NORMAN — Survey the landscape of the National Football League’s opening weekend and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley’s fingerprints are all over the place.
From Kyler Murray’s unlikely fourth-quarter rally to Marquise Brown’s impossibly good debut to Mark Andrews’ first career 100-yard game, Sooner success came up often on Sunday.
Then there was Baker Mayfield.
The 2017 Heisman winner almost won NFL rookie of the year in 2018, but his start to 2019 was discomfiting: three interceptions and five sacks in a 43-13 home loss to Tennessee.
“It’s gonna happen,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley told The Franchise on Monday. “That’s part of that league. There’s other good teams. You’re gonna have a day like that every now and then. He’ll respond.”
The Summer of Mayfield was something to behold: Mayfield gave a lot of interviews, made a lot of commercials, signed an All-Pro receiver and also signed a wife. The hype about the Browns going into the season was mountainous.
And in Game 1 of his second season, Mayfield tasted humility. Got it force-fed to him, actually, even throwing a late pick-six for the final ignominy.
After winning three Big 12 Conference championships and being drafted No. 1 overall and then winning the starting job and performing so well last season, it was something Mayfield hadn’t experienced.
“He’s been beat, though,” Riley said. “We got beat by Ohio State here pretty good that second year.”
And Mayfield responded to that 45-24 setback with a postgame guarantee that the Sooners would win the Big 12. They did win the Big 12 that year and the next, and won 22 of their next 23 — including a career-punctuating revenge victory at Ohio State — before a College Football Playoff loss to Georgia. Mayfield has been on a roll ever since — at least until Sunday.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with on the (offseason hype),” Riley said. “It puts more of a target on his back sometimes, but that’s him. He doesn’t let that bother him. So, regardless of anything that happened in the offseason, I think he’ll bounce back like he always has.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.