Next season, the Texas Tech Red Raiders will travel to Norman, where they will find themselves once again squaring off against their former quarterback, if he chooses to stay in college to exercise his regained year of eligibility. However, Baker Mayfield has played Texas Tech twice--once in Norman, and once in Lubbock--and has come away victorious in both games. He's extracted his pound of flesh, and we are now prepared to close the book to this popular (if not severely overplayed) headline.
The preamble to the story is so well-known, so much the subject of interviews and articles, that we won't explore the origins of this rivalry here; if you don't know it by now, you must have been actively avoiding it. This article isn't about the build-up of this man vs. team rivalry, but rather the end of it.
Almost a year ago to the date, the Texas Tech Red Raiders came to Oklahoma to face the Sooners. The game may have been titled "Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma," but it was billed as "Texas Tech vs. Baker Mayfield." It would be the first time the former walk-on would face the team he played for two years prior, and the first chance he would have to show the coach who spurned him that the Red Raiders let their best player walk away.
The thing is, the game didn't play out the way the media was hoping. The game itself wasn't about Mayfield at all. That certainly doesn't mean he didn't play well, as he went 15-22 for 212 yards and two touchdowns through the air. More than anything, though, the game showed why Mayfield was now in a better place. Mayfield played for an offense with two superstar running backs, and in that game each would run for at least 150 yards. Samaje Perine finished with 201 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, while Joe Mixon would take his 16 carries for 154 yards and two scores of his own.
The Sooner defense also showed the world that day why the grass had, in fact, been greener on the other side: normally reliable Red Raider QB Patrick Mahomes, II was intercepted four times as the Sooners held Kliff Kingsbury's explosive offense to only 27 points.
Baker Mayfield had broken up with Texas Tech, and it had been ugly. But when his ex came to town, Mayfield got to show them and everyone else that he was with someone new now. Someone better.
Fast forward one year, and Mayfield had to see his former team again. This time, though, Mayfield wasn't in the comforts of his own town. The Sooner quarterback was most certainly in hostile territory, and if there was any doubt, that was certainly erased by a quick scan of the student section.
Seen a few of these shirts in the Texas Tech student section: pic.twitter.com/K0g5eCBHsx— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 22, 2016
If anyone had yearned for a chance for Mayfield to one-up his former team in the first game, they got their wish in the second one. Both teams seemed to leave their defenses in the locker rooms, instead handing out jerseys to eleven scare-crows to spread among the field. Kingsbury was able to trot out "his guy" in Mahomes, a 6-3" junior who'd been setting scoreboards on fire all season. If Kingsbury ever wanted to claim he made the right choice letting Mayfield leave, Saturday night was the best chance he'd ever get.
Mahomes absolutely horrified Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who is frankly lucky to have been allowed to make the trip back home with the team. Kingsbury's guy completed a staggering 52 passes. He threw for 734 yards, tying the FBS record for passing yards in a single game. He rushed for 85 more yards, combining to break the FBS record for yards by a single player in a single game. His seven total touchdowns were a testament that maybe Kingsbury didn't need Mayfield after all, and the Sooner defense was able to intercept only one of the ridiculous 88 pass attempts.
In between Texas Tech touchdowns, though, Mayfield was allowed to take the stage to lead his own offense. Mahomes was busy breaking records, and the Red Raider fans were delighted by his fireworks. They were decidedly less happy to see Mayfield, but they were perhaps even more enthusiastic:
Just now tuning in & hear the Texas Tech crowd chanting "F*** you, Baker" at OU QB Baker Mayfield. I'm sure that's been going on all night.— Trent Shadid (@Shadid13) October 23, 2016
In the face of thousands of haters, against the coach who didn't want him and the team he left behind, and in the midst of a record-setting day by the man who replaced him, Baker Mayfield wasn't just good, he was great. In fact, he was better than Mahomes. Don't believe me? Check out the stats:
- Completion Percentage: Mahomes - 59.1%, Mayfield - 75%
- Touchdowns-to-interceptions: Mahomes - 5:1, Mayfield- 7:0
- Quarterback Rating: Mahomes - 145.6, Mayfield - 266.3
- Adjusted QBR: Mahomes - 90.9, Mayfield - 97.9
- Yards per attempt: Mahomes - 8.34, Mayfield - 15.14
By yards alone, you could look at Mahomes' day and say that he was more impressive. But while it took Mahomes 88 attempts to what he did, Mayfield compiled his stats while throwing only as many passes as Mahomes had incompletions (36). In those 36 attempts, Mayfield was able to amass 545 yards through the air, all without a single pass falling into enemy hands.
Mayfield, never one to win too quietly, allowed some of his frustrations to be taken out on a Red Raider defender after a questionable hit out of bounds.
Feel how you will about the penalty (I think this one was worth it), but it was just a small moment in a long game of perfection for Mayfield. In a match against his former coach, team, and town, Mayfield walked away with the only thing that really matters: the win. In the game of offense vs. offense, Mayfield flexed his skill and led a balanced attack that carried the day for Oklahoma. Texas Tech took their best shot, and it just wasn’t enough to topple the man they’ve come to hate.
Mayfield has now enjoyed a complete team victory, and a victory that required him help carry his team across the finish line. In both cases, he's been able to claim the title of "winner," leaving everyone in Lubbock knowing that no matter what they've got, they don't have Baker.
As he walked off the field Saturday night, he was greeted by immense boo's from the crowd. They even threw trash at him while he made his way to the tunnel. It was more than a little ugly.
To Mayfield, though, it doesn't really matter. He's done with them.