, racking up 503 total yards without committing a turnover. Jay Finley continues to pile up huge stats, as the tailback rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. Star quarterback Robert Griffin completed 28-of-38 passes for 212 yards, and Baylor made good on 12- of-21 third down conversion attempts.
Unfortunately, the quality play of the Baylor offense was overshadowed by the struggles of the team's defense. The Bears allowed 427 total yards and five touchdowns, including four rushing scores.
"It's terrible," said Baylor safety Byron Landor of the defense's performance. "I'll be completely honest. I don't even know what to say. We just didn't play well. We didn't do a good job of keeping the momentum."
Overall this season, Baylor is generating 33.4 ppg while allowing 27.7 ppg to foes. The Bears are racking up 489.2 total ypg, but they are also permitting 424.1 ypg to foes, and the shaky defense has contributed to the 7-4 record. Griffin is sensational, as he has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,071 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions. Kendall Wright leads the receivers with 63 catches for 798 yards and six touchdowns, while Finley has rushed for 1,073 yards and 11 scores.
All impressive streaks typically come to an end, and it seems like the perfect opportunity for Baylor to knock off Oklahoma. Griffin will obviously be the catalyst, as he is a special talent.