With 18 seconds left, Robert Griffin III scrambled to his left. Then the defense converged. So he planted his lead foot and heaved the ball down the field back to the right. The pass found Terrance Williams streaking toward the corner of the end zone between two Sooners defenders.
Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38.
“I’ll never forget that game,” said Baylor senior guard Cyril Richardson, who also started on the offensive line that game. “It was special.”
Two years ago, Baylor toppled the Sooners in a wild shootout for one of the biggest wins in the school’s history.
RG III delivered his Heisman moment while simultaneously knocking Oklahoma out of the national title picture.
The play would have lasting effects for both programs. Oklahoma hasn’t been a November national title contender since. And Baylor, improbably, has gone on to build itself into just that.
“It was the moment this program changed,” said quarterback Bryce Petty, who himself has emerged into a Heisman hopeful this season. “That’s when we knew we could play with anybody.”
Since that game, the Bears, once perennial Big 12 doormats, are 19-5.
No one in the Big 12 -- including the Sooners -- owns a winning percentage that good over the same span.
“That was big, real big,” said Bears wideout Tevin Reese, who had a 69-yard touchdown reception in the 2011 game. “You got a lot of people’s eyes starting to look on Baylor, started opening a lot of people’s eyes about what Baylor really could do, what they were really capable of. It was a great feeling being a part of it. That was great for the university.”
Underscoring just how far Baylor has come since that game, the Bears will be two-touchdown favorites over the Sooners on Thursday night. Under coach Bob Stoops, Oklahoma has been a double-digit underdog only twice -- against Florida State in the 2000 national championship game and in 2005 against Texas, which went on to capture the national title.
“It shows we’ve gained a little bit of respect since then,” Reese said. “Being a favorite in this game is great and it’s a big game and being the favorite is a good thing for your team. It builds their confidence, and we go out and play with that type of confidence, it’s kind of hard to stop us.”
Baylor has been virtually impossible to stop lately. The Bears lead the nation in scoring, and are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game, set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989, respectively.
The undefeated Bears are ranked sixth in the BCS standings, and very much alive in the national title conversation.
“What we’ve done this season has proved to a lot of people how good of a team we are,” said Reese, who is second in the country in yards per catch (25.0). “We know how good a team we are.”
As the Bears have ascended, Oklahoma has stagnated.
The Sooners entered that weekend in 2011 ranked fifth in the country. But before the game was finished, two teams ranked ahead of them -- No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Oregon -- both fell in stunning upsets, opening the door for Oklahoma to make a move into the national championship game.
Instead, Griffin torched the Sooners secondary, setting a school record with 479 passing yards and four touchdowns.
After falling behind by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma rallied and had a chance to take the lead in the final minute after Blake Bell rumbled 6 yards for a touchdown. Stoops sent Bell back on the field for the two-point try, and the lead. But the Sooners were flagged for a false start, and had to settle for the extra point and the tie, setting the stage for Griffin’s heroics in the final seconds.
Oklahoma State routed the Sooners in Stillwater three weeks later, and Oklahoma tumbled all the way to the Insight Bowl.
“That was a long time ago,” Stoops said of the Sooners’ last trip to Waco.
It was also the last moment Oklahoma was a legit national title contender.
This time, Baylor is the national contender.
“It’s going to be a very exciting atmosphere, kind of like in 2011,” Petty said.
“And hopefully with the same result.”