Baylor followed the script to a Big 12 championship game.
And just like its head coach Dave Aranda, Baylor played with cool confidence in the face of impending doom.
With the offense sputtering in the second half, the pressure shifted to the Baylor defense. Aranda, known for his work as a defensive coordinator, trusted his defense to come up with one final stop. The Bears did exactly that in a goal-line stand with less than a minute on the clock to claim their third Big 12 championship in school history.
Baylor’s defense is unreal: The only reason Baylor was in position to beat Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game was the defense. Sure, the offense performed well in the first half, but the scoring drives were set up by the defense. Baylor’s three touchdown drives in the first half all started inside of Oklahoma State territory. The Bears intercepted Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders four times. The group picked him off three times in the regular season loss in Stillwater.
Aranda is known as a defensive wizard, and he proved why again on Saturday. Baylor couldn’t do anything offensively in the second half with the running game ineffective and Shapen struggling with an injured shoulder. The defense came up with stop after stop to keep Baylor’s hopes alive.
Siaki Ika, a transfer from LSU, is the best nose tackle in the state. He helped eliminate the Oklahoma State run game alongside linebackers Terrel Bernard and Dillon Doyle. Jalen Pitre, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, was great in coverage and as a havoc creator in the backfield. Four different Bears recorded interceptions.
Oklahoma State ran seven plays inside the Baylor two yard line, and the Cowboys didn't score a touchdown. Bernard and Doyle recorded 10 tackles each. Ika had 2.5 tackles for loss. Pitre record seven tackles, including two for loss, and two passes broken up. Safeties Jairon McVea and J.T. Woods combined for 16 tackles and a pair of interceptions. It was a complete performance from a unit that will live in Baylor history forever.
Shapen is the future in Waco: Disaster struck Baylor in the Kansas State game a few weeks ago when starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon went down injured amid a Big 12 championship run. Shapen, a redshirt freshman, stepped in against Kansas State to complete 16 of 21 passes for 137 yards. He was even better in his first start, a home game against Texas Tech in Week 13. Shapen completed 20 of 34 passes for 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns in that win.
He was money in the first half for the Bears in the Big 12 championship game. Shapen completed his first 17 passes of the first half. He ended the first two quarters 17 of 21 for 151 yards and two touchdown passes. A shoulder injury, and a lack of a running game, put Shapen in bad spots during the second half, but he looks like a future star poised to lead the Baylor offense into 2022.
Shapen finished the game 23 of 28 for 180 yards and three touchdown passes. Most importantly, he didn't throw a single interception.
Baylor can hire football coaches: The Bears were in position to win a Big 12 championship game for the third time in last six years despite multiple coaching changes. Matt Rhule was hired from Temple to turnaround an impossible situation. Two years after he was hired, Baylor was in the Big 12 title game. Rhule left Waco after the 2019 season for a job in the NFL. Baylor was forced to find another head coach capable of winning at Baylor. Aranda became that man after leading the LSU defense to the 2019 national championship. In his second season in Waco, Baylor is Big 12 champions. He's a rising star in the college football ranks and Baylor fans should feel lucky for as long as he is the head coach of the Bears.
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