OU football: Five things to watch between Oklahoma-Baylor in the Big 12 championship

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, right, and senior cornerback Parnell Motley, left, celebrate with fans after the game against Baylor in Waco on Saturday. (Caitlyn Epes / For The Transcript)

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch didn’t have to poll all his players to know if they felt relief after finally getting a takeaway after nearly two months without one.

He said he was comfortable speaking for them.

“It was [a huge relief] for me,” he said of Parnell Motley’s strip of Baylor running back JaMycal Hasty in the second half Saturday, which contributed to OU’s 34-31 victory after trailing by 25 points.

OU didn’t score on the ensuing drive, but the play changed momentum permanently the Sooners’ way. They hadn’t forced a turnover since September 28.

“It was huge,” said defensive back Ronnie Perkins, who finished with three sacks. “His strip started the whole thing so that changed the game for us. When you're down by however much we were down, I ain't thinking about [the takeaway drought]. I'm thinking about winning the game. Yeah, it's definitely good to get them. It played a big part in helping us win that game so it definitely felt good and then, yeah, putting one turnover back on our defensive statistics so it was good too. So yeah, it was a win-win.”

• Lamb misses game: It was early afternoon when a report arose that Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb was questionable for Saturday’s game against Baylor.

But Lamb went through pre-game warmups, then was in full pads for the last session before kickoff. Ultimately, he wasn’t ready to go.

Lamb didn’t play, after being reportedly questionable according to the OU Daily, and was replaced by A.D. Miller in the lineup, robbing OU of its best offensive playmaker.

OU coach Lincoln Riley said Lamb went through warm-ups for strategic purposes. The coaching staff knew before the game that he wouldn’t play.

Lamb had caught 44 passes for 983 yards and 13 touchdowns, ranking fifth nationally in yards per catch (22.34 yards) coming in and was the Biletnkoff Award frontrunner.

It continued a trend of injuries for the Sooners, the latest being a season-ending blows to running back Trey Sermon and defensive end Kenneth Mann.

The biggest positive was right tackle Adrian Ealy returned from injury to his starting spot.

• Proctor replaces Swenson: OU’s offensive line began intact, with Adrian Ealy returning to right tackle after an injury last week. But it didn’t last long.

With struggles in pass protection and run blocking, the Sooners made a change with R.J. Proctor replacing Erik Swenson in the first half. It’s unclear whether or not Swenson was injured.

There was little running room early on for OU, with Jalen Hurts, Kennedy Brooks, Rhamondre Stevenson averaging 3.9 yards per carry through the first three quarters.

OU finished with 228 yards on the ground led by Hurts, who ran 27 times for 114 yards.

• Freshman connection: OU came into the year with three five-star receivers and a four-star tight end from the 2019 recruiting class.

Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood and Austin Stogner earned their stripes Saturday.

Stogner caught two key touchdown passes as OU plodded along from behind. Wease’s 20-yard TD catch brought OU within 31-24 in the fourth quarter.

Haselwood played as many snaps as he has in weeks, coming up with a long catch of 16 yards.

Hurts struggled passing in the first half, but finished 30 of 42 for 297 yards after settling in with his new targets.

• Thinking of Tua: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who replaced Hurts as the Crimson Tide’s QB in the 2017 national title game, is out for the season after he suffered a hip injury against Mississippi State on Saturday.

It was sour news to Hurts. The two have remained friends.

“Yeah man, it hurt me to hear it,” Hurts said. “Great friend of mine. I wish him nothing but the best. I hate to hear it. I pray for him and his family and I hope everything works out for him.”

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