But no Sooner fan is going to forget what he did Saturday night in a 31-24 double overtime victory. It wasn’t always pretty, but the guts and determination were on full display in leading an historic comeback against Tennessee in front of 102,455 fans at Neyland Stadium.
Through three quarters, OU’s offense was dead in the water. One step forward, two steps back. Three points, 173 yards and well on its way to a humiliating defeat as the score was seemingly stuck on 17-3 for the majority of the game.
Mayfield never threw in the towel and the rest of the team followed his lead.
“It says a lot about our team never giving up,” Mayfield said. “Two turnovers, stuck with it, never got negative. I knew how close we were.”
Mayfield’s numbers still don’t tell the story, but he finished 19 of 39 for 187 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a rushing touchdown.
Entering the fourth quarter, he was 8-of-25 for 84 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Mayfield arguably won the OU quarterback job because of winning the locker room. It’s nights like these that give a glimpse into what Mayfield is made of and why OU players rally around their signal-caller.
“Baker is one of those guys who’s going to keep the play alive no matter what so you have to always be ready,” senior wide receiver Sterling Shepard said.
Shepard was ready. Dormant for most of the evening, it was Shepard who caught the game-tying touchdown with 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter in the back corner of the end zone.
And it was Shepard again who Mayfield looked to for an 18-yard touchdown reception in double overtime to give OU its first lead of the evening.
His teammates said they couldn’t have done it without Mayfield, but Mayfield quick to point out it was their trust that carried him even when things weren’t looking great.
“That’s a huge relief for me, knowing that they have my back and they always believe in me,” Mayfield said. “Like I said, I never gave up on it. They trusted me and never gave up.”
Special seasons are made in moments like OU had in Knoxville. A year ago when OU had the chances to make this type of statement, it faltered in the big-time moments against top conference opponents.
It seems like 2014’s disappointment has been fuel for 2015’s success, and head coach Bob Stoops wasn’t afraid to admit how special a victory this was for his group of guys.
“Fortunately we got some things going and made the plays that made the difference in the game,” Stoops said. “They played awfully well, as well.
“It’s one of the more special wins. Maybe my favorite of all of them. A little Sooner Magic came back out and reminded me when we were back at A&M in 2000 when we made some plays that you feel pretty fortunate and blessed to make.”
For Mayfield, a lot of it had nothing to do with those four total touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the overtimes. It had to do with him scrambling, escaping one tackle after another, keeping drives alive, keeping hopes alive.
“Just fighting, fighting, just kept fighting,” center Ty Darlington said. “The protection wasn’t great a lot of the time, but it just didn’t matter. He kept fighting. You love a guy like that.”
The adrenaline kept Mayfield on his feet Saturday night because he knows Sunday he’s going to be sorer than ever before. But his performance on the biggest stage he has ever been a part of, in front of the largest crowd ever for an OU football game, has him standing tall as OU’s unquestioned leader and quarterback.