Oklahoma QB Murray embraces Heisman hype
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is comfortable with all that comes with being a Heisman Trophy contender — it's why the first-round Major League Baseball draft choice put off his baseball career.
In his first season as a starter, Murray ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency behind Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. He has better numbers than Baker Mayfield produced during the first five games of his Heisman-winning season last year.
The hype surrounding Murray grows with each dynamic performance.
"It's hard not to hear," he said. "Obviously, I hear it. I've dreamed of it my whole life, winning the Heisman. But at the same time, I'm not a complacent guy. For me, it's just one week at a time, one day at a time. That's how I look at it."
Murray will step onto his biggest stage yet Saturday when No. 7 Oklahoma (5-0) plays No. 19 Texas (4-1) in Dallas. The 5-foot-10 junior understands that winning creates the clearest path to his personal goals.
"Keep playing the way I'm playing," he said. "Whatever it may be, we'll see where we end up. For me, it's just about winning games and doing what's right for the team. Individual goals will come along if you do what you do. I'm not worried about it."
Teammates say Murray is taking the attention in stride. After all, he was one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the nation coming out of high school. The Oakland A's made the outfielder the ninth overall pick in this year's draft.
"He's a great guy," Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb said. "He never gets rattled with the outside noise. He stays within himself and stays within us."
Even when things haven't been smooth for Murray, they've turned out OK. Murray set his alarm wrong last Thursday and arrived late to practice on Friday. Per team rules, he didn't start on Saturday against Baylor.
After sitting out the first series, he played one of the best games in Oklahoma history. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 432 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 45 yards and another score in the 66-33 win . He tied Mayfield's school record by accounting for seven touchdowns and set a school record for passing efficiency in a game.
"That was as good a performance as we've seen from about anybody," said Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Cale Gundy, a former Sooner quarterback.
Mayfield has the career and single-season FBS passer efficiency records, was the No. 1 overall draft pick and now starts for the Cleveland Browns. Yet Murray is more versatile. He's second on the team with 276 yards rushing and leads the Sooners with four rushing touchdowns.
For those who thought the Big 12 Conference was going to get a reprieve when Mayfield left, Murray has perhaps created even bigger problems for opponents. Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu calls him "a boss."
"There's some similarities, but Kyler's faster than Baker," Omenihu said. "I think they're both pretty accurate, strong arms. But Kyler definitely, when he gets out of the pocket, it's like OK, you have to go get him or else he's going to, like, run by everybody. He's as fast as a receiver or a DB."
Murray's surge is the result of his accuracy. He has completed 70.6 percent of his passes and leads the nation in passing yards per attempt and per completion. He's third with 17 passing touchdowns.
"I think a lot of people are starting to get a really good idea of how well he throws the football," Gundy said. "We all know he's fast, he's got speed. But he really throws the football well. He's very accurate, he's got a very quick release and he throws the deep ball very well."
Murray attended high school in Allen, Texas, where his team won three straight state championships. He previously played for Texas A&M.
Back in 2016, Mayfield petitioned the NCAA to get back the year of eligibility he lost when transferring from Texas Tech. When granted, it pushed Murray's plans back a year. Murray used Mayfield's extra season to learn.
"To sit behind him, watching how he works, how he operates, getting to have that experience — not a lot of kids get to have that experience," Murray said. "For me, I think it helped out a lot. Just taking it all in, soaking it all up and just putting it to work."