ARLINGTON, Texas -- No. 9 Baylor shocked No. 5 Oklahoma State 21-16 on Saturday with a goal-line stop on fourth down to win its first-ever Big 12 Championship Game, as well as its first conference championship since 2014.
Oklahoma State put together a 17-play, 89-yard drive to face first-and-goal at the 2-yard line with about 1:19 remaining. However, the Bears defense hunkered down to get four consecutive stops -- including beating Oklahoma State running back Dezmon Jackson to the corner on fourth down -- to escape Arlington with a historic win.
The Bears dominated the first half as Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders threw a Big 12 title game-record four interceptions. Baylor took a 21-6 lead at the half, but a failed fourth-down conversion in the third quarter ultimately resulted in Dominic Jackson running for the Cowboys' first touchdown to cut the lead to one score. However, Baylor held Oklahoma State to field goals on three drives inside the red zone, which ended up being the difference in the five-point ball game. Baylor scored on three red zone trips to overcome two missed field goals in the win.
In relief of injured starter Gerry Bohanon, backup quarterback Blake Shapen set a Big 12 title game record by completing 17 consecutive passes to start the game. He finished 23-of-28 passing for 180 yards and three touchdowns to capture title game MVP. The Oklahoma State defense did take control in the second half, however, holding the Bears scoreless and to just 36 yards on 23 plays. Ultimately, Baylor was just one play better.
Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton led the way with 71 yards and a touchdown, while running back Abram Smith rushed for 63 yards. Oklahoma State receiver Tay Martin had 88 yards, but the Cowboys averaged fewer than 2 yards per carry.
Baylor becomes the first team other than Oklahoma to capture the Big 12 title since 2014. No team outside of the Sooners had won a Big 12 title game since it was reintroduced in 2017. Here are more takeaways from Saturday's thriller in Arlington.
A new era is here
For the first time since 2014, there is a non-Oklahoma school atop the Big 12. Baylor captured its third Big 12 Championship on Saturday, which brings the Bears into a tie with Texas for second-most among all conference schools since the league began in 1996.
Notably, the Big 12 is losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC in the coming years, meaning Baylor is the only continuing Big 12 member with multiple outright championships. As the league heads into a new era, Baylor is making its mark.
For Dave Aranda, the second-year head coach at Baylor, winning the conference championship is a Big 12 reset. In the new 12-team Big 12, the Bears will enter from a position of strength.
Dashed playoff dreams
Oklahoma State ran 15 plays inside the Baylor 10-yard line, including first-and-goal from the 2-yard line with seconds remaining. Unfortunately, that's how this season will be remembered for Oklahoma State: so close, but not enough.
The loss in the Big 12 title game is the Cowboys' second of the season, almost certainly eliminating them from the College Football Playoff race. It's the second time in the last decade that a Mike Gundy team was mere feet away from playing for the sport's ultimate prize.
Oklahoma State will play in a major bowl game and have a shot to finish in the top 10 for the first time in a decade. But with losses to Baylor and Iowa State coming in excruciatingly close fashion, it's hard to not wonder what could have been.
The death of the offensive league
Baylor won the Big 12 title while posting just 242 total yards of offense and 1.9 yards per carry. The Cowboys added just 1.8 yards per carry and 5.6 yards per pass attempt. The enduring moment will be a running back getting stuffed right at the corner of the end zone on fourth down.
Outside of Oklahoma, the Big 12 has been trending towards defense for years. In the last two Big 12 title games, Baylor and Iowa State entered as defensive-minded teams. Oklahoma has been the offensive spectre looming above the conference.
However, Saturday's Big 12 title game was a national reminder that this is no longer the conference of Mike Leach or Lincoln Riley. It's a defensive league.