Oklahoma QB Mayfield on pace to post record numbers
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Two years ago, Baker Mayfield resembled Brett Favre - a gunslinger whose supreme confidence led to loads of excitement and some unnecessary mistakes.
Now, he's evolved into something more like Peyton Manning - a field general who operates with stunning efficiency and mastery of his offense. Mayfield is putting up better numbers than those he posted last season, when he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. His passer efficiency rating of 195.8 leads the nation, and is higher than the all-time FBS single-season record.
''I think he's matured a lot, trying to find that balance of the playmaker he is with also doing a great job of decision making and taking care of the football,'' Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. ''For as much as he's throwing the ball and the decisions he makes, he's done a great job of taking care of it. There haven't been many `dumb' interceptions. I think that's something he's really grown with, and we're happy he's progressed that way.''
Mayfield has improved since the start of the season. He took the blame after losses to Houston and Ohio State in September, then went to work.
''It was more of just trying to focusing on the basics, looking at the film and realizing that I'm trying to do too much, learning from it and getting the ball out of my hands,'' he said.
He's been unstoppable ever since. He is completing 74 percent of his passes during Big 12 play heading into Thursday's game against Iowa State.
''He just has a great knack not only for the timing routes that are quick out-breaking or slants that you can hit the guy on the run where he can make a big play on a short throw, but also, his accuracy down the field is incredible,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''The guy is talented with a competitive spirit, and a very smart guy.''
Mayfield stepped up when Big 12 play began. He has engineered five straight victories and has led a Sooners team that had dropped out of the Top 25 back to No. 12 in the most recent poll . In those games, he has thrown 20 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He has had single-digit incompletions in each game and is averaging 359 yards passing in those contests.
''He's making the right reads, especially the big play-type things,'' Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews said. ''He's been able to connect deep and I think that's huge for our offense. It opens up so much more stuff.''
Most of his deep connections have gone to Dede Westbrook. The senior caught 40 passes for 881 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games in October.
''He's such a great player, every time he touches the ball, he's got the chance of going all the way,'' Mayfield said of Westbrook.
Mayfield isn't all that big - he's 6-foot-1 and weighs 210 pounds. But his arm strength matches his intelligence and work ethic.
''Just him as a pure thrower - there's not many better out there, in any league,'' Riley said. ''He has touch, he has creativity, change of arm angles, he has power. There's not a throw he can't make.''
In Oklahoma's 66-59 win at Texas Tech, Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes grabbed national attention because he set an FBS record with 819 total yards. But Mayfield passed for 545 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions. Last Saturday against Kansas, Mayfield passed for just 236 yards, but he threw four touchdown passes without an interception.
Mayfield will try to keep it going at Iowa State. Riley likes having an experienced, poised quarterback heading into that environment.
''It's I think one of the biggest factors on the road - a guy that's not intimidated by it, really just looks forward to it,'' Riley said. ''It's huge. It helps obviously with his play and just the mentality of the whole group, it certainly feeds off him and how he approaches it.''
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