It all started after the coin toss, when Kansas Jayhawk’s captains refused to shake the hand of Oklahoma Sooner’s QB Baker Mayfield. He quickly pulled his hand back and began to clap – and from that moment on, there was no mercy.
Going into Saturday’s game, all Oklahoma needed was a win to clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game – which they accomplished with ease. But it was the antics and cheap-shots after the whistles blew that became the story of the night.
With 41 seconds to go before halftime, Jayhawk’s Hasan Defense hit Mayfield helmet to helmet well after he had released the football – which ended up being a 30-yard completion to fullback Dimitri Flowers, plus another 15 yards for the personal foul Defense had committed.
After the play Mayfield got up and was visibly upset, to the point that his teammate Dru Samia had to get a hold of Mayfield to calm him down. The commentators called the hit on Mayfield a “cheap-shot” and twitter erupted – Oklahoma Sooner fans outraged that Hasan Defense was not ejected from the game for targeting. Later in the drive Mayfield threw a 21-yard touchdown to Marquise Brown, and Oklahoma had a 21-3 lead going into the half.
After the game Jayhawk’s Hasan Defense was asked about the late hit in the second quarter that he had put on Mayfield, “I was just trying to make a play, I was in the heat of the moment, it was a bonehead play by me.” When asked how he felt after the Sooners scored right before the half, Defense responded “I felt pretty bad for letting my team down you know, giving up free yards, I felt like that was definitely something I shouldn’t have done.” Clearly still frustrated as he made it a point to mention that he didn’t feel bad for hitting Mayfield, he only felt bad for committing a penalty and letting his teammates down.
Midway through the 3rd quarter after a 3-yard touchdown pass, Mayfield starred down the Kansas bench making a gesture that looked as if he grabbing his crotch. ESPN commentators immediately went off on a tangent, “NFL GM’s are going to see that and they’re going to mark it down, saying that’s not what we want in the National Football League,” as they proceed to spend the rest of the 3rd quarter taking shots at Mayfield’s character.
As the game wound down, Mayfield was shown talking back to Kansas fans, “You have one win, go cheer on basketball.” As emotions ran high throughout the very one-sided game – that ended with a final score of 41-3, in favor of the Sooners.
After the game a much calmer Mayfield was remorseful of his actions, “It was a chippy game but it’s football and I can’t get caught up in it, and the position I’m in I have to lead by example and I did not do that.” After apologizing he deferred to how well the Sooners played, “we had a good win, it’s not about me that’s not what this press conference should be about.”
After the 3rd quarter gesture Mayfield made it seemed that Kansas captains refusing to shake his hand, and Hasan Defense’s late hit to the head of Mayfield was all forgotten, and suddenly he was the bad guy. The attention he received for one gesture made in the heat of the moment was blown way out of proportion, with members of the media clearly making it personal for the young quarterback. As they sit in their media booth, well into their 40’s and 50’s, judging a 22 year-old kid for a mistake made in the heat of a competitive moment. Mayfield clearly had a target on his back before the game even started. Sure, he shouldn’t have grabbed his crotch, he also shouldn’t have taken a shot to the helmet well after he threw a pass. You want to talk about having class? Captain’s of a football team refusing to shake the hand of the opposing Quarterback at midfield with an entire stadium watching. Football is football – players will talk and taunt each other – that’s a given, but if the media is going to chastise one player for what we’ll just call “bad-sportsmanship” – they better make sure they look at both sides of the field, not just the kid that’s a Heisman candidate.