WACO, Texas – Mike Gundy had finished talking, but his glance continued to peer down.
His eyes were fixated on a stat sheet in the media room. He had just answered questions for about 13 minutes, yet he repeated one thing when asked about the outcome of the game.
“We’re not a good enough football team to have that many penalties and a special teams blunder,” Gundy said.
The Oklahoma State football team’s season-high penalty total cost them a chance at nabbing its first win in Waco since 2009. The Bears defeated the Cowboys, 35-31, after quarterback Charlie Brewer found Denzel Mims on a 6-yard fade route touchdown with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter.
OSU’s final play attempt was a multiple-lateral effort that ended with a fumble near midfield.
Twelve penalties were called against OSU (5-4 overall, 2-4 Big 12) for 133 yards. Cornerback A.J. Green accrued 45 penalty yards on a pass interference, personal foul face mask and an unsportsmanlike conduct. Gundy mentioned how penalties prolonged drives and kept the defense on the field.
At one point in the third quarter, OSU had stopped Baylor (5-4, 3-3) twice on third downs, but penalties continued drives. The first was a roughing the passer on Trey Carter, and an offsides on third-and-6 helped Baylor convert the shorter third down.
“Penalties and habits are something I’ve been trying really hard to harp on,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “Your habits show up in the games, and we’ve had too many penalties, too many drive extenders.
“That’s my fault. We keep harping on it in practice, but I’ve got to do a better job.”
Baylor started the game-winning drive on its 45 with no timeouts and 1:31 left. Nine plays later, the Bears sent McLane Stadium into a frenzy.
Mims caught the touchdown over Green, who appeared distraught and disoriented walking off the field. Right tackle Tevin Jenkins needed assistant walking off the field with a bad limp. For an offensive line that has already dealt with many injuries, Jenkins limp should be of concern.
OSU scored on three straight drives in the second half to take a 31-21 lead with 8:55 left. On a fourth-and-2 from Baylor’s 36 before the game-winning score, OSU had a chance to take a first down and seal its win.
Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius scrambled right and couldn’t find Jelani Woods open, leading to him being sacked for nine yards after trying to scramble. When the offense needed to shine, it couldn’t.
Consistency has been an glaring issue throughout the season. When OSU is playing well, it’s avoiding sloppy penalties and playing effectively.
When the flags start flying, the Cowboys become a different football team. Wide receiver Dillon Stoner said the Cowboys have to become better at fighting through the adversity.
“It’s just part of it,” Stoner said. “I don’t think there’s any one thing that sticks out. We’ve just gotta do our job, and everything should fall into place.”
The sloppy penalties mask a lethargic special teams effort. The Cowboys had a punt blocked that was recovered for a touchdown, and Matt Ammendola missed two field goals, both longer than 40 yards.
Ammendola’s field goals were into a gusty south breeze, which gusted to speeds higher than 30 miles an hour at times. In the past two games, Ammendola is 1-of-5 kicking field goals.
OSU finished with more penalty yards (133) than Justice Hill had rushing (118) and Tylan Wallace had receiving (122). Cornelius finished with 287 yards and a scoring toss to Wallace, but offensive coordinator said he wants to see more from the redshirt senior.
“More consistency,” Yurcich said.
OSU had 532 total yards and a meaningless turnover at the end of the game, but Baylor’s red zone turnover and 402 yards don’t equate to a victory.
In most of OSU’s losses this season, penalties have derailed any chance of winning. OSU has dropped two straight road games after winning its past seven. Gundy said the penalties really concern him because they discuss them often.
“What disappoints me is we talk about it every single day, every practice, every meeting, and I talk about it twice before we go onto the field…,” Gundy said. “We are going to have to come up with some plan where we can get our guys to be a little more disciplined on some of those penalties because that’s a huge factor in these close losses.”
A win would have secured OSU a bowl birth. Two of its next three opponents are ranked, and its final game of the season is at TCU.
Starting after the ninth game is a difficult task when trying to fix problems that have been occurring all season. Knowles, staring at the floor and looking dejected and defeated, continued to say he has to be better when coaching the defense.
“Ultimately, that’s still my job is to change their habits, change our habits, to get our habits to be impeccable,” Knowles said. “That shows up on Saturday.”