Going back over film of some of his worst games, Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield noticed a trend in his play against Tennessee and Texas – two of only three games this season when he hasn’t thrown for more than 275 yards.
The constantly fiery, ultra-competitor saw that he was too amped, avoiding the routine plays that he needs to make within the offense. Since the loss to Texas, Mayfield said he has calmed down.
In turn, it’s made the entire Sooners offense more relaxed – less likely to take penalties and more capable of quick starts.
“It’s all about making the routine plays because I don’t have to do anything special considering the guys I have around me,” Mayfield said. “My supporting cast is very talented. I need to go out there and do the routine plays, which is just execute and get the ball out of my hands.
“. . . When I’m able to relax and settle in, we play well. I take it upon my shoulders and take it personal this week to just do my job and my job only.”
After being one of the more penalized teams in the country through the first games, Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1) has kept its cool recently, averaging just 3.25 penalties through the past four games after committing 31 infractions through the first five contests.
Slow starts were a noted part of the Sooners offense early, failing to find the end zone through the first six drives against Akron and the first 12 possessions against Tennessee. Even against Texas, Oklahoma scored only once in its first seven drives.
Now, Oklahoma has scored at least two touchdowns in the first quarter of each of the past four games.
“We proved early in the season that we could win and get going with not doing that, but it sure is a helluva lot easier when you do,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “I think it’s been an emphasis and the kids are getting better at what we do. Not only are we playing better at the beginning of games, we’re playing better all the time. That’s probably why you’ve seen it.”
All of it comes from the calming effect of Mayfield, who might be the most unlikely source to settle down the Oklahoma offense.
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“It’s just been a learning deal for him,” Riley said. “He’s taken all the thing we put in front of him. He’s really bought into the challenges we put in front of him.”