FORTH WORTH, Texas – The question had been asked repeatedly in the last few weeks about Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
After such a fairy tale season in 2015, would that guy ever arrive in 2016? He needed to, and he did Saturday evening in OU’s 52-46 thrilling victory at TCU to get the Sooners on the board in Big 12 conference play.
The start wasn’t ideal with Mayfield fumbling the ball on the first drive that resulted in TCU scoring within the first minute of the game.
And nothing looked good for the Sooners with OU trailing 21-7 after the first quarter. Then Baker the Touchdown Maker returned.
Mayfield finished 23 of 30 passing for 274 yards with two touchdowns and also rushed for 55 yards and two more scores to help OU avoid a 1-3 start.
“It was huge,” Mayfield said. “It’s the first conference game. Everybody’s saying our season is over and to start the conference off 1-0 against one of the better teams in the conference, that’s great, especially on the road.
“It’s going to be a confidence booster for us and personally, just moving forward, it’s great to see the offense have some success and realize our full potential.”
It was clear to his teammates from the start it was a ready, prepared Mayfield. Sick of being doubted, the fire was there once again.
“We knew it was time to go,” senior wide receiver Dede Westbrook said.
And time to go to Westbrook. Shutout from the end zone in the first three games, he came alive with seven catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
The evening was far from perfect. OU stalled in the first quarter and couldn’t hit the gas pedal again in the fourth quarter. Mayfield banged up his ankle at the end of the first half.
There were circumstances where, in the past, the Sooners haven’t always responded well. Down against Houston and Ohio State, it never felt like OU could turn things around.
It’s where leadership comes in and where leadership has to come in. It’s where Mayfield had to come in and show there would not be a repeat of what happened two weeks ago against the Buckeyes.
“I thought he was exceptional today,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “He threw some great strikes and great deep balls for touchdowns. He had some great third downs.
“A couple of those drives Nick Basquine caught a couple of them that I remember tight coverage and he put them in there on tough situations on third down.”
And made the plays when they mattered most. After OU had seen its 49-24 fourth quarter lead dwindled down to 49-46 with 5:36 left, it was in Mayfield’s hands.
He completed two passes for first downs, including a crucial 25-yard strike to Joe Mixon on a second-and-11 at OU’s own 24 yard line. The drive tacked 3:47 seconds and concluded with an Austin Seibert field goal with 1:49 left in the game.
Mayfield certainly had some help in the form of the running game as Joe Mixon rushed for 105 yards with a touchdown and Samaje Perine emerged once again with 98 yards and two scores.
It took a while for the offense to find its footing. A 1-2 start put the Sooners up against the wall. They found the recipe Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium. They found Mayfield again, and OU fans have a reason to smile again.