Two minutes and seventeen seconds into the game, West Virginia appeared to have established momentum. The Mountaineers stopped the Sooners, forcing a punt on the opening drive, something not many teams have done to Oklahoma. It wasn’t a huge momentum shift, but it was a clear advantage in West Virginia’s favor. At that exact moment in time, when Oklahoma was lined up to punt, ESPN gave West Virginia a 46.9 percent chance of winning, the highest it would be all game. The momentum was on West Virginia’s side, and then, just like that, it wasn’t.
Of course, West Virginia muffed that punt, coughing it up to Oklahoma on their own 34. 6 plays later, Samaje Perine pounded into the end zone and OU never looked back. West Virginia had shot themselves in the foot, establishing a common theme in the game.
15 minutes late, West Virginia trailed 21-0 but was knocking on the door. The Mountaineers were just 11 yards away from getting on the board. And then they shot themselves in the foot again. The Mountaineers coughed it up at the four-yard line. Eight plays and 96 yards later, the score was 28-0.
On West Virginia’s very next possession, they fumbled at Oklahoma’s three-yard line. 11 plays and 97 yards later, 35-0. Are you sniffing what I’m putting down here? Oklahoma played well, no doubt, but West Virginia was their biggest opponent all night. How about the pick-six at the beginning of the second half? Oklahoma essentially got into a fight where their opponent began punching themselves halfway through. Not to say that the Mountaineers would have won this game without the miscues, but they certainly would have gone home less embarrassed.
When the dust had settled, Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 56-28, wiping away West Virginia’s chances at a Big 12 title, and flushing their slim playoff hopes away with it. The Sooners improved to 9-2, and 8-0 in Big 12 play. The Mountaineers fell to 8-2 and 5-2 in Big 12 play. With Oklahoma State’s victory over TCU earlier today, Bedlam became the de-facto Big 12 championship game. Two weeks from now, both Oklahoma squads will meet in Norman and crown a new conference champion, but how did the Sooners get here?
A month and a half ago, I published this paragraph as part of the Oklahoma vs TCU recap. Of course, I had no idea how important this sequence was at the time, but I think the vitality of it is still significant today.
“Oklahoma trailed early, and it looked like TCU was about to run away with a blowout victory at home. The touchdown horn was blaring, Mayfield couldn’t hold onto the ball, and #FireMikeStoops was trending on twitter. The sky was falling around Baker Mayfield, and he did what almost nobody expected him to do. He marched down the field and punched it in himself for 6 points. The rest of the team fed off his energy, and two quarters later, Oklahoma led 49-24.”
It’s amazing to me that during that game when “the sky was falling” Oklahoma was so incredibly close to surrendering a blowout loss to TCU. Oklahoma was probably well on their way to an 8-5 season. Instead, through Mayfield’s leadership, the Sooners stepped up, won that TCU game and then rattled off 7 more conference wins. And now they’re here. One Bedlam win away from a tenth Big 12 title. With an outside shot at crashing the College Football Playoff.
When Oklahoma began the season with a pair of losses to Houston and Ohio State, Head Coach Bob Stoops cited a lack of leadership. He said that Oklahoma was missing a vocal leader, ready to rally the troops in a time of need. Boy, did they find one. Mayfield must have heard about Stoops’ opinions because he answered the bell. Now, Mayfield is in the midst of the most efficient season of all time. Now, Mayfield is a Heisman contender, and he’s been so good that his #1 target, Dede Westbrook, is a Heisman contender too. Now, Mayfield is unquestionably one of the best leaders in college football, and his team is showing as much.