With five minutes left in the fourth quarter and Oklahoma leading Ohio State 31-16, ABC play-by-play man Chris Fowler was talking about Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield and said, “I don’t want to mention the H-word, but … “. That word Fowler was referring to: Heisman.
We often talk about those “Heisman moments” that players have to have to win the trophy. Josh Rosen‘s fake-spike touchdown in Week 1 could have been that moment. But Baker Mayfield topped that in Week 2 in Ohio Stadium Saturday night.
What Baker Mayfield accomplished in The Horseshoe on was the most impressive performance in college football in this early season: 27-35, 386 yards, 3 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. What was even more impressive was his leadership throughout a sluggish first half and carrying and young team on his back in a brutal road environment to victory.
Two first-half turnovers could have demoralized this young OU team. It didn’t. Mayfield remained optimistic on the sidelines and was not deterred. His touchdown passes went to a fullback (Flowers), a true freshman (Sermon) and a walk-on (Morris). Baker Mayfield’s confidence rubbed off on his young teammates in a way that can never be fully quantified.
Oklahoma struggled in the running game against Ohio State, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. But Mayfield made up for it in the passing game, completing passes to nine different receivers. Of those nine, six were freshman or sophomores, and it was, by far, the biggest game they had played in. True freshman like Trey Sermon, CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra were starting their senior seasons in high school one year ago. Now, they were in The Horseshoe, one of the most historic stadium’s in college football with 100,000 screaming Ohio State fans, expected to make big plays in a Top 5 match up. Mayfield gave them the swagger to believe in themselves.
And you think this game had emotion? Sure, there was Baker Mayfield’s savagery right after the game.
Baker Mayfield is a SAVAGE pic.twitter.com/93CFOyA6be
— Derek Duke (@DerekDuke25) September 10, 2017
Mayfield was asked if this was a prearranged idea, and after a smirk, the quarterback said, “uhhh… it was a last-minute decision. I was planning on something, but I didn’t know what it was. I got some help from my teammates.”
The quarterback went on to say that there were several factors that motivated them throughout the week, adding, “Part of it’s last year. Like I said in the press conference, it was embarrassing for them to sing their fight song on our field. They’re probably feeling the same way right now. We’ve had that mood in the locker room that nobody believed in us. The guys, we were able to catch that nobody picked us on [College] GameDay. You see it on social media throughout the week that about 80% of the country voted for Ohio State to win. So, right now, we believe in ourselves and quite frankly that’s all that matters.”
But you know that Baker Mayfield, who wears his emotion on his sleeve, was going to be fired up for this game. However, even head coach Lincoln Riley, Mr. Stone Face, and the 34-year-old coach seemingly going on 54, admitted there was some extra juice to this game, saying, “Yea it was emotional. Games like this are tough. You go on the road against a Top 5 team… they’re tough. Just to see our guys play, we never got down… We stayed in it, we competed, at a high, high level.”
That’s all the credit to Baker Mayfield. The Sooners were in a hostile environment, he lost his favorite target in Mark Andrews to injury, yet this team never let down.
Oklahoma’s defense also did an outstanding job, holding the Buckeyes to just one touchdown and three field goals. J.T. Barrett looked incredibly mediocre. Despite having former Oklahoma offensive coordinator and Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson in his corner, Barrett did not look any different from the quarterback who had a very hot-and-cold season in 2016.
But the ying and yang between head coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Baker Mayfield also helps make this team, and potentially this season, a special one in Norman. While Riley admitted this game had extra emotion, he quickly reverted back to his humble self. When asked what he thinks he proved as a head coach, Riley responded, “There’s no ‘me’ in this. It’s just what did we prove as a team. It proved when we are focused and have a good mentality and play together, we can beat a lot of people.”
If Saturday night was any indication, then there “a lot of people”, from coaches, players and fans, who will have no interest in seeing this Oklahoma team throughout the 2017 season.