Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has his share of pleasant memories of his time in Lubbock, Texas. He also has some bad ones.
Mayfield was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013 when he played in eight games as a freshman walk-on for the Red Raiders, passing for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 64.1 percent of his passes.
But Mayfield decided to transfer when he said the Texas Tech coaching staff did not guarantee him playing time in the Holiday Bowl or a scholarship for the following season. He eventually walked on at Oklahoma, lobbing some verbal jabs at Texas Tech and Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury along the way.
Now Mayfield returns to Jones AT&T Stadium leading the 16th-ranked Sooners (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) against his former team and head coach.
“They'll be ready for me when I get down there, that's for sure,” Mayfield said. “I'm excited for it. It's always fun to play in Lubbock. This time, I'm on the other side of it.”
This isn't the first time Mayfield, who finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting a year ago, has been back to Lubbock with the Sooners since his ugly split. He also accompanied the squad there in 2014 while sitting out because of NCAA transfer rules and didn't exactly receive the warmest of welcomes.
The night before the game, Mayfield was asked to leave a Lubbock restaurant and booed on his way out the door. Texas Tech fans barraged Mayfield with verbal barbs as he came out for warm-ups and as he watched from the sideline during the game. After the game, an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman escorted Mayfield to his vehicle for safety.
Over the past year, tensions have cooled.
Mayfield hasn't said anything negative about Texas Tech publicly recently and Kingsbury even praised Mayfield during Big 12 Media Days in July.
Texas Tech was also among the schools that voted to approve a rule that granted Mayfield an additional year of eligibility over the summer.
“I've gotten over everything,” Mayfield said. “It's all in the past, which is what I said last year. It's about settling in and being ready to play.”
The move appears to have paid off all around as Mayfield has flourished with the Sooners and Patrick Mahomes II has become one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country at Texas Tech (3-3, 1-2). Mahomes enters Saturday's contest as he nation's leader in passing yards (2,579, 429.8 ypg) and total offense (455.2 ypg). He also ranks second in points responsible for (168) and leads the Big 12 in touchdown passes (21).
But just because things are better doesn't mean Mayfield doesn't expect harsh treatment.
“We'll see how our guys handle the violent environment we're gonna be in,” Mayfield said.
The contest is a key one for Texas Tech, which plays just two of its final six games at home and needs three wins to become bowl eligible. The Red Raiders, who still have road games with TCU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor, come in off a 48-17 home loss to No. 12 West Virginia.
“There is a lot to fix,” Kingsbury said. “There is no doubt. (We need to) reassess what we're doing, how we're doing it as far as practice goes., personnel-wise, who we're playing … I think we took a look at everything on Sunday, and are trying to figure out what we need to tighten up and who needs to be playing and what changes we need to make in this last part of the season to be the most effective.”
Last week was by far the least effective the Red Raiders have been at home. The Mountaineers held Tech to 17 points, the first time all year the team had been held under 50 in Lubbock. Mahomes threw for 305 yards, but didn't look as effective as he did early in the season. He is battling an injured shoulder, and the injury and the lightened load in practice may be taking its toll.
“I think his lack of practicing caught up to him,” Kingsbury said. “I think that first week he was still kind of in that streak, in that zone. And this last week not practicing as much as we would have liked probably caught up to him. Then he tried to do a little bit too much, I felt like, in the second half.”
Oklahoma, which will be trying for its first 4-0 start in Big 12 play since 2004, will be without starting running back Samaje Perine who is expected to be sidelined two to three weeks with a hamstring injury.