NORMAN, Okla. — If Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield wasn’t healthy for the Kansas State game, the quarterback has a future in theater.
The nugget Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley threw out on Monday was Mayfield threw for 410 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns in the 42-35 victory last Saturday in Manhattan, Kan., despite missing most of practice the previous week due to a shoulder injury.
“I had the shoulder injury from the Texas game. I said it postgame then. A big guy landing on my shoulder cranked it back the wrong way. I went through some pain last week,” Mayfield added on Monday. “Those are the type of injuries that you just fight through. You’re not necessarily sidelined by it, it’s just something you have to go into the game and suck it up especially if you want to win.”
Mayfield threw the ball 41 times against the Wildcats, completing 32 passes. He also ran the ball 9 times for 69 yards. Both his passing and rushing yardage marks were season highs.
The Sooners expected Mayfield to play well, but there was the thought he would be more cautious considering the injury sustained the previous week. Yet, the quarterback didn’t do much sliding or running out of bounds.
“It was different, man. It was different,” offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. “Obviously, we all know Bake is an athlete, and normally, when he’s scrambling, he’s scrambling to throw, not so much to run for touchdowns. It’s just kind of been a minute since he’s approached it with that mentality, but man. As an offensive line, we were going to keep him clean this week, understanding what he was going through and whatever. Man. We didn’t expect that from him.”
The running decisions were a spur-of-the-moment deal. Mayfield scored a touchdown on a zone-read keeper. The rest seemed like scrambles or the quarterback spotting daylight and taking off.
“I think one thing that makes my game and leadership so special is I can feel the energy of our team. I felt it was what we needed at the time,” Mayfield said. “For me, our team has to play with an edge. I think them seeing me having a competitive side and an edge — all the time — is important. I think they feed off that, so yeah, there are some plays where I can slide.”
Did Baker Mayfield’s health influence the play calls?
According to Riley, backup Kyler Murray took the starter’s snaps during the practice week. Murray did play against the Wildcats, rushing for 4 yards on 2 attempts.
“We were able to work some things with Kyler more because Baker wasn’t practicing,” Riley said. “Did that have a big factor in the play calls? No.”
Using Murray in spot situations isn’t new. Oklahoma did it several times in the Ohio State game. But the Oklahoma coach defended the use of the direct snaps to fullback Dimitri Flowers with Mayfield lined up at wide receiver.
The Sooners used those three times in short-yardage situations and none of them worked against Kansas State.
“I looked at it; we ran that Wildcat I think 14 times [on third down] the past three years and we got [the first down or a touchdown on] 13 of the 14. So it’s hard to beat those percentages. And the line wasn’t the problem on it. The line had no problems. The line was fine,” Riley said.
A major difference between this season and the 2015 and ’16 seasons is who is getting those direct snaps. Before this season, they went to Samaje Perine or Joe Mixon.
Flowers is a fullback with a diverse set of skills, but he’s not a ball carrier in the same vein of Mixon and Perine.
“The one play, our fullback didn’t do a great job and then Dimitri has got to do a better job with a few technical things as the ball carrier when they were there,” Riley said. “So we’ve got to coach it better and execute it better, but schematically, there’s no problems.”
No restrictions for Baker Mayfield this week
Mayfield won’t have to spend his afternoons going through therapy sessions this week. Riley said he’s been cleared to practice as the Sooners prepare to face Texas Tech at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
The health of his shoulder seemed to be fine during the Kansas State game. Mayfield came off the field a few times, but no members of Oklahoma’s medical staff examined his shoulder.
Still, nothing surprises the Sooners when it comes to Mayfield’s play.
“Baker’s a superhero,” defensive lineman Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said. “Baker’s a guy who even if he had one leg, I know he’d go out there and throw for 100 passing yards. He’s an incredible player. We’re not surprised by him not practicing all week and being able to throw for 400.”
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