STILLWATER, Okla. — Bryce Petty was going to score, no question in his mind.
His feet had other ideas.
As Baylor’s standout quarterback approached the goal line, with blockers cementing his path to the first points of the game, Petty stumbled to the turf a yard short of pay dirt. Bears running back Shock Linwood fumbled two plays later, Oklahoma State capitalized with a 99-yard touchdown drive to open the scoring, and BU never really recovered.
For all intents and purposes, when Petty fell on his face, so did Baylor’s hopes to earn a BCS title game berth and, quite possibly, its dreams of securing its first-ever Big 12 championship.
OSU took the early momentum, combined it with stellar defense and destroyed Baylor 49-17 at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday night to put the Cowboys in the driver's seat to win the Big 12. The loss knocks the Bears out of the BCS title conversation and takes Baylor's destiny out of its hands by forcing the Bears to cheer for an Oklahoma victory when the Sooners take on OSU on Dec. 7.
“It was big,” Petty said of his stumble and the ensuing fumble. “That’s not Shock’s fault, that’s my fault. I have to finish that, it was a funky deal.”
Funky but representative of the entire night for the No. 4 team in the BCS.
Baylor didn’t look like the Baylor we’ve gotten used to seeing run up and down the field on opponents. The Bears finished with 453 yards, including 157 in the fourth quarter after OSU had taken a 35-3 lead. BU, which entered the game leading the nation with an 8.52 yards-per-play average, was held to 5.4 yards per play and 4.63 yards per play during the first three quarters.
Its offense struggled throughout much of the night after Petty’s stumble set a clumsy tone. The Bears never found a rhythm, couldn’t take the home crowd out of the game and rarely clicked as they ventured into the red zone three times to score three total points in the first three quarters.
“Games are all about momentum,” Bears coach Art Briles said. “You put that first one in, we go up 7-0, you never know. That’s why it’s so critical when you have opportunities to make plays, we make plays.”
Petty, who could have had his Heisman moment on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf, instead looked uncomfortable and unsettled. The junior wasn’t throwing the darts that had him earning praise nationwide as the triggerman of the nation’s most explosive offense. The Cowboys defense overwhelmed him in the pocket; Oklahoma State's secondary challenged the Bears receivers to make plays, and they could not.
OSU looked like a team that had been there before. Baylor did not.
The Bears have never been in contention for the Big 12 title, let alone a BCS title appearance, in late November. OSU features a squad with several players who started on its 2011 Big 12 championship team. Asked if experience in big games played a role, Briles was pretty candid.
“There’s a bunch of reality to that,” Briles said. “There are rodeos and this isn’t their first one.”
The Bears also had a difficult time replacing several injured starters, including leading rusher Lache Seastrunk, best deep threat Tevin Reese and leading tackler Bryce Hager.
It all added up to a devastating loss for a team that took the field with high hopes.
“This hurts,” Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon said. “Our chances of still winning the Big 12 aren’t over, but we wanted something bigger than that. That dream came down.”
As Baylor looks to move on, its hopes of winning a Big 12 title remain. OSU must beat OU in Bedlam to secure the title. If the Cowboys lose, Baylor could win the Big 12 crown by beating TCU then Texas to finish the season as the lone Big 12 squad with one conference defeat.
But that won’t happen if the Bears play like they did Saturday. After stumbling in its biggest game of the season, will this team rally and be remembered as a special squad? Or allow critics to continue to use the phrase "same ol’ Baylor?"
“We’ll bounce back from this,” Petty said. “This is a special team. We still have a lot to accomplish. It’s a loss, and a team is not defined by how it wins but by how it loses.”
We will see.