The Baker Mayfield Bowl has arrived

ByJAKE TROTTER
October 21, 2016, 10:00 AM

— -- Three years ago, Texas Tech seemingly had uncovered something special in walk-on true freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Turned out, that relationship would burn out before the end of the season.

And this weekend, the acrimonious split that followed will finally come full circle.

"They'll be ready for me when I get down there, that's for sure," said Mayfield, who will return to Lubbock for the first time as quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners. "I'm excited for it. It's always fun to play in Lubbock. This time, I'm on the other side of it."

When Mayfield arrived at Tech in 2013 as an unheralded walk-on, first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury had inherited one quarterback in Michael Brewer and signed another in Davis Webb. Yet by August, Brewer had a back injury, and Webb got sick, causing him to lose 40 pounds.

"Baker was really the only guy we had left," said Brewer in an interview with ESPN.com this week.

Mayfield, however, made the most of his opportunity.

With him behind center, the Red Raiders raced to a 5-0 start, before a knee injury knocked Mayfield out of the lineup, too. The rest of the season, Kingsbury shuffled quarterbacks, as Tech won two more games before dropping its final five. After starting Mayfield in the regular-season finale at Texas, which the Red Raiders lost 41-16, Kingsbury reopened the competition for the bowl.

"I guess Baker felt like he deserved to be back in there," Brewer said. "Neither party was happy about it. Texas Tech was losing. On the other hand, Baker felt like he deserved to play. Davis had been playing. I was trying to rehab. There was a lot going on.

"The whole thing got pretty hairy, as far as 'he said, they said.' And to be honest with you, I don't really know too many of the details, other than Baker pretty much had enough and decided to go elsewhere."

Mayfield didn't wait.

Before Tech's bowl with Arizona State, he informed Kingsbury he would be leaving.

Initially, Mayfield simply cited a "miscommunication" with Kingsbury as his reason. But in an interview with ESPN.com a month later, Mayfield went in-depth.

"When I got hurt, there was no communication between me and my coach. When I got healthy, I didn't know why I wasn't playing right away," Mayfield said then. "At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn't playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn't really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was. So that happened. And then going from a week-to-week basis not knowing whether I was going to play or not and how short the leash would be if I had an average half, how quickly I would be pulled or anything like that. It was making me uncomfortable, and I just didn't want to be there anymore. I loved Lubbock and I loved my teammates. But going through that and then them tell me they're still working on a scholarship for next fall, and I wouldn't have one for this semester coming up. It was all that."

Tech officials had indicated that Mayfield would've been placed on scholarship that spring. But Brewer, who would later transfer to Virginia Tech, said Mayfield's communication complaint was valid.

"It was a unique situation, with three of us capable of playing," Brewer said. "It seemed like it differed every week. One kid was getting told this, the other kid was getting told this. And then on Friday, neither one of those things happened. So there was just a lot of confusion and the communication wasn't real great. A couple of people got tired of it and decided to go elsewhere. I think there was a lot of right and wrong on both sides. I think both sides could've handled it better."

But for Mayfield, the feud was only beginning.

Tech declined to release Mayfield so he could transfer in-conference to Oklahoma, where Mayfield wanted to go. Because Big 12 transfer rules at the time didn't differentiate between walk-on and scholarship players, Mayfield faced the prospect of not only sitting out in 2014, but losing a year of eligibility, as well.

That only inflamed the animosity.

After the Big 12 faculty athletic representatives voted down Mayfield's appeal to become immediately eligible, his father called Kingsbury a "scoundrel" in an interview with The Oklahoman.

Then in December 2015, after he had won the Oklahoma job and quarterbacked the Sooners to the playoff, Mayfield riled up Tech's fan base again. He claimed that, during the year he'd sat out, he was tossed out of a Lubbock bar the weekend the Sooners played Tech (in a Facebook post, the owner retorted Mayfield had been thrown out because he was a minor). Either way, that eventually prompted the Tech blog Viva The Matadors to run the headline, "I Hate Baker Mayfield."

Since then, however, the bitterness has begun to thaw.

This past summer, after initially voting down a proposal to change the walk-on transfer rule, the faculty reps reversed their decision a day later. The ruling essentially gave Mayfield his fourth season of Big 12 eligibility back, so that he could remain at Oklahoma for 2017.

In a twist, Tech officials actively supported Sooner officials in trying to get the rule revisited and reversed. And both times, the Red Raiders voted in favor of the changing the rule.

Later during Big 12 media days, Kingsbury added to that by praising Mayfield.

"I loved coaching him," he said. "Loved the chip on his shoulder, have cheered for him in every game except one.

With Patrick Mahomes leading the nation in passing for the Red Raiders, Kingsbury noted again this week that it's, "all worked itself out in a way where everybody's happy.

"Baker is playing well, so I don't see the issue anymore."

All's well that end's well.

But that also doesn't mean The Jones won't be all over him Saturday.

Or that Mayfield won't be goading them back.

"Tech has a passionate fan base and I know a lot of them weren't happy about Baker leaving," Brewer said. "And Baker is a pretty outspoken guy. He's going to go out there a little bit animated and egging them on for sure.

"I imagine it's going to be pretty crazy."

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