STILLWATER, Okla. — No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) grasped an outright Big 12 title Saturday for the first time in five years, completing the journey of a team that had little-to-no preseason expectations and, in all likelihood, propelling the Sooners into the College Football Playoff.
But for quarterback Baker Mayfield, there’s one more item on his checklist before his team begins postseason play — earn an invite to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Mayfield stepped out of the locker room after the Sooners’ 58-23 demolition of No. 11 Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) still sporting a giant grin stuck between two tails of a handlebar mustache.
“It's a new QB thing here at Oklahoma,” he said. “We're doing it for Bedlam week. We're the real outlaws.”
The Sooners secured their position at the top of the state as well as the Big 12 Saturday behind Mayfield’s 180 yards and two scores on 17-of-25 passing. He added 77 yards and one more touchdown on the ground.
Oklahoma’s primetime Bedlam victory was the third chapter in Mayfield’s recently-emerged Heisman campaign, pushed by everyone from fans to the OU athletic department on social media with the hashtag #Baker4Heisman since the Sooners’ 44-34 victory over Baylor Nov. 14.
“I keep telling (Mayfield) he's not going to get my public endorsement, but this is it, I guess,” OU center Ty Darlington said. “I publically endorse Baker Mayfield for Heisman — hashtag Shake and Bake — and everything he brings to the table. I'm so proud to be blocking for him.”
While Mayfield has been avoiding pass rushers and throwing touchdowns — 33 to be exact — all season long, he added a new dimension to his Heisman candidacy early in the second quarter.
As running back Joe Mixon reversed field after taking a handoff, Mayfield looked downfield for someone to block. He ended up putting Oklahoma State cornerback Ashton Lampkin on his face.
“Blocking's a thing that I used to love doing in high school,” Mayfield said. “I put a couple of those on my high school highlight tape.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has remained coy about his quarterback’s candidacy for national awards since Mayfield’s campaign began, often sticking to praise for his performance on the field.
Now that OU’s regular season is over, Stoops came out of his shell.
“I would think he'd be as deserving as anybody in the country,” Stoops said. “I'm never one to say any one guy is. There's still some games to play here. He has to be right up there at the top with everybody.”
First-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley went a step farther.
“I think he’s the best player in the country,” Riley said.
In the midst of praise from teammates and coaches alike just minutes after OU secured its ninth Big 12 title, the former walk-on Mayfield stood surrounded by reporters, beaming underneath his handlebar mustache, and soaked in everything he accomplished in his first year as starting quarterback.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” he said.