NORMAN, Okla. – Baker Mayfield’s on-the-field antics caught up with him this time.
Oklahoma’s senior quarterback will not start his final regular-season game Saturday at home against West Virginia after making a lewd gesture against Kansas. Coach Lincoln Riley also stripped Mayfield of his captain status for the game.
Riley made the announcements Monday. Mayfield said he understood.
“I knew something needed to be done,” he said. “I put coach Riley in a terrible spot. It’s not a decision any coach wants to have to make, but it was necessary. It was a hard conversation because he wants the best for me. It’s tough. It was difficult and our relationship was the main reason why it was such a hard conversation to have.”
Riley teared up as he explained why Mayfield was so important to him. Mayfield started both years that Riley was offensive coordinator and finished fourth in the Heisman balloting in 2015 and third last season. In Riley’s first year as head coach this season, Mayfield has played well enough to be considered by many to be the leader in the Heisman race.
“Coming to this decision, this being his last game here – sure, it’s emotional,” Riley said. “He and I have been tied together here for a long time. I get to see behind the scenes what the guy does, the things that aren’t in front of the cameras that the public doesn’t get to see, and I see how valuable he is to this team, this program again, this university, this community. He’s tremendous.”
Kansas team captains did not shake hands with Mayfield before Saturday’s game. After getting slighted, Mayfield jawed with the Jayhawks and some fans seated behind the Oklahoma bench. He also grabbed his crotch and cursed the Kansas sideline from his bench during the third quarter of the Sooners’ 41-3 win that clinched a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
Mayfield has been in trouble before. He was arrested in Arkansas in February and charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication and resisting arrest. The school ordered him to do 35 hours of community service and participate in an alcohol education program.
Mayfield also has a track record of doing things to annoy opponents. The past three years, he shaved his mustache into a horseshoe before playing Oklahoma State, representing a new sheriff in town. This season, he planted a crimson OU flag at the 50-yard line at Ohio State after a 31-16 victory . He told Baylor’s players he was their daddy and he was going to spank them before a 49-41 Oklahoma win .
Mayfield has brought out similar antics in opponents. An Iowa State player planted an Iowa flag in the middle of Owen Field after the Cyclones upset the Sooners this season. Riley said Mayfield has been the subject of enough late hits that he has brought it to the Big 12’s attention. And now, this.
“Bake’s a fierce competitor,” Oklahoma left tackle Orlando Brown said. “Everybody knows the type of player he is and the type of mentality that he approaches the game with, and I think that it’s something that I think some people try to hold over his head and try to get the best of him.”
Mayfield said he understands that he puts himself ahead of the team when he acts out. He still wants to play with emotion, but he said knows there are limits.
“It’s tricky because I do want to get my guys going and be that leader for them,” he said. “I know they thrive off the energy and the passion. There’s a fine line. From here going forward, it’s hard for me to say that I’m going to be that same guy. But I have to be the leader they need and I have been for them. I let them down with my actions, but I have to be there for them.”
Riley said he wants Mayfield to remain confident, the same guy who boldly wore a Big 12 champion t-shirt under his jersey during last season’s game against Oklahoma State that determined the champion.
“I want him to be himself and I told him that this morning,” Riley said. “The best thing about him is that he is himself. We’ve all got to stay true to ourselves. If we’re not that, we’re not anything, but we’ve all got to try to make ourselves better.”
Kyler Murray will start in Mayfield’s place. He has passed for 307 yards and rushed for 62 in limited action this season.
“He’s absolutely ready,” Mayfield said. “He could have started any of the other games this year. He’s more than capable of leading this team and being a great quarterback here. He will be. He’ll be ready. There’s zero questions and zero doubt about that.”
Kansas coach David Beaty apologized for himself and his captains and said Monday that he had spoken with Riley. Beaty also apologized to Jayhawks fans, saying he wasn’t aware the captains weren’t going to shake hands. Beaty said he knows his players are passionate and competitive, but they needed to make a better decision.
Beaty said he holds no ill will toward Mayfield.
“That guy is a phenomenal football player,” Beaty said. “What a terrific player he is. That guy made so many plays in that game and continues to do that. I know that he’s a great competitor, and I know that he, at the core of who he is, I know he’s a good young man. I wish nothing but the best for him. I think he has great things in his future.”
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