STILLWATER — Down midway through the fourth quarter, Spencer Sanders took a third-down snap, looking to make a play.
He made one, but it was for the Baylor defense.
Sanders fumbled, and Bears’ linebacker Terrel Bernard scooped up the ball and took it 20 yards for a touchdown.
The defensive touchdown gave No. 18 Baylor its first double-digit lead of the day. From there, the Bears took over in a 45-27 victory against Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon at Boone Pickens Stadium.
OSU’s redshirt freshman quarterback turned the ball over three times, one of which prevented the Cowboys from scoring in the red zone, and another gave Baylor the ability to break the game open.
“It’s life,” Sanders said. “I’m a competitive player, so it’s just me trying to extend plays. It’s me trying to be competitive and do the best I can for this team, and sometimes I just gotta know when to settle down.”
The defeat was the ninth Big 12 Conference loss the Cowboys have had in the last two years, while the team had only seven combined in the three years prior.
The Cowboys (4-3 overall, 1-3 Big 12) matched Baylor step for step most of the game, but something changed for OSU when Sanders had the ball stripped away from him with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
OSU coach Mike Gundy said the way his team played down the stretch in the final quarter was a shame. The Cowboys held the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Baylor scored 21 unanswered points to seal its victory.
“Basically, the wheels came off with nine minutes left,” Gundy said. “... Turnovers killed us in the fourth quarter.”
Before everything crumbled for OSU, the game had the looks of a back-and-forth classic. The Cowboys held a 13-10 lead at the half, and both sides of the ball for the Cowboys were playing solid outside of one mistake in the form of a Sanders’ red zone interception.
Sanders was spreading the ball around to several receivers, and redshirt sophomore Chuba Hubbard was anchoring the running game with a touchdown in the second quarter. The defense came into the game averaging one sack per game and was able to wrestle down Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer in the backfield four times in the first half.
Even in the third quarter, OSU was making enough plays to stay in the game. The Cowboys held a 10-point lead with just under nine minutes left in the third quarter, following another Hubbard rushing score.
Big plays from the Bears slowly started to shift the game, though.
After Baylor (7-0, 4-0) cut the Cowboy lead back down to three, the Bears got the ball back, and Brewer hit Josh Fleeks on a 64-yard passing touchdown to give them the 24-20 advantage. Baylor’s longest play of the season coming into Saturday’s game was 61 yards, and the Bear had four plays against OSU that exceeded that length.
OSU junior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez said the defense made too many mistakes, and Baylor was able to capitalize on them.
“We just gotta correct (the mistakes),” said Rodriguez, a Wagoner native. “We’ll see it on film and pretty much all you can do about it is learn from it.”
OSU took the 27-24 lead back early in the fourth quarter on a 68-yard LD Brown touchdown run. From there is where the Cowboys’ hopes of winning their fifth-straight homecoming game came crashing down.
Baylor scored on offense to go up 31-27, Sanders fumbled away a touchdown to make it 38-27 and then a 73-yard JaMycal Hasty touchdown run drew the curtains for the conference clash.
Although he is a redshirt freshman, Sanders said his struggles holding onto the ball can’t be blamed on his youth.
“That’s just not an excuse,” Sanders said. “... I’m growing from it and getting better. We just have to keep moving.”
Gundy said it’s important for his team to keep its composure, even in this stretch of losing three out of its last four games.
“There’s plenty of work to go around,” Gundy said. “I hated it for the guys. The crowd was awesome. Homecoming was awesome. I wish we would’ve played better in the fourth quarter for the fans.”