One of the best vignettes in the Baker Mayfield saga involves the Oklahoma quarterback’s first taste of sports-related success in Norman, Okla.
Mayfield, who transferred to OU as a walk-on from Texas Tech, made his mark as a power-hitting shortstop on an intramural softball team comprising fellow residents from his campus dormitory, Muldrow Tower.
That was in the spring of 2014, before Mayfield completed every pass he threw in the Sooners’ 2014 spring game. Before he cut loose with some memorable dance steps when informed he would be OU’s starting quarterback after sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules.
And certainly before Mayfield accounted for 17 touchdowns (13 passing, four rushing) in his first four games as a starting quarterback for the 10th-ranked Sooners, tying Josh Heupel (16 passing, one rushing in 1999) for the most TDs through four games by any Sooner.
Hayden Shaw, an OU student on Mayfield’s 2014 intramural squad, told USA Today that his former teammate was “all-in” while slugging homers for the dorm team and stood out as “definitely the most athletic guy on the field.” None of that surprised Texas center Taylor Doyle, Mayfield’s high school teammate on squads that won multiple state championships at Austin Lake Travis.
Doyle has witnessed Mayfield’s grit and determination since their childhood days, long before Mayfield (6-foot-1, 209 pounds) earned 2013 Big 12 offensive freshman of the year honors as a walk-on at Tech before losing the starting quarterback job heading into the Red Raiders’ bowl game. He transferred to OU shortly after that decision.
“He’s a gamer,” Doyle said, smiling. “It’s been exciting to see him have success. I’m pulling for him every other week besides this one.
“He grew up an Oklahoma fan. And at the end of the day, I think that’s where he wanted to play ball. And he made that happen. A lot of people looked at him and said, ‘This is crazy’ [when Mayfield left Tech]. But he saw an opportunity and took it.”
He’s also made the most of that opportunity, Mayfield’s most defining trait heading into Saturday’s matchup between Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) and Texas (1-4, 0-2) in the Cotton Bowl (11 a.m., WFAA/Ch. 8).
Rebuffed by former Texas coach Mack Brown when he sought an opportunity to walk on with the Longhorns out of high school, Mayfield acknowledged he will have extra motivation Saturday while playing for the first time in a contest that always fascinated him as a spectator.
“I grew up watching the Red River game, so it will be pretty special going into the Cotton Bowl and playing them,” Mayfield said during Monday’s news conference in Norman, Okla. “My first one was last year, standing on the sidelines. It was pretty neat seeing the whole experience but it will be different playing in it.”
It’s a different Texas team but I’m on a different team, too. So it will be a different experience.
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, who faced the Longhorns as Texas Tech’s QB in 2013
Mayfield acknowledged there will be a chip on his shoulder Saturday for multiple reasons. Not only did Texas coaches seem indifferent to his walk-on inquiry out of high school, but the Longhorns also defeated Tech 41-16 in a 2013 contest that marked the impetus for Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury to re-open the starting quarterback job heading into the team’s bowl game. Kingsbury’s decision to start Davis Webb in a 37-23 victory over Arizona State in the 2013 Holiday Bowl convinced Mayfield to walk on at OU.
Asked if that 2013 contest against Texas, his last in a Tech uniform, gives him extra motivation Saturday, Mayfield said: “It does. It was two years ago, on Thanksgiving Day in Austin. It’s a different Texas team but I’m on a different team, too. So it will be a different experience.”
A different outcome in the Cotton Bowl would allow Mayfield to break the hearts of several childhood friends, a prospect he relishes. But he stressed nothing is guaranteed despite OU’s status as a 17-point favorite.
“Being from Austin, there’s always a few Longhorn fans that wish you good luck but say, ‘Hey, I’ll still be cheering for my team,’ ” Mayfield said. “It’s definitely different. That’s not the University of Texas that I grew up watching … But we can’t look at it like they’re a bad team. It’s a rivalry game. They’re going to come out ready to fire.”
178.5 Mayfield’s passer rating this season, second among Big 12 quarterbacks behind Baylor’s Seth Russell (218.7)
So will Mayfield, who ranks third among Big 12 quarterbacks in total offense (380.0 yards per game) and second in passing efficiency (178.5 rating). He has balanced 13 touchdown passes against three interceptions, with scoring strikes of 71, 28 and 17 yards in last week’s 44-24 victory over then-No. 23 West Virginia. OU coach Bob Stoops said Mayfield’s ability to “put some great deep balls in some great spots” broke open that contest.
Mayfield also brings a more upbeat vibe to the field than some past Sooners quarterbacks, although Stoops deemed it a subtle difference.
“He does 95 percent of it by example and by his play and competitiveness,” Stoops said. “Baker’s just a little more enthusiastic when he runs into the end zone to congratulate somebody.”
A tell-tale reminder that, deep inside the body of a Big 12 quarterback, beats the heart of an intramural league shortstop who had to work harder than most of his teammates to realize his college football dream.
No. 2 TCU 34, Kansas State 23 (6:30 p.m. Saturday, KDFW/Ch. 4): Horned Frogs survive a difficult Big 12 road venue without leaning on a last-second, tipped-pass TD to make it happen.
No. 3 Baylor 77, Kansas 21 (11 a.m. Saturday, FS1): Bears’ offense escalates its point-per-minute pace while sending a message to poll voters.
No. 10 Oklahoma 42, Texas 17 (11 a.m. Saturday, WFAA/Ch. 8): Sooners hand the Longhorns another lopsided loss to ponder during next week’s open date.
West Virginia 35, No. 21 Oklahoma State 31 (6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2): Mountaineers thin the ranks of undefeated Big 12 teams by taking down a Top 25 foe in front of the home crowd.
Texas Tech 42, Iowa State 35 (2:30 p.m. Saturday, FSSW): Red Raiders win a shootout in Lubbock, get back on track toward bowl eligibility.
Last week: 5-0