WACO, Texas – Redemption is an overused term when talking about football games. It can happen, but a lot of times one year doesn’t necessarily correlate to the other.
But two years of frustration is another story. Two years of being toyed with, being embarrassed, being frustrated, it’s hard to begrudge anybody who wants to celebrate after coming up big.
Following No. 12 Oklahoma’s solid 44-34 win at previously unbeaten No. 6 Baylor, there was OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops soaking in the cheers of the crowd behind the end zone.
Cheers had been something the Sooners hadn’t heard much of the last couple of years against Baylor. Two years, 89-26, two defeats. The defense looked confused and outmatched against the Bears’ high-powered machine.
Not Saturday as OU (9-1) gave Baylor its first loss in the two years of McLane Stadium.
“You into the No. 6 team’s backyard on a night like this and play this way, it just tells you that we’re one of those teams that has a chance at everything,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “We’re just going to keep trying to improve and give yourself an opportunity next week to play just as well or better.
“Again, you come into here and win by 10 – that’s certainly a positive thing.”
It was far from a guarantee, however. Baylor scored a touchdown on its first drive of the game just like the Bears have done in every other game this season.
There was a feeling of we’ve seen this before, and OU fans aren’t going to like it. Instead of leading to another 41-12 (2013) or 48-14 (2014), this year’s Sooners team showed it wasn’t going to happen a third straight time.
Not with quarterback Baker Mayfield leading the way. Not with senior defensive end Charles Tapper determined to leave Waco in a different way than he did in 2013. Not with a returning Zack Sanchez coming back after missing essentially the last three games.
Mayfield stated his case for Heisman consideration, going 24 of 34 for 270 yards with three touchdowns and an interception and a rushing touchdown.
“We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder,” running back Samaje Perine said. “During the last two years, they’ve blown us out. We made it clear that they weren’t going to blow us out this time.
“We were going to take them all the way down to the edge. They really haven’t had to play four quarters this year. We knew once we got into the fourth quarter, we could pound it out.”
OU came in with a different attitude and teetered on that line of playing aggressive and going too far. Case in point as the Sooners had eight penalties for 83 yards, including several personal foul penalties and defensive lineman Matt Dimon being ejected from the game late in the second quarter.
Baylor (8-1) entered the game averaging more than 300 yards per game passing and rushing. The Sooners limited the Bears to 416 total yards of offense and also forced three turnovers. It was an interception by Ahmad Thomas with 4:35 that punctuated the turnaround being complete.
Mayfield didn’t do it alone as Sterling Shepard and Samaje Perine, who were virtually nonexistent in last year’s meeting, combined for 343 receiving/rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The Sooners were only credited with two sacks, but OU had eight tackles for loss, and it was another big game by Tapper.
The last time Tapper was seen in Waco, he was being ejected in the fourth quarter in 2013. This time he was leading the defense to arguably its most impressive performance of the season.
Redemption for Tapper. Redemption for Mike Stoops. And now the sea is parting for the Sooners to come into the playoff conversation.