Oklahoma’s upcoming game at Ohio State is one of the biggest regular season games in recent Sooner memory. Winning the rematch with Buckeyes should prove to be a monumental challenge for the Sooners, but with quarterback Baker Mayfield leading the way, OU is in excellent hands.
Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley went a step further:
In Monday’s weekly press conference, Mayfield was asked if he had to learn how to handle the challenges of playing on the road or if he was born with his capabilities. Mayfield said, “I think you’re either born with it or not. There’s a time when you face adversity and you go into a hostile environment and you either go into your shell or you come out and you shine.”
Those hostile environments only fuel his fiery passion for the game, which in turn ignite his teammates. A great example of this could be seen in Mayfield’s second game ever as the starting Sooner QB. In 2015, Oklahoma traveled to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers. In what would be one of the most hostile environments in all of college football, the Sooners found themselves down 17-3 in the 4th quarter.
The outlook of the game was mighty bleak, but the Sooners’ signal caller never gave up. Mayfield rallied his teammates on the sidelines, and his play on the field backed him up. He would lead Oklahoma on two scoring drives in the final quarter, ultimately forcing overtime. After the Vols found the end zone first, it was OU’s turn to match them.
In one of the defining moments of his career, on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line, Baker Mayfield kept the ball himself and rushed in for the game-tying touchdown. Immediately after scoring, Mayfield looked towards the crowd and brought his finger to his facemask, effectively telling the 102,000 screaming Vols fans in attendance to hush.
In essence, Mayfield’s moxie is a major reason why he is the perfect candidate to lead a team into hostile enemy territory. Mayfield is a cerebral player, fully aware of the situation around him. He understands how his actions affect his teammates as well as the opposing fans. Many outsiders hate him for his “arrogance”, but OU fans love him for his fearlessness.
The fact of the matter is that Mayfield not only plays well as the visitor, he is undefeated in true road games since he became the starter for Oklahoma. That includes big games such as the aforementioned Tennessee game, the Baylor and Oklahoma State games in 2015 (both of which played host to College GameDay), and the TCU, Texas Tech (Mayfield’s return to his former school) and West Virginia games in 2016. Also, but one of the six games I just mentioned were against ranked opponents.
If that isn’t enough proof that Baker Mayfield is the man for the job, he actually has a perfect record of 9-0 in true road games as the Sooners’ starting QB. In those games, OU won by an average margin of 23.7 points and covered the spread in seven of those games. Baker Mayfield contributed significantly to these figures, and threw for 2,618 yards (almost 291 yards per game), 32 touchdowns with only five interceptions in those contests. He also added seven rushing TDs to his 32 passing scores, proving to be a real threat with his legs. Mayfield will look to keep his perfect road record blemish-free in what should be his toughest challenge to date.
And boy is it quite the challenge. Ohio Stadium, also known as the Horseshoe, has seen a crowd of over 110,000 raucous fans reigning down on visiting teams. After finishing the 2016 season by getting thumped and shut out against eventual champion Clemson in the semi-finals, Ohio State’s fans will be eager to wash that bad taste out of their mouth in their home opener. Add in the fact that this game is a rematch from last season, and the Buckeyes will be looking to prove that they have the better players, coaches, and overall football program.
What helps make Baker so great on the road is his personal philosophy, which is to approach each game like any other game during any other week. It may sound like generic coach speak, but when you listen to Mayfield, you trust that what he says is genuine. Mayfield acknowledges what has made him successful in the past, which is simply doing his job and pushing his teammates to match that same level of attention to detail.
So yes, the Sooners will be up against an elite opponent on Saturday, but the Buckeyes will also be challenged with defeating Baker Mayfield and company. As Mayfield said himself, “An environment like this is why you come to Oklahoma. You come to Oklahoma to play big games. You gotta love it.”
“Without pressure, there’s no diamonds”. Wise words for a young man, but Baker Mayfield certainly has the necessary experience to lead this team to victory, and if nothing else, we should all be able to trust in that.
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