College football fans in Oklahoma, do you realize how lucky you are?
It’s been maybe eight years since all three of the Division I teams in our fair state have had quarterbacks this excellent.
Appreciate their greatness. This is rare.
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Tulsa’s Dane Evans play at a level sports fans in these parts haven’t seen since probably 2008, when the 12-2 Big 12 champ and national runner-up Sooners had Sam Bradford (4,720 yards, 50 touchdowns and a Heisman Trophy), the 9-4 Cowboys had Zac Robinson (3,064 yards, 25 TDs) and the 11-3 Conference USA runner-up Golden Hurricane had David Johnson (4,059 yards, 46 TDs).
Johnson was something of a one-year wonder, so some fans might take it back a year, to 2007, when Bradford was a record-setting redshirt freshman (3,121 yards, 36 TDs) for an 11-3 OU team, Robinson was a dynamic dual-threat (2,824 yards passing, 23 TD passes, 847 yards rushing, 9 TD runs) on a 7-6 OSU team and Paul Smith was shattering TU records (5,065 yards, 47 TDs) for a 10-4 TU team that was C-USA runner-up.
And some will suggest the last great year for three quarterbacks in Oklahoma was 2011, when 10-3 OU was led by Landry Jones (4,463 yards, 29 TDs), 12-1 Big 12 champ OSU was led by record-setting Brandon Weeden (4,727 yards, 37 TDs) and 8-5 TU was led by G.J. Kinne (3,090 yards, 28 TDs).
But really, when it’s boiled down, this year — which starts Saturday as OU visits Houston, OSU hosts Southeastern Louisiana and TU hosts San Jose State — might only be the best year for our quarterbacks … since last year.
Mayfield was superb, throwing for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns while leading the Sooners to another Big 12 title, an 11-2 record and the program’s first-ever College Football Playoff.
Rudolph was excellent, too, passing for 4,623 yards and 27 touchdowns and guiding the Cowboys to a 10-3 record and the Sugar Bowl.
Evans was just as brilliant, throwing for 4,332 yards and 25 TDs while bringing the Golden Hurricane out of a two-year funk and back to a bowl game and a 6-7 record.
Add it all up and last year marks the most combined yards passing ever by OU, OSU and TU quarterbacks in one season, 12,655. That surpasses the record of 12,280 yards set in 2011. But 2015’s touchdown total of 88 is well below the 2008 record of 121, which easily beat the 2007 record of 106.
Last year’s win total of 27 is a bit below that of 2008, too. That year, the Sooners, Cowboys and Golden Hurricane combined for 32 victories (the all-time record is 33, set in 2012).
These guys can do better.
Mayfield, a junior, is again a Heisman candidate, despite ESPN’s recent efforts to engrave Deshaun Watson’s name on the trophy, and the Sooners are heavy favorites to get back to the playoff. Rudolph, also a junior, may be the Cowboys’ best NFL prospect ever and, if OSU has a running game, the Cowboys could challenge for the Big 12 again. And Evans, a senior, is about to become the school’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns and, in Philip Montgomery’s second season, TU could be poised for a breakout season.
Listen, these are heady times for quarterbacks in the state of Oklahoma.
We’ve gotten used to great quarterbacking here, and that’s OK.
But as the 2016 season unfolds, let’s slow down and appreciate the amazing and ongoing accomplishments of Baker Mayfield, Mason Rudolph and Dane Evans.