Dezmon Jackson came up inches short on a desperate, fourth-down dive with 24 seconds left and fifth-ranked Oklahoma State fell to ninth-ranked Baylor 21-16 in the Big 12 Conference championship game Saturday, knocking the Cowboys out of contention for a playoff spot.
Blake Shapen threw three touchdown passes while completing his first 17 attempts as Baylor (11-2) took a 21-3 lead.
The Cowboys (11-2) rallied with 13 straight points, then went 89 yards on 17 plays on their final drive. But their Big 12 and national championship hopes came up just short.
After having first-and-goal from the two-yard line following a pass interference penalty, Jackson gained a yard and was held for no gain before an incomplete pass by Spencer Sanders.
On fourth down from the one, Jackson tried to sweep wide left, but with Jairon McVea in pursuit, he landed short of the goal line while diving toward the pylon.
There would need to be some chaos, in form of an upset or two in other conference title games later in the day, for third-time Big 12 champion Baylor to have a chance to be in the final four for the first time when the CFP rankings come out Sunday.
Sanders had four passes intercepted, one by McVea, and the Cowboys were without leading rusher Jaylen Warren because of his lingering ankle and shoulder issues.
Shapen started his second game in a row for injured quarterback Gerry Bohanon (right hamstring), and the Bears won even with only 242 total yards of offense. They had only 36 yards after halftime, while Shapen finished 23-of-28 passing for 180 yards passing overall.
After Oklahoma State took a 3-0 lead on Tanner Brown’s 23-yard field goal, set up after Baylor fumbled on the opening drive of the game, the Bears scored 21 consecutive points. Sanders threw picks on the next two drives, setting up Baylor with short fields for three-play TD drives — a two-yard scoring pass to wide-open tight open Ben Sims and Drew Estrada’s four-yard scoring catch.
Baylor had a 21-3 lead after an incredible 13-yard catch by Tyquan Thornton with a defender on his back with 5%frac12; minutes left in the first half.
Northern Illinois 41, Kent State 23
Quarterback Rocky Lombardi ran for three touchdowns and Jay Ducker ran for 146 yards on 29 carries to power Northern Illinois to the Mid-American Conference title in Detroit.
It is the Huskies’ (9-4) sixth MAC title in the last 11 years and first since 2018, when it beat Buffalo. Kent State (7-6) was vying for its first conference championship since 1972.