Opinion: Oklahoma still has Playoff pulses after stunning comeback against Baylor

WACO, Texas — Somewhere in the commotion, quarterback and coach found each other. This was in the immediate aftermath of Oklahoma’s 34-31 comeback win against Baylor. For maybe 10 yards, headed toward a corner of the stadium where a knot of celebrating fans waited, Jalen Hurts and Lincoln Riley shared something resembling a running hug, all smiles and buddy punches and can you believe that?

By the time someone asked Hurts about it, the frenzy had faded. He had reverted to stoic, which seems to be his steady state. But yeah, Hurts allowed:

“It’s a moment you’ve got to embrace. You’ve got to embrace it and enjoy.”

Let’s all do that much. Because what No. 10 Oklahoma did in taking down No. 13 Baylor was at least college football at its zany best.

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) and the Sooner fans and team celebrate the win over the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. (Photo: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)

Baylor blew to a 25-point first-half lead, helped along by two turnovers by Hurts. But just as the party along the Brazos River was about to get cranked up — Matt Rhule’s unbeaten Bears announcing themselves — here came Oklahoma, roaring all the way back to the largest comeback in school history.

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In the second half, Hurts and the Sooners’ offense were virtually unstoppable. A defense that in the first half had been porous suddenly solidified.

When it was over, Oklahoma somehow still had a College Football Playoff pulse. After a win against a ranked opponent in a hostile road environment — and yes, given how well the Sooners played in a dominant second half — it might beat a little stronger than before.

This team is flawed but also formidable, capable of maddening mistakes but also long stretches of dominance. See the first half Saturday. But then see also the finish.

“We kind of found ourselves a little bit, that’s the best way I can describe it,” said Riley: “I think we saw in that second half what we can be.”

We saw in the first half what Oklahoma can be, too — what it has been during a midseason stretch that included a loss at Kansas State and an escape against Iowa State, fueling doubts about the Sooners’ potential. Backed by the largest crowd in the short history of McLane Stadium, Baylor seemed ready to extend its record to 10-0 with an emphatic statement.

Yeah, Hurts hurt the Sooners with a fumble and an interception. But it was a team effort. Oklahoma’s defense turned the Bears’ offense, which had scored two touchdowns in regulation in its last two games, into a first-half juggernaut. When the Bears turned Hurts’ interception — the second of three turnovers by the senior quarterback — into a quick touchdown, it was 28-3 barely four minutes into the second quarter. It was 31-10 at halftime.

And yet, to hear the Sooners tell it afterward, they gained confidence in the final part of the second quarter, scoring a touchdown and holding Baylor to a late field goal. Before the second half began, coordinator Alex Grinch caught Hurts on his way out of the locker room and told him, “This is gonna be a helluva story to tell one day.”

“Just add another one to the list,” Hurts recounted himself as saying. “One of many.”

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