Here are a dozen games (in no particular order) that came down to the wire and helped decide how the Big 12 Conference standings would look once Bowl Season rolled around in 2021.
Baylor 31, Iowa State 29 (Sept. 25)
Baylor’s Isaiah Hankins boots a 34-yard field goal to put the 3-0 Bears, an 8-point lead with 5:36 to go in the conference opener for both teams. The 14th ranked Cyclones (2-1), a pre-game favorite by a touchdown, then marched 75 yards to narrow the gap. Brock Purdy fired an 11-yard TD pass to Charlie Kolar, but ISU was whistled for having an ineligible player downfield. From the Bears’ 16, Purdy connects a scoring strike to Breece Hall to close within two, 31-29. The Cyclones went for two to tie, but Baylor’s JT Woods intercepted Purdy’s pass in the end zone. The Bears were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Iowa State set up the onside kick at the 50-yard line. Baylor secured the kick but was penalized for offside. ISU set up at the BU 45, and the Bears’ Trestan Ebner clutched it, and Baylor ran out the clock in the conference opener for both teams. The Bears dropped to 3-1.
Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 13 (Sept. 25)
The No. 4 Sooners were favored by 16.5 points in the conference opener for both teams in Norman. After both teams scored a touchdown in the first quarter, the rest of the game was a battle of field goals. Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic booted a 30-yarder with no time remaining to break a 13-13 tie. OU remained undefeated at 4-0 and 1-0 in the conference. The Mountaineers dropped to 2-2 and 0-1 in the league.
Texas Tech 23, West Virginia 20 (Oct. 2)
Another late field goal dooms the Mountaineers for the second straight week. The Red Raiders (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) were coming off a humiliating 70-35 loss to Texas a week before heading to Morgantown. WVU (2-1, 0-1) suffered a walk-off field goal to Oklahoma a week ago. The Red Raiders took a 17-0 lead in the first half. The Mountaineers tied the game with 17 unanswered points in the third quarter. Both teams traded field goals in the fourth period—first Tech and then WVU. The Raiders took the kickoff and moved from their 16 to the WVU 6, and after losing 8 yards on the next two plays, Tech called on Jonathan Garibay to kick the game-winner. His 32-yarder was good, with 18 seconds remaining.
Oklahoma 55, Texas 48 (Oct. 9)
No. 21 Texas (4-1, 2-0) was on its way to blowing out the sixth-ranked Sooners with a 28-7 lead after one quarter and a 38-20 lead at halftime. Oklahoma’s star QB Spencer Rattler struggled in the opening quarter, so coach Lincoln Riley replaced him with Caleb Williams, who came off the bench and lit up the Texas defense with 212 passing yards and 3 TDs (two passing, one running). Both teams traded field goals in the third period, and then OU reeled off 25 unanswered points to take its first lead (48-41) of the game with 7:10 remaining. Minutes later, the Longhorns tied the game on Casey Thompson’s 31-yard scoring strike to Xavier Worthy. The Sooners then marched 75 yards in six plays for the win. Kennedy Brooks’ 33-yard scamper gave the Sooners a 55-48 decisive lead with three seconds to go. OU remained undefeated at 6-0 and 3-0 in the league.
Oklahoma State 32, Texas 24 (Oct. 16)
A week after blowing a huge lead against the Sooners, the Longhorns let another big lead slip away. The No. 25 Longhorns (4-2, 2-1) held a comfortable 24-13 lead early in the third quarter. In the final 26-and-a-half minutes, the 12th-ranked Pokes’ defense held Texas to 24 yards and no first downs while compiling 19 unanswered points. Tanner Brown kicked his fourth field goal to give the Cowboys their first lead with 4:37 left. They marched 42 yards on their next possession. Spencer Sanders scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown to cap the drive. OSU upped its record to 6-0 and 3-0 in the conference.
Kansas State 25, Texas Tech 24 (Oct. 23)
The Red Raiders (5-2, 2-2) held a comfortable 24-10 lead through the first half. The 3-3 Wildcats outscored Tech 15-0 in the final 20 minutes, including two touchdowns by Deuce Vaughan for their first conference victory. Vaughan’s 2-yard run in the third quarter pulled the Wildcats within five, 24-19. K-State drove 66 yards after stopping the Raiders on fourth down at their 34-yard line. The Cats faced third-and-34 at their 22, and after Skyler Thompson completed an 18-yard pass to Landry Weber, Tech was penalized with a personal foul to give KSU a fresh set of downs at the TTU 45. After an incompletion on the next play, Thompson completed four straight passes, including the game-winning 22-yard strike to Vaughan with 6:09 remaining.
West Virginia 38, Iowa State 31 (Oct. 30)
The Mountaineers (3-4, 1-3), a touchdown underdog to the No. 22 Cyclones (5-2, 3-1), trailed ISU 31-24 in the third quarter. WVU drove 75 yards to tie the game with 14:49 left. The Mountaineers then marched 85 yards on their next series, capped by Leddie Brown’s 2-yard touchdown for the winning score. West Virginia then shut down two ISU comeback efforts. Brock Purdy was stripped of the ball as he tried to score on one drive, and his fourth-down pass on another was broken up.
TCU 30, Baylor 28 (Nov. 6)
For the first time in 22 seasons, the Horned Frogs took the field without head coach Gary Patterson. One week before the Baylor matchup, TCU and Patterson agreed to part ways. Patterson was the winningest coach (181-79) in TCU history, but the Frogs struggled with a 3-5 record in 2001 and 1-4 in the Big 12 Conference (21-22 overall since 2018). In his debut as interim head coach, Special assistant Jerry Kill led TCU to an upset over No. 21 Baylor (7-1, 4-1). Both squads battled close—TCU led 16-14 at halftime and 23-21 after three quarters. The Frogs extended their lead with a touchdown early in the fourth period, and then the Bears responded with a TD with 5:04 remaining. Baylor got another crack after stopping the Frogs and moved from its 20 to the TCU 34. TCU’s Shadrach Banks intercepted Gerry Bohanan’s pass at the 28 to squelch the threat.
Texas Tech 41, Iowa State 38 (Nov. 13)
Jonathan Garibay’s 62-yard walk-off field goal set a Texas Tech team record for the longest field goal. The Red Raiders (5-4, 2-4) held a 31-14 lead at halftime thanks to Garibay’s 45-yard field goal as time expired before intermission. Iowa State outscored Tech 24-7 through 29 minutes of the second half. ISU’s Andrew Mevis toed a 29-yard field goal with one minute left to tie the game at 38-all. The Raiders took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the ISU 44, where they had only three seconds remaining. Garibay came on and booted the record-game winner. The Cyclones dropped to 6-4 and 4-3 in the conference, eliminating them from making the Big 12 Championship Game.
Kansas 57, Texas 56 (Nov. 13)
In 2016, the Jayhawks upset Texas in overtime, and five years later, they did it again. KU (1-8, 0-6) commanded most of the 2021 contest leading Texas (4-5, 2-4) by 21 at halftime (35-21). The Horns stormed back in the final 30 minutes to force overtime (49-49) with Casey Thompson’s 25-yard scoring strike to Cade Brewer with 22 seconds to go in regulation. UT got the ball first in overtime, and in three plays, Thompson connected a TD pass to Marcus Washington. Kansas scored on Devin Neal’s 2-yard run on their possession. Coach Lance Leipold ordered a 2-point conversion. Jayhawks’ Jalon Daniels, under a heavy blitz, fired a pass to Jared Casey in the end zone.
Oklahoma State 37, Oklahoma 33 (Nov. 27)
The No. 7 Cowboys (10-1, 7-1) snapped No. 10 Oklahoma’s six-year conference reign with a 37-33 victory in Stillwater. Both teams battled to a 24-24 tie in the first half, but a couple of miscues by OSU gave the Sooners a 33-24 lead early in the third quarter. The Pokes began their first possession of the second half at their 8-yard line. OU’s Perrion Winfrey forced Dominic Richardson to fumble, and the ball was recovered in the end zone by OSU’s Cole Birmingham, which gave the Sooners a 2-point safety. On OU’s ensuing possession, Brennan Pressly muffed a punt return, and Justin Broiles recovered in the end zone for a Sooner touchdown. The Cowboys scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the second one after a muffed punt by OU’s Eric Gray. The Sooners had two possessions with less than five minutes to play but surrendered on downs in OSU territory both times. Oklahoma forced a punt and took over with 54 seconds remaining. Caleb Williams opened with a 56-yard run to the OSU 24, but three incompletions in the end zone and a sack ended OU’s hopes of pulling out a last-minute victory. Oklahoma State earned its first bid to the Championship Game in Arlington, Texas.
Baylor 21, Oklahoma State 16 (Dec. 4)
One yard. Three feet. That’s the distance that decided the 2021 Big 12 Championship Game between the No. 9 Bears (11-2, 7-2) and No. 5 Cowboys. In early October, OSU had defeated Baylor 24-14 and were 5.5-point favorites to capture their first Big 12 title. OSU took a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Baylor scored three touchdowns for a 21-3 lead before the Pokes got another field goal with 3:34 until intermission. The Pokes’ defense put the clamps on the Bears in the second half. Baylor had 217 yards in the first half; 25 in the second. OSU drove 64 yards on its second series of the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 21-13. Baylor missed a field goal try as the fourth period began. A muffed punt by the Bears’ Trestan Ebner was recovered by OSU’s Loris Black, but the Pokes had to settle for Tanner Brown’s 20-yard field goal to trial 21-16 with 8:17 to go. Neither team made much progress until the Cowboys got the ball at their 10 with 3:23 remaining. They marched to the BU 2 and a fresh set of downs. OSU’s Dezmon Jackson was stuffed for a 1-yard gain and no gain on the next two plays. Quarterback Spencer Sanders’ pass to Tyler Lacy was tipped out of the end zone by BU’s Jaden Pitre with 30 seconds left. On fourth down, Sanders handed off to Jackson, who swept around the left end, but Baylor’s Jairon McVea cut him down at the 1-yard line. Baylor bled the final 24 seconds off the clock for its first third Big 12 title (2013, 2014).