Baker Mayfield will never forget the roar of the crowd inside Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as he walked on the field to take his first snap in the final home game of his college career. Fans stood up, cheering not only for Mayfield's performance against West Virginia but for his legacy on Owen Field — a standing ovation for the man who may go on to be the greatest quarterback in Oklahoma history.
The Sooners' game against West Virginia was an anomaly for Mayfield — the first game he didn't start in his three years at Oklahoma. In typical Mayfield fashion, he didn't let it hold him back. He went 14-of-17 for 281 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Sooners to a 59-31 win. The victory marked the end of arguably the most emotional week of Mayfield's career at OU.
"The first steps on the field kind of made all (the emotions) go away, realizing you have the support of (the fans) and you can settle in," Mayfield said. "It's more of a relieving feeling to me knowing they're always going to have my back and it's ok for me to grow and learn and move on. If I'm progressing and becoming a better man in front of their eyes, it's something I'm proud of."
On Monday, the senior quarterback stood behind a podium and appeared to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He paused three times, gathering his emotions. Just days earlier he was standing on the sidelines grabbing his crotch and yelling obscenities at the Kansas sidelines, actions that would prove to be costly for the senior. Earlier that Monday, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley announced Mayfield's punishment — he wouldn't be a captain or start on senior day against West Virginia.
The actions and ensuing punishment made for a game that embodied everything that is Mayfield: Emotional, slightly dramatic and filled with tenacity. Sophomore backup quarterback Kyler Murray started, four straight plays ended in skirmishes, an OU player was ejected and the Sooners won by 28. It was the perfect chaotic way to end Mayfield's time on Owen Field.
Mayfield himself was firing on all cylinders the moment he stepped on the field. The emotional toll of a week of scrutiny and reprimand slipped away as he fell into rhythm with the offense he's commandeered to the top spot in the FBS. By halftime, he was 11-of-12 for 238 yards and two touchdowns and the Sooners were up 45-10.
"I was proud of him," Riley said. "I thought he held it in check because he was definitely emotional before and I know a lot of thoughts were certainly running through his head so for him to play the way he did considering all the circumstances is why the guy's the best."
Despite the controversy that followed Mayfield into senior day, his teammates made sure he knew they stood behind him 100 percent. The team captains carried a No. 6 jersey to the middle of the field for the coin toss, showing the support and respect they have for their quarterback.
"Baker, he's just a great player," senior defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said. "He never really lets his emotions get to him and if he does he's using them to beat you."
Mayfield did just that, giving the Sooners a comfortable lead before stepping taking his final snap on Owen Field at the beginning of the third quarter. He stood on the sidelines for the remainder of the game, and when the clock struck zero the contentious week came to an end, as did one of the final chapters in Mayfield's college career.
When the final whistle blew Mayfield obliged ESPN, then headed straight for the fans. Hand held out to touch every Sooner fan he could, the senior made one final victory lap inside the Palace on the Prairie.