WACO — In each of the last two seasons, Baylor bolstered its national title case with resounding November wins against traditional power Oklahoma.
But on Saturday, it was the No. 12 Sooners making a playoff case while No. 4 Baylor may have seen its title hopes vanish in a 44-34 loss at McLane Stadium that knocked the Bears from the ranks of the unbeaten.
And it was a player who didn’t play in the last two meetings, Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield, playing a key role Saturday as the Texas Tech transfer accounted for 346 total yards and four touchdowns in the Bears’ first loss in Waco since 2012.
“We control our own destiny,” Mayfield said, “and that’s what we’re focusing on right now is one game at a time because our first goal was a Big 12 championship.
“And whatever comes after that we’ll focus on that.”
Baylor, meanwhile, finds itself in the same position as last year, hoping that it can win a conference title and reach the College Football Playoff with one loss after seeing its nation-leading home win streak end at 20.
“The good thing is we control our own destiny,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “Oklahoma has a Big 12 loss already. If we finish it out right, there could be a couple of us banging around with one loss and you never know what will happen.”
Baylor came out firing off the ball as it ran for 61 yards on its opening drive, which Devin Chafin capped with a 5-yard TD for a 6-0 lead.
But after that, the Bears managed just 98 yards rushing on 38 carries, which Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said was key to containing the normally prolific Baylor offense.
What also may have contributed was an injury to Bear starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who Briles later said was dealing with an injury for nearly the entirety of the game Saturday.
But Oklahoma also responded to all but one Baylor score with one of its own, including a 2-yard quarterback keeper by Mayfield that gave the Sooners a 20-13 lead heading into halftime.
Baylor tied the game on its first drive of the second half with a 6-yard touchdown run by Chafin, his third of the night, but Oklahoma answered with 14 straight points to take a 34-20 lead on a 55-yard rumble by Samaje Perine, who finished with 169 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Baylor got as close as 37-34 on a 17-yard pass from Stidham to Jay Lee with 10:29 to play in the game, but Oklahoma answered again, as a horse collar penalty jump-started a 78-yard scoring drive, which Mayfield capped with a 7-yard touchdown pass to fullback Dimitri Flowers after buying himself time out of the pocket for the umpteenth time Saturday.
“There’s something special about him,” Stoops said of Mayfield. “He just has that tenacity, toughness, competitiveness and talent.”
Baylor looked to rally with 4:47 remaining in the game, but Ahmad Thomas picked off Stidham on the first play of the ensuing drive to seal the win for the Sooners.
And now, Oklahoma heads into a meeting with TCU hoping to add its playoff case while the Bears may be out of ways to make theirs with three games to play in the regular season.