Oklahoma comeback against Baylor defines the essence of college football

Matt Zemek Nov 18, 2019
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All sports are messy, but college football has a way of being absurd. The Oklahoma Sooners’ comeback victory over the Baylor Bears on Saturday night in Waco, Texas, was absurd.

Get this: Oklahoma’s defense had given up an average of 17.5 points per game in a six-game stretch this season. The Sooners, whose defensive turnaround was documented earlier this season here at Dean Blundell, looked like a juggernaut precisely because their turbo-charged offense was accompanied by a competent defense.

Just as suddenly, Oklahoma’s defense lost the plot in its next two and a half games. OU allowed 48 to Kansas State, 41 to Iowa State, and then 31 points to Baylor in the first half of Saturday’s contest.

Oklahoma allowed 105 points in a six-game stretch. In the next 10 quarters of football after those six games, the Sooners allowed 120 points.

So, based on all of that, would any rational person have expected the Sooners to shut out Baylor in the second half? No… but college football isn’t often rational.

Nov 16, 2019; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) and the Sooner fans and team celebrate the win over the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma did in fact blank the Bears after halftime. Though Sooner quarterback Jalen Hurts and teammates Kennedy Brooks and Lee Morris did a lot of heavy lifting to finish Oklahoma’s 34-31 comeback from a 28-3 deficit (and 31-10 at halftime), OU’s defense truly won this game with a flawless second half. If Baylor had scored just one touchdown after halftime, OU would not be alive in the race for the four-team College Football Playoff.

The fact that Oklahoma came back from a 28-3 deficit naturally recalls Tom Brady’s comeback for the New England Patriots from that same deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Everyone is aware that Oklahoma’s 28-3 comeback is not the first of its kind in recent memory.

What if I told you that this 28-3 comeback was not the first 28-3 comeback in college football this season?




Illinois came back from a 28-3 deficit at Michigan State, scoring 27 points in the fourth quarter to win, 37-34.

That’s absurd. That’s college football.

There is much more absurdity to explore, however, in the aftermath of Oklahoma’s win:

Nov 16, 2019; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates the win over the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts owns one of the more remarkable yet complicated college football playing careers of all time. He has played in multiple national championship games. His career at Alabama turned when he was relieved in one of those two national title games, at the end of the 2017 season against Georgia. The man who replaced him, Tua Tagovailoa, led a late rally and threw the championship-winning touchdown pass in overtime. Tua replaced Hurts in the 2018 season… only to get injured in a rematch against Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship Game.

Who replaced him? Hurts… who led a late rally against Georgia and won the game, saving Alabama’s season.

At Alabama, Hurts was a much better runner than passer. In that 2018 SEC Championship Game against Georgia, Hurts emerged as a passer, and this season at Oklahoma, under the guidance of head coach Lincoln Riley, Hurts has never looked better as a thrower. He has dazzled as a deep-ball marksman, partly because he has ultra-fast receivers such as CeeDee Lamb.

There was one big problem for Oklahoma against Baylor: Lamb was out with an injury.

Hurts had to make more plays as a runner.

He fumbled multiple times, once near the Baylor goal line, to imperil Oklahoma’s playoff hopes.

No matter: Hurts led the second great comeback of his career, alongside that 2018 SEC title game for Alabama.

On the same day as Hurts made this comeback, guess what happened? Tua Tagovailoa got injured, again, for Alabama.

You cannot make this stuff up. Absurd.

What else is absurd? Lots more. Try this: Baylor entered this game unbeaten. The Bears were ranked No. 13, far lower than an unbeaten team in a Power Five conference (the Big 12) should be at this time of year. Baylor’s strong performance against Oklahoma, in a rational world, should make people realize that the Bears are no fluke or fraud. They earned more respect in this defeat than in their previous nine victories this year.

If anything, their ranking should IMPROVE this week. Yet, be prepared for the possibility that college football’s new rankings will push the Bears DOWN, not up, in the rankings.


Nov 16, 2019; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley celebrates the win over the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What is also absurd? Baylor and Oklahoma are going to play again on Saturday, Dec. 7, in the Big 12 Championship Game… because Texas — a team ranked in the top 10 at the start of the season — has crashed and burned into a Burnt Orange (the Texas school color) disaster. Texas has somehow lost at least four games in yet another season. The last time the Longhorns did NOT lose at least four games in a college football season: 2009. Texas lost to Alabama in the national championship game, marking Alabama as the destination program for the next decade… a destination program for players such as Jalen Hurts, who transferred only because Tua Tagovailoa replaced him.

College football is absurd. Oklahoma’s comeback from a 28-3 deficit against Baylor laid out a buffet table of absurdity. God bless college football. Very little about this sport makes sense, which is part of its charm.

Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek has written about tennis professionally since 2014 for multiple outlets. He is currently the editor of tennisaccent.com and the co-manager of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Tennis With An Accent blends Saqib Ali's podcasts with written coverage of professional tennis. The TWAA Podcast hosted Darren Cahill earlier this year. The podcast is distributed by Red Circle and is available on Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts. See Matt's pinned tweet on his Twitter page for links to the TWAA Podcast. Matt is based in Phoenix and thinks the Raptors winning the NBA title was awesome. Saqib will be covering Montreal for Tennis With An Accent.

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