Chris Johnson hadn’t thrown a pass in a game all year when Coach Art Briles summoned him from the bench in the third quarter to lead Baylor past Oklahoma State 45-35 in noisy Stillwater, Oklahoma last night, Saturday, November 21 in a game broadcast on Fox Sports. Chris who? Fans would be forgiven for asking that question since Jarrett Stidham started the game at quarterback and hit several deep bombs to Baylor receivers K.D. Cannon and Corey Coleman to stake the Bears to a 24-14 halftime lead. But after Stidham was knocked hard to the ground near the sideline by several Cowboys defenders, he was too battered to return for the second half.
Cowboy defenders were probably licking their chops in the third quarter when the untested Johnson entered the game. But Johnson quickly dispelled any notions of a fall off in production. The Bryan High School graduate entered the game and promptly led the Waco contingent to a touchdown which was climaxed with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jay Lee. It was a beautiful arching pass which found the speedy receiver in mid-stride allowing him to hit paydirt far ahead of the pursuing defender. That play extended the Baylor lead to 31-14.
Johnson amazingly punished Oklahoma State on the very next drive with another deep touchdown pass to increase the lead to 38-14. Johnson later ran for a third touchdown and finished with 180 total yards to seal the extaordinary victory. The win with two backup quarterbacks was one of the most memorial in Baylor football history as it moved the Bears to 9-1 and kept them in the hunt for their third consecutive Big 12 championship. Johnson’s dramatic story is far from over as he will likely lead the Bears into Fort Worth Friday for their showdown with talented TCU which is 9-2.
Because Stidham has suffered back injuries, a swollen throwing hand and a twisted ankle, his availability is unlikely for the Frogs game. True freshman Stidham took over at quarterback in the Kansas State game after starter Seth Russell suffered a broken neck against Iowa State. Stidham suffered the back injury against Oklahoma last week. But when OSU defenders knocked Stidham out of the game by twisting his leg during a tackle, Baylor appeared to be in trouble.
But the Cowboys didn’t realize what they were getting when they knocked Stidham out of the game. John was nearly flawless against OSU as he led the Bears to the win against undefeated and No. 6 ranked Oklahoma State. Baylor and OSU are both in contention for the Big 12 championship as OSU still sports a 10-1 record after their first loss, according to Sports Illustrated.
OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph had an outstanding game and still has a lot to play for against OU in Bedlam. If he can engineer a defeat of the Sooners, the Cowboys position in the postseason would be improved.
To three-peat as conference champions, Art Briles team will have to defeat TCU and Texas and hope OSU can defeat Oklahoma in the Bedlam game this week. For one week, the Bears will become fans of the Stillwater team.
Regardless of who wins the Big 12 championship, Johnson may be the most underrated college quarterback in the nation. With a Hercules-like build of 6-5 and 235 pounds, he is an excellent running threat who can smash through defenders. He’s also a strong-armed passer as he completed 1122 of 235 passes for 1, 724 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Bryan (Texas) High School. He graduated from high school as one of the top-rated dual threat quarterbacks in the nation.
An interview by Fox sports analyst Joel Klatt this week revealed alleged bias by the College Football Selection Committee against Baylor, TCU and other Big 12 teams who use the modern spread offense. Klatt’s contention is that former coaches Barry Alvarez and Tom Osborne, who coached decades ago at Wisconsin and Nebraska, respectively, are prejudiced in favor of old style offenses which Big 10 and SEC teams employ. That may have been the reason Baylor and TCU were excluded from the four-team playoff last year.
Ironically, TCU also used a third string quarterback to almost pull off a dramatic comeback in a 30-29 loss to the Sooners in cold weather last night in Norman. Third stringer Bram Kohlhausen engineered a thrilling comeback for the Frogs who came from far behind in the fourth quarter. A touchdown pass by Kohlhausen cut the Sooner lead to 21-13. TCU coach Gary Patterson elected to go for two and failed which would haunt the Frogs at the end of the game, according to USA Today.
Kohlhausen’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Porter with 51 seconds left at Owen Field cut the lead to 30-29. Once again Patterson’s decision to go for two was fatal as the pass was batted down in the end zone by Sooner Steven Parker. If Patterson had elected to go for the one-point conversion on both occasions, the Horned Frogs probably would’ve won with Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin on the sidelines by one point.
Injuries to quarterbacks seem to have hit epidemic proportions this year with Boykin, Stidham, Russell, Baker Mayfield of OU, and a multitude of other signal-callers from around the country knocked out of games with serious injuries. Notre Dame, Oregon, Michigan State and many other schools have lost starting quarterbacks to injuries. Maybe the people who run college football need to look at better ways to protect quarterbacks. The National Football League has certainly taken strong measures in recent years to protect quarterbacks. Several brutal hits on college quarterbacks this week weren’t even called penalties, although they would’ve been in the NFL. The safety of the players should be paramount and certainly more important than the outcomes of the games.
There has been no official word from Fort Worth yet as to whether TCU will have Boykin back on the field for the Baylor game. Both teams have already had exceptional seasons when one considers the injuries which have depleted both squads. Both small, private schools face incredible odds competing against the larger state schools especially when it comes to competing for spots in the college football playoffs.