Baylor’s tough closing stretch starts with Sooners
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
WACO, Texas — Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty knows people will remember November. And he can’t wait.
The 7-0 start for the fifth-ranked Bears before that and their highest ranking in 60 years won’t mean nearly as much without finishing strong in a challenging stretch. They play No. 12 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) on Thursday night, their first ranked opponent this season — and first of three in a row.
“Actually, looking at the schedule before the season, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Petty said. “It’s going to be a very fun stretch, and I say fun just because it’s challenging.”
These Bears (7-0, 4-0), who know they have to prove themselves, are no longer the pushovers in the Big 12. Oklahoma certainly knows that, even though the Sooners have dominated the series winning 21 of 22 games.
“Obviously, when you look at that they’re doing, and the way they’re scoring, and the quality of defense they’re playing, it’s a challenge,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.
When Oklahoma last visited Waco two years ago, in a nationally televised Saturday night game, Robert Griffin III clinched the Heisman Trophy with a last-minute touchdown pass to give Baylor a 45-38 victory and end the Sooners’ national championship chances.
“For me, personally, it was the moment that the program changed,” said Petty, the Big 12’s leading passer with 350 yards per game, 18 TDs and only one interception. “I think that’s when we knew that we could play with anybody. It didn’t matter who it was. … It was one of our first games that there was a hype environment and we came through. It’s going to be a very exciting atmosphere kind of like 2011, so hopefully for the same result.”
The Bears have won a school-record 11 games in a row since losing 42-34 at Oklahoma last November. They lead the nation this season with 718 total yards and 64 points a game, reminding some of the up-tempo, high-scoring offense Oklahoma has had in the past.
“Sure it does. Not only with their up-pace tempo, but just the skill,” Stoops said. “They space you out so far and they’ve got excellent speed all over the perimeter, but then they’ve got such a big offensive line with a great running back to run the football. So they do a great job in how they space you out, run the ball and then get the big plays.”
Here are five things to know when the Bears and Sooners play on the same night second-ranked Oregon and sixth-ranked Stanford play:
MISSING MILLARD: The Sooners are without one of their most versatile offensive threats. Senior fullback Trey Millard done for the season after tearing knee ligaments in the last game. Millard provided so much with his blocking, receiving and running abilities. “Obviously, he’s the best in the business at what he did,” said Sooners co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. Quarterback Blake Bell said Millard was still involved heavily in practice, “out there riding around in his little cart and staying with us.”
WHERE THE RANKED FALL: Baylor is 4-0 at home against Top 25 teams since the start of the 2011 season, including 52-24 over Kansas State last November when the Wildcats arrived as the No. 1 team in the BCS standings. When the Bears beat Oklahoma two years ago, it was the first time in 20 years and only the eighth time since 1950 they played a home game with they and their opponent were both ranked. This is Baylor’s first ranked opponent this season. “There’s a good possibility there could be bigger ones,” coach Art Briles said. “So we’ve just got to take care of business this Thursday.”
QUITE DEFENSIVE TOO: With their big-play offense that includes a running back and two receivers all averaging more than 100 yards per game, the Bears’ defense often gets overlooked. But Baylor is sixth nationally allowing only 15.9 points a game, a number that is even better for the starters who have played an entire game only once. The starting unit has allowed 8.9 points a game, including none in six quarters the last two games.
MATCHING SWITZER: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has 156 victories, one short of matching Barry Switzer for the most in Sooners history. His 146th came over Baylor last season, when Stoops passed Bud Wilkinson for second on the Sooners list. Switzer won 157 games from 1973-88. Stoops took over in 1999, and during that period no Big 12 has more wins over another conference team than Oklahoma’s 13 against the Bears.
GOING TARPLESS: For arguably the most anticipated game in school history, Baylor officials removed the tarp that usually covers the bleachers in the south end zone and sold all of those general-admission seats. This is the 64th and final season at Floyd Casey Stadium before a $260 million campus stadium opens next season. There is only one more home game after Oklahoma, and no need to put the tarp back on for the Dec. 7 game against Texas since those seats have already been sold.
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