By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Many pundits across the nation have declared Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
It makes sense — he passed for a school-record 598 yards and tossed five touchdown passes in last week’s 62-52 win at Oklahoma State . He already had a Heisman moment in the bank when he passed for 386 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-16 win at Ohio State in September.
Experience has helped Mayfield put such chatter in perspective. He could become the fifth player overall and the first quarterback to finish in the top four in the Heisman balloting three times after finishing fourth in 2015 and third last year. Right now, he’s focused on his team’s next marquee moment, when the fifth-ranked Sooners host No. 8 TCU Saturday night. If he does his part and the team keeps winning, he figures awards will take care of themselves.
“You’re going to have guys who have individual recognition, but right now, I’m not worried about that,” he said. “The guys around this program know I’m not going to get caught up in that and I’m worried about winning ball games. I’ve always been a team-first guy and the most important thing to me is winning. The Heisman won’t come if we don’t win Saturday.”
Oklahoma left tackle Orlando Brown, who like Mayfield was named a first-team midseason All-American by The Associated Press, said he wants to get the Heisman for his quarterback. He said Mayfield deserves it for his production, attention to detail and work ethic.
“He may say it doesn’t mean much to him, but as an offensive lineman, it means a lot to us,” Brown said. “We want him to win the Heisman Trophy. We want him to win every award he can win. We want to send him out of this university as one of the best players of all time.”
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has been around his share of productive quarterbacks, from his days at Texas Tech as a player and assistant coach to his time as offensive coordinator at East Carolina. He said Mayfield is the best yet.
“He’s the best one I’ve ever coached,” Riley said. “Probably the best one I’ve been around. Just the complete package. I’ve been around other guys who maybe did a few things better here and there, but you talk about the total package of intelligence, arm talent, leadership, drive and being able to move, he’s the most complete one I’ve been around.”
Mayfield is on pace to break the FBS record for passing efficiency in a season he set last year.
He leads the nation in completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and yards per completion. The Sooners lead the nation in total offense and passing yards per game and rank third in points per game.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy conceded that Mayfield does things that are difficult for a defense to account for. Oklahoma gained 785 yards against the Cowboys, the most Oklahoma State has ever allowed.
“He made some plays,” Gundy said. “He’s a really good player. He makes plays and throws when he breaks contain that are pretty unusual.”
TCU will be Mayfield’s toughest test. The Horned Frogs rank sixth nationally in points allowed and yardage allowed per game. He looks forward to facing TCU coach Gary Patterson’s defense.
“They always have great players and are well-coached,” Mayfield said. “It’s just they’re playing so well that they’re giving their secondary opportunities to make plays and play aggressive.”
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