WACO — On a national stage, under the lights of prime time, No. 5 Baylor made its case as a national title contender behind a continually overshadowed defense and the legs of a running back not even listed on the two-deep.
But now the rest of the Big 12 knows who Shock Linwood is, and the rest of the nation knows the Bears’ defense is for real. With its top two running backs and second-leading receiver injured, Linwood and the defense stepped up to help Baylor run away with a 41-12 win against No. 10 Oklahoma on Thursday at Floyd Casey Stadium.
“I hope that (this game will) change the outlook on our defense, change the outlook on our whole team,” safety Ahmad Dixon said.
For the most part, the Baylor defense was outstanding, allowing just one touchdown by the Oklahoma offense, which came after the Bears already amassed a 31-5 lead.
The Bears, 8-0 for the first time in school history, turned to the redshirt freshman Linwood when Temple product Lache Seastrunk limped off the field with a groin injury in the second quarter, adding to an injury list that already included running back Glasco Martin (knee) and receiver Tevin Reese (wrist).
“I was nervous,” Linwood later said of the moment, “just like I am now.”
Yet Linwood responded with 184 yards on 23 carries, including three 20-plus yarders, to help the Bears offense bust out of its sluggish start.
While the offense sloshed its way to just a field goal in over a quarter of action, the Bears defense matched the pressure and intensity brought by the visiting Sooners (7-2, 4-2).
“We told the offense, when we seen that they had a slow start, we told them take your time, we’ll keep getting stops,” Dixon said. “You guys take your time because once you get rolling you’re rolling.”
Baylor held Oklahoma to 98 total yards and 5 points in the first half. Oklahoma had a mere 65 yards passing in the first half and averaged just 1.9 yards per carry on the ground. The Sooners only had one scoring drive — one that ended in a 22-yard field goal by Michael Hunnicut — and it followed a three and out after Jalen Saunders set the Sooners up at the 12 with his return following a safety.
After that, Baylor reeled off 21 points in the last 7:02 of the first half.
“What’s so great about this offense and what makes this team so special is it’s always the next drive,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “If something goes wrong, it’s always the next drive. And there’s such a positive air or aroma about everybody that we just don’t get down on ourselves.”
Trailing 5-3, the Bears raced 69 yards in five plays, capped by a five-yard quarterback keeper by Petty for the first touchdown of the game at the 7:02 mark in the second. The Bears’ next drive went 68 yards in 3 minutes, 9 seconds, which Petty capped with a 1-yard sneak for a 17-5 lead with a minute to play in the half. The defense then forced the first turnover of the game when Eddie Lackey picked off Blake Bell on the first play of the next drive.
Forty four seconds later, Petty hooked up with Antwan Goodley, who made a beautiful fingertip catch in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown and a 24-5 lead just before halftime. Linwood played a key role in the Bears’ first two scoring drives, coming off the bench to rush five times for 37 yards.
“I love Shock,” Petty said. “He could be starting anywhere in the Big 12.”
Baylor went up 31-5 on its second drive of the second half when Petty hit a wide-open Norwood in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. With Reese out, Norwood stepped up with four catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Oklahoma scored its only touchdown of the night on its next drive but the Sooners were never able to pull within two scores.
After downing its first ranked opponent by 29 points, the Bears weren’t satisfied, but ready to go out and do it again.
“Keep doubting,” Dixon said of critics. “We’ll earn their respect sooner or later.”
Contact Jordan Mason at email@example.com or 254-501-7562