The Baylor Bears held on to win the Big 12 Championship on Saturday by beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys 21-16 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in a dramatic game that came down to the final seconds.

Oklahoma State entered the game at 11-1 and ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings. OSU would have won the Big 12 Championship for the first time in ten years and had a solid case to move into the top four and earn a playoff berth.

However, Oklahoma State came up short on a fourth-down attempt with less than 30 seconds to go in the game and the ball on Baylor’s one-yard line. The Cowboys handed Dezmon Jackson the ball, who raced to the corner of the endzone, but Bears Jairon McVea recognized the play and chased Jackson down.

McVea knocked Jackson out of bounds as he reached for the goalline causing him to come up inches short and ending all Oklahoma State hope of making the playoff and giving Baylor their third Big 12 Championship win.

To start the game, it appeared that Baylor would run away with the victory. After the Bears’ Trestan Ebner fumbled on the opening drive and the Cowboys capitalized with a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead, Baylor responded with 21 consecutive points.

Quarterback Blake Shapen, who has been starting in place of Gerry Bohanon since he suffered an injury in the Bears 20-10 victory over Kansas State, had an outstanding start to the game.

Shapen completed his first 17 passes in the first half and threw all three touchdowns that made up the first 21 points. He finished the game completing 23 of 28 passes for 180 yards but was also sacked five times.

Baylor’s defense was also a big reason for their early lead. The defense forced Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders into four interceptions, two in each half. Shapen and the Bears’ offense converted both first-half interceptions into touchdowns.

Sanders finished the game, completing 31 of 46 passes for 257 yards. The Cowboys were without leading rusher Jaylen Warren due to a leg injury, causing a more considerable reliance in the passing game than usual.

In their matchup earlier this season, the Baylor defense intercepted Sanders three times, but Oklahoma State won 24-14 behind Warren’s 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. Without Warren, the Cowboys were limited to only 70 yards rushing on 40 carries for a paltry average of 1.8 yards-per-carry.

While Baylor held a comfortable 21-6 lead at halftime, the second half was different for the Bears offense. Baylor was shut out and gained only 36 yards of total offense in the second half while the Cowboys chipped away at their lead.

Oklahoma State took advantage of Baylor’s mistakes and questionable decisions. First, Bears second-year head coach Dave Aranda decided to go for it on fourth-and-one from their 36-yard line midway through the third quarter.

The attempt was unsuccessful, and the Cowboys took advantage of the excellent field position to score their first touchdown of the game on a four-yard run by Dominic Richardson to trim the lead to 21-13.

Then, following an Oklahoma State three-and-out on their first fourth-quarter possession, the Cowboys punted the ball away to Ebner, who muffed the punt.

Oklahoma State recovered and drove the ball down to the Baylor goalline but could not score. They settled for a chip-shot 20-yard field goal to tighten the score to 21-16 with about eight minutes left in the game.

The teams exchanged punts until the Cowboys got the ball on their own ten-yard line with 3:23 remaining. They marched 89 yards down the field on 17 plays to set up the final game-deciding sequence where Jackson came up short.

The victory for the Bears improved their record to 11-2 and moved them to No. 7 in the final CFP rankings. The 11 wins match a school record for wins in a season and is a massive turnaround from coach Aranda’s first season in charge when Baylor went 2-7 in a pandemic-shortened season.

Baylor will have a chance to get to 12 wins in a season for the first time in school history. As Big 12 Champions, they will play in the Sugar Bowl for the second time in three years. The Bears will face off against No. 8 Ole Miss, who finished the season at 10-2 and second in the SEC West Division.

Oklahoma State dropped to No. 9 in the rankings and will be rewarded for their successful season with an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 5 Notre Dame, who finished the season at 11-1.