PASADENA, Calif. (AP) – Although Baker Mayfield had the ball in his hands a few times with chances to win the Rose Bowl for Oklahoma, the Heisman Trophy winner couldn’t convert those opportunities.
Plenty of Sooners fans wished Mayfield had been given a whole lot more chances to conjure his usual magic during Georgia’s epic 54-48, double-overtime win Monday night.
Mayfield went 23 of 35 for 287 yards and two touchdowns in his final college football game, but the swashbuckling senior ended the night with his hands on his knees, staring down at the turf in Arroyo Seco while the Bulldogs celebrated Sony Michel’s winning TD run.
“Can’t believe it’s over,” Mayfield said afterward in a strikingly hoarse voice, his eyes tearing up. “It’s been a wild ride.”
The Sooners were already lamenting the plays that Mayfield never even got a chance to make on a wild night at the College Football Playoff semifinal.
The most exciting quarterback in the sport threw only 17 passes after halftime, including a single shovel pass in the first overtime, while running the plays called by rookie head coach Lincoln Riley.
Mayfield showed no obvious effects from the illness that dogged him throughout the week of preparation before the game, aside from that scratchy throat. Yet Riley’s play-calling didn’t give Mayfield every chance to shine, and the coach acknowledged he might not have been aggressive enough.
“Sure, I’ll look back at it, and there will be calls that I wish I would have done different,” Riley said. “You do the very best you can in that moment. I called the plays at that time that I thought were the very best. Will there be ones that I want to have back? Yeah.”
Mayfield passed for only 87 yards after halftime, making only a handful of game-altering throws.
Mayfield stayed firmly behind Riley, calling the rookie boss “the best coach in the country.”
“There’s a reason I’m sitting here today,” Mayfield added. “There’s a reason we’ve won three Big 12 titles in a row, and that I’ve put myself in a good position going forward in the future. There’s a reason our team is in the playoffs this year. Words can’t describe what he’s meant to me.”
The third quarter was mostly miserable for Mayfield: He was sacked three times and ran the ball three more times, going just 2 for 4 through the air. He went 5 of 9 for 57 yards in the fourth quarter, but most of those yards came on one 36-yard throw to CeeDee Lamb.
Mayfield also threw his only interception to Dominick Sanders on the first snap of the fourth quarter. Sanders returned it to the Oklahoma 4, and the Bulldogs punched in a go-ahead touchdown.
Mayfield responded by leading a tying 88-yard touchdown drive in just six plays ending with 8:47 left in regulation, but the Oklahoma offense didn’t reach the end zone again.
And whenever there was a late chance for Mayfield to add another moment to his incredible season, the Sooners couldn’t find a winning formula.
Oklahoma attempted only that single shovel pass during its first overtime possession, which resulted in a field goal. With the Bulldogs already leading by three points, Riley decided to kick on fourth and 1 from the Georgia 16 instead of putting the game in Mayfield’s hands.
“I don’t know,” Riley said. “My gut said to kick it, and we did.”
Mayfield then threw an incompletion and an interception that was wiped out by a penalty on the second drive. Two short completions on conservative plays only got the Sooners in position for a field goal that was blocked by Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter.
Mayfield went 34-6 while spending three seasons as the Sooners’ starter, but the former walk-on couldn’t push them to the championship game in Atlanta next week.
After the game ended and Mayfield rose from his agonized crouch, he sought out Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm to congratulate him.
“Baker, he’s a special name in college football,” Oklahoma safety Steven Parker said. “He’s always going to be remembered. A lot of people always say Johnny Manziel, or maybe a nice running back like Eddie George, but he’s going to be a person that is always going to be remembered in college football forever and I don’t think anyone can take his place.”
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