When looking through this weekend’s NCAA football games for a suitable match-up for this week’s entry of STAT BOX STORIES, one game stood out to me in particular: Oklahoma at Baylor. The Sooners were the consensus #1 team in college football to enter the season, and until a shocking home loss to Texas Tech they appeared to be on the fast track to a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. On the other end of the spectrum, Baylor began the season outside of the Top 25 and took advantage of a big early win over the TCU Horned Frogs to fight their way into the top of the heap; though the Bears have picked up some losses between then and now, they remain in the upper echelon of college football at this point in the season.
Even though this was my first NCAA Football 12 game for the blog series where I took control of the home team, I knew that wasn’t going to make things any easier; what with having to face the team with the best overall ratings in this year’s game and everything. However, both teams boast potential Heisman Candidates on their offenses, so I knew that I at least had a puncher’s chance in the fight if I was able to keep putting points on the board.
For all of the offensive potential, however, this game looked little like last week’s clash between Oregon and Stanford in the early going. Oklahoma won the coin toss and decided to kick off to begin the game, and on my first play from scrimmage my quarterback threw an errant pass and was intercepted, taking away my chance to establish a home field tone. Unfortunately for Sooner fans, the CPU was having some trouble with its offense as well and threw a bad pass that I was able to “User-Pick” on my own 3-yard-line on 3rd Down when Oklahoma was at least in field goal position to put the first points of the game on the board. I was forced to punt on that possession, and then I forced a fumble on Oklahoma’s offensive drive to get the ball back quickly. The offense sputtered again, however, when my second interception of the game was thrown in the first quarter! Oklahoma was able to turn that turnover into points with a field goal coming with just over a minute remaining in the quarter. I then took advantage of a good kickoff return to tie the game up just before the quarter’s end on a long field goal attempt.
After the Sooners’ first drive of the second quarter stalled and resulted in a punt, it took my only a few plays to finally get the game’s first touchdown on the board. On 3rd Down, I saw one of my outside receivers get behind his man coverage and put up a prayer of a deep throw. Thankfully, it ended up safely in the receiver’s hands as their momentum carried them into the end zone on a tackle.
The first half scoring concluded with a late field goal attempt for Baylor sailing through the uprights and a 13-3 lead for my underdog Baylor team. I had to kick off to begin the second half, and it seemed as though the offenses had regressed to their early difficulty moving the ball. OU had a three-and-out on their opening drive, and then two plays into my first drive of the half I was intercepted for the third time in the game. This set up the road squad in great position for a 20-yard touchdown pass to get within a field goal just under halfway through the third quater.
On my next possession, I faced a 3rd-and-19 and miraculously pulled off a pass to a defender in traffic to earn a new set of downs. On the very next play, another deep bomb found a streaking Baylor receiver in stride for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead.
A ten-point lead in college football, however, is rarely safe. Even though the lead went to 13 early in the fourth quarter, it took just over a minute for Oklahoma to drive into scoring position and make it a 23-17 game. The next Baylor position was pivotol as I could not get anything going on offense and had to punt the ball back to the CPU; with just under four minutes in the game the Oklahoma quarterback took a page out of my team’s playbook and connected on a deep pass to the back of the end zone to complete a greate comeback and take a 24-23 lead.
With so little time remaining in the game, I knew this drive was my last chance to succeed. A field goal would only give me a 2-point lead–and if I scored too early, all Oklahoma would have to do would be to get into field goal range themselves to win–so to begin the drive, my eyes were focused on the end zone first, and also to score with as little time remaining as possible. To keep the clock moving I stuck with rushing plays and turned to short passes across the middle only when 3rd Downs came up and needed to be converted. As the clock approached one minute remaining in the game, my halfback charged up the middle and was tackled at the 1-yard-line, presenting me with a dilemma: score a touchdown and leave time on the clock for the Sooners to respond, or play conservatively and run clock to set up a game-winning field goal attempt.
I decided to gamble and punched the ball in on the next play with exactly one minute left to play. In an attempt to make it a 7-point lead, I tried a two-point conversion but my quarterback was sacked hard and knocked out of the game. With a 29-24 lead, my defense would have to protect its end zone at all costs in order to complete the underdog win. After a key sack on second down, the Sooners faced 3rd-and-Long; that’s when this happened:
That improbable tipped interception sealed the game and allowed my backup quarterback the luxury of kneeling the ball a few times to run out the game. Though it was a sloppy game at times, the fast and furious nature of the fourth quarter more than made up for it; and the game currently sits at #2 in my personal list of ESPN Instant Classics in NCAA Football 12.
In looking at the team stats, the first numbers that jump out to me are for Third Down Conversions; between the two teams, only 4 third down conversions were made in 25 attempts! Considering that there were 12 punts combined over the course of the game, the numbers make it fairly clear that the defenses were able to dictate stages of the game. Of course–with three total touchdown passes of over 45 yards in the game–each offense found a way to break through when they needed to. Also of note are the penalties–at least, penalties against my Baylor team–as I ended up getting flagged 7 times in the game and giving up 55 free yards to Oklahoma which helped them to stay in the game despite how one-sided the offensive statistics were at the end of the contest.
As for player stats, though each team’s quarterback managed two touchdown passes it was a fitful game through the air, as shown by each player’s completion percentage. The rushing game was much more consistent than the passing attack which scored yards on a few big completions but proved unreliable at other points in the game. Defenses were solid, with Oklahoma’s left defensive end racking up 9 tackles on the game and Baylor’s MLB recording a 12-tackle performance. Finally, the place-kickers were in another world; though the game was played in somewhat chilly conditions, they each managed field goals of over 50 yards in the game.
And so another STAT BOX STORIES losing streaks broken by a strong, gutty performance in NCAA Football 12. Be sure to come back here tomorrow for this week’s Madden NFL 12 entry–Eagles @ Giants—as voted on by you, the fans of this site!