ARLINGTON, TEXAS - Baker Mayfield dancing through a flurry of confetti at AT&T Stadium Saturday afternoon, Most Outstanding Player trophy in tow, was undoubtedly a frustrating image for most people outside of the Sooner faithful.
It undoubtedly was, at least, for those who see him as an egocentric, crotch-grabbing trash-talker, or as the guy who was arrested just 10 months ago for disorderly conduct and a host of other charges.
But, love him or hate him, after Saturday, you have to see Baker Mayfield for what he is: A game-changing athlete who has won yet another Big 12 championship and -- quite likely -- a Heisman Trophy.
The senior left little doubt about his Heisman candidacy as he gashed the TCU defense to the tune of 15-of-23 for 243 yards and four touchdowns, in a game in which he only had to throw six passes in the second half. He tied the Big 12 title game record for touchdown passes, and added a career-long 54-yard run to boot.
It was the second time Mayfield shredded TCU this season. He threw for 333 yards and three scores in the Sooners’ Nov. 11 drubbing of the Horned Frogs.
“He comes out every week and he balls,” TCU linebacker Travin Howard said. “You can’t take anything away from him.”
And it’s not just TCU that has fallen victim to Mayfield’s magic. Saturday was the 26th consecutive game in which Mayfield has thrown two or more touchdowns -- tying Kellen Moore’s 2010-11 streak with Boise State for the longest in FBS history.
Oklahoma has had the nation’s top offense over the three seasons during which Mayfield has been their starter.
“He’s one of the best in college football, so to me he looks like the Heisman,” TCU quarterback Kenny Hill said.
Now, is Mayfield poised for an illustrious NFL career? His 6-foot-1 frame -- which may be a bit of a generous listing, if my eyes served me right when I was feet from him on the field after Oklahoma’s win -- puts him a few inches below the ever-growing average QB size at the next level. Those smarter than me have found flaws in his footwork and pocket presence, too.
Maybe he's the next Johnny Football. Maybe he's the next Drew Brees. He's probably the next Troy Smith. Regardless, he’s undeniably got the playmaking ability and the winning pedigree that will earn him a shot to prove it.
Is he cocky? Folks wearing crimson-colored glasses would just call it “swagger,” but you bet your butt he’s cocky. Cocky enough to update his back-to-back Big 12 champions shirt to include “back again in 2017” before OU’s Bedlam game against Oklahoma State. Oh, and by the way, that game was played on Nov. 4.
But, over a three-year tenure in Norman that’s seen him throw for over 12,000 yards, he’s both talked the talk and walked the walk.
He’s even earned the respect of TCU head coach Gary Patterson, who theorized this week that Mayfield intentionally hit a Horned Frog player in the head with a ball during warm-ups.
“I have a lot of respect for the University of Oklahoma and their football team, and for Baker Mayfield -- great player,” Patterson said after the game. “He could probably be a linebacker because he plays quarterback like a defensive guy. He’s going to challenge you and do the things he needs to do.”
Patterson and Mayfield embraced after the Sooners quarterback shredded Patterson’s stout TCU defense.
So on go Mayfield and the Sooners, almost certainly to a top-two seed in the 2017 College Football Playoff with Auburn's loss in the SEC Championship. With Mayfield at the helm, they look almost unstoppable.
“Whoever gets an opportunity to play ‘em -- have fun,” Patterson said after Saturday’s game.
And the scariest part about it might be that Mayfield might only be getting better. Just ask his rookie head coach, who’s making his own bit of history in OU’s championship campaign.
“It’s definitely possible [that Baker has improved over the course of the year] and I have no problem saying it with him sitting right here. He’s done a lot of great things in his career, but he hasn’t been perfect and he hasn’t been coached perfect throughout his career.
“There’s always room to improve.”
For a quarterback with an Orange Bowl appearance, a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, three straight Big 12 Championships, a playoff berth and quite possibly a Heisman Trophy, about the only way to improve is to win a national championship.
And that’s what’s on his radar.
“The reason I came back [for my senior season] was to play for a national title,” Mayfield said Saturday. “The most exciting thing about today was we controlled our own destiny. I came back to make sure that we had strong leadership and we would take care of our own business and right now we’re doing just that.”
His brand of leadership just happens to come with a side of, uh, “swagger.” Maybe he already has the OU-branded National Champions 2017 shirt ordered.
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