The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Baylor Bears met in the 2021 Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday, confirming that a team not named the Oklahoma Sooners would win the league for the first time since 2014. Ironically enough, it was Baylor, who split a title with TCU, in 2014, the last time a team other than OU won the Big 12.
Oklahoma State entered the game with a legitimate chance to make a College Football Playoff with a win, as the Cowboys were ranked No. 5 in the country at 11-1, while Baylor was ranked No. 9 at 10-2.
The game began as many expected, with the defenses running the show. Oklahoma State stripped Baylor’s Trestan Ebner to force a fumble, which led to the Cowboys getting on the board first with a Tanner Brown 23-yard field goal.
After a three-and-out by the Bears, Spencer Sanders threw the first of a career-high four interceptions, which led to Baylor getting on the board on a three-play, 11-yard drive as Blake Shapen hooked up with Ben Sims on a two-yard touchdown. This would be the first of three unanswered touchdowns by the Bears, who scored touchdowns on three of four drives.
Drew Estrada and Tyquan Thornton would grab the other two touchdowns from Shapen, who had a record-setting first half for the Bears. He set a Big 12 Championship Game record and AT&T Stadium record by starting the game off with 17-straight completions.
The Cowboys would tack on one more field goal, and then block a Baylor field goal to end the first half, as the Bears went into halftime with a 21-6 lead. As Mike Gundy was heading to the locker room, he told ESPN that running back Jaylen Warren would miss the rest of the game, a blow for the Pokes, as Warren ended the regular season in the Top 5 in the conference with 1,134 rushing yards.
The second half kicked off with the Cowboys getting the ball and Spencer Sanders throwing his third interception of the game, with Jairon McVea getting the interception. However, the Bears made an usual decision in their own territory to go for it on fourth and short, with the Cowboys coming up with the stop. Oklahoma State would then punch in their first touchdown of the game on a Dominic Richardson four-yard run to trail 21-13.
Those would be the only point of the third quarter. A potential turning point came early in the fourth after Oklahoma State was punting from deep in their own territory, Trestan Ebner had a muffed punt, which was recovered by Oklahoma State’s Korie Black. The Pokes took the ball down to the Baylor one-yard line, but on three rushing attempts could not punch it in. The Cowboys kicked a field goal to cut the Baylor lead to 21-16 with 8:17 left in the game.
Three straight punts led to the Oklahoma State Cowboys having the ball to start a drive at the 10-yard line with 3:23 to play trailing by five points.
The Cowboys put together one of their best drives of the game, but once again, Oklahoma State could not punch it in from one-yard out. After two runs came up short by Dezmon Jackson, Spencer Sanders threw an incomplete pass, and then on fourth and goal, Jackson came up a half-yard short of the goal line as Baylor would hold on for a 23-16 victory.
The win gives Baylor its first Big 12 Championship since 2014 and the third in program history. The Bears are headed to at least a New Year’s Six bowl game, and if there is enough chaos on Championship Saturday, they may have an outside chance of a College Football Playoff appearance.