STILLWATER, Okla. -- With nine minutes still to be played, America’s top offense finally had enough.
So instead of going for another seemingly hopeless fourth-and-long, Baylor called its record-setting offense to the sideline and sent out the punt team. On the other side of the field, sensing the capitulation, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer began hopping up and down, slapping the helmet of any defender passing by his general vicinity.
The 10th-ranked Cowboys always believed they could knock off fourth-ranked Baylor. But nobody, from "College GameDay" guest picker Marcus Smart to the Cowboys themselves, thought they would put the mighty Bears away before the fourth quarter.
Yet, Saturday night before a sold-out Boone Pickens Stadium, Oklahoma State did exactly that, pummeling Baylor into submission 49-17 to ensure the Big 12 title will go through Stillwater.
“We weren’t intimidated,” said Cowboys linebacker Caleb Lavey. “And we were able to shut them down.”
No defense had slowed the Bears down all year, much less shut them down.
Baylor came into the night leading the nation with 61 points per game. After three quarters in Stillwater, the Bears had managed a single field goal.
“The Baylor offense deserved to get the pub it was getting,” Lavey said. “So being able to keep them off the board in touchdowns until the fourth quarter says a lot about this defense. Our defense did a great job.”
Great doesn’t do it justice. The Big 12’s best defense was dominant.
Head coach Mike Gundy said he felt Oklahoma State would need to score 35 points just to have a chance against Baylor. Thanks to his defense, the Cowboys needed only half that.
Even with All-American candidate Justin Gilbert limited to spot duty because of a shoulder injury, fellow cornerbacks Tyler Patmon and Kevin Peterson locked up Baylor’s speed-demon receivers in man-to-man coverage. The Bears, who led the country in completions of 30 yards or more, finished with just two such completions Saturday.
Up front, Oklahoma State tackles James Castleman and Calvin Barnett owned the line of scrimmage. Baylor, which had been averaging more than 300 yards per game on the ground, was held to just 96 yards rushing with a paltry average of 2.6 yards per carry.
And in between, linebackers Lavey and Shaun Lewis came up with huge plays all night.
All told, the Cowboys forced three fumbles, including two from inside their own 5-yard line. In the first quarter two plays after Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty stumbled to the turf at the 1 after a 27-yard dash, Castleman batted the ball out of Shock Linwood’s hands, and recovered it himself. The Cowboys countered with a 99-yard touchdown drive to grab control and a 7-0 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Baylor finally drove the ball back to the Oklahoma State 2 with a chance to cut the deficit to 35-17. Instead, Petty fumbled a wild snap, and Patmon scooped it up and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to put the Cowboys up 42-10.
After a three-and-nothing on its the next possession, Baylor punted, starting up the party on the Oklahoma State sideline.
“They’re a great team,” said Spencer, who mixed up eight-man coverages with exotic blitzes all game. “But our kids tonight executed and played great defense.”
Yet as good as it was, the Oklahoma State defense was hardly the whole story.
Cowboy quarterback Clint Chelf remained on fire while outgunning Petty, Chelf's Heisman hopeful counterpart.
Chelf completed his first 12 passes, threw for a career-high 370 yards and accounted for four touchdowns as he continued his late-season charge since taking back over the starting job last month.
“He was accurate, and he made good decisions,” Gundy said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s accomplished. He’s been a good leader, and he’s done it quietly. He's been humbled, and for that he's had success.”
Chelf lost the starting job two lackluster series into the season opener against Mississippi State. With J.W. Walsh in at quarterback, the offense languished, including in a 30-21 loss at West Virginia in a conference opener that looks more stunning by the week.
But since reclaiming the job on Oct. 26 at Iowa State, Chelf has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Last week, he delivered the second-highest QBR in the country in a 38-13 win at Texas.
Saturday, he was even better, throwing darts all over the field while picking apart Baylor’s secondary. Then in the third quarter, Chelf delivered the exclamation point, hauling in a throwback pass from Josh Stewart before racing 48 yards to the Baylor 5-yard line to set up a touchdown that put the Cowboys up 28-3.
“Chelf toughed everything out,” Stewart said. “He stayed with it. And tonight he was very impressive.”
So were the Cowboys, who before 2011 had only one conference title -- a three-way split in 1976 – in 58 years. After its stomping of the Bears, Oklahoma State is now one Bedlam win in Stillwater away from winning its second Big 12 title in three years.
“We have made great strides,” Gundy said. “The best way I can explain that is: I don’t know the last time we took the field and our players didn’t think we could win.”
Once again, the Cowboys took the field thinking they could win. They left it in control of the conference title. Again.