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Mayfield vs Mahomes: The 2016 Oklahoma-Texas Tech Shootout on Twitter

Patrick Mahomes would soon go 10th overall in the NFL draft; one year later, Baker Mayfield was No. 1 pick. The quarterbacks are using the 2018 NFL season to light up scoreboards, inspire their respective fanbases and convert the last few holdout doubters who thought their games could never translate from the Big 12 to the big leagues.

But on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, the two young gunners were just trying to carry their defenses to a victory.

In their quarterback’s much-anticipated return trip to Lubbock, where Mayfield had started his college football career, the Oklahoma Sooners were taking on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in a classic nighttime shoot ‘em up. Oklahoma, despite a rocky start in non-conference play, still had its sights set on a Big 12 title. Texas Tech at that point was out of the running, and mostly just a showcase for Mahomes. TTU had put up a measly 17 points the week before against West Virginia.

I was at the time a new Crimson & Cream Machine writer just months removed from my OU graduation. Part of my responsibilities that season, in addition to game recaps and bi-weekly analysis pieces, was to live-tweet certain games on the official CCM account. And that’s how I came that day to be on Twitter for the entire duration of OU’s no-defense, back-and-forth affair with Texas Tech. My finger was on the pulse of Sooner Nation, and Sooner Nation did not like what it saw.

The game started innocently enough. OU’s offense was stacked with standouts, from Mayfield to Dede Westbrook to Joe Mixon (Samaje Perine sat with an injury), and it marched down the field for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Mayfield hit Mixon in stride for a 56-yard statement score.

Then the Raiders coughed the ball up on their first drive; Jonathan Giles caught a short pass from Mahomes that popped out when Emmanuel Beal put his helmet on the ball. OU’s subsequent touchdown, a beautiful deep bomb to Westbrook, put the Sooners up 13-0 and it looked like the rout was on.

But of course, the Oklahoma offense was not the story that day. I’m not sure exactly when it became obvious that we were watching something extraordinary—a game simultaneously compelling, horrifying and breathtaking. Maybe it’s when Tech took a 24-23 lead in the second quarter with just 37 seconds left, only for OU to answer with an at-the-death touchdown of its own. Maybe it’s when Mahomes converted yet another third-and-long, an Achilles’ heel for the OU defense all night.

The skill-position play was incredible, but the team’s defenses were every bit as bad as the offenses were good.

Heading into the fourth quarter, it seemed as though the Sooners might have finally taken control. They led 51-38, and though no one expected any defensive stops, it seemed reasonable to expect that OU could keep pace with a 13-point advantage.

And they did—barely. The fourth quarter somehow turned out to be the game’s wildest, with 36 points scored and 400 yards of offense between the two teams. When the dust settled OU came out on top 66-59, but the record books had been rewritten and the Tech student section had done a thorough job of disgracing itself.

From my online vantage point, OU fans settled into something like angry amazement. We vacillated between singing the offense’s praises and cursing the defense’s ineptitude. While the overmatched OU cornerbacks received their fair share of scorn, the night’s ultimate scapegoat proved to be unit’s manager Mike Stoops.

I had already that very season written a postgame reaction piece called “What Is Defense?”, an answer to the Sooners’ shootout against TCU in Fort Worth. I titled my Tech story “Bitter Victory” and, against my nature, ended it by calling for Mike to be fired.

“It’s been fun, Mike, and we had some good times together, but you need to go,” I wrote at the time. “Take your 10-yard cushions and your 3-4 and go take the Purdue job or something.”

It took another two seasons, but I’m glad to see that OU has finally taken that advice.

While Oklahoma fans were understandably distraught after the performance, it turned out to be a mere blip on the way to another Big 12 title and a convincing Sugar Bowl victory over Auburn. The contest has taken on a legendary status, especially now that its protagonists are tearing up the NFL. ESPN even released an oral history of the game in advance of this week’s matchup.

For those of us who watched it, it will remain one of the most incredible games in Oklahoma history. It foreshadowed the rise of Baker and Patrick, the demise of Mike and the genius of Lincoln Riley. It’s one of the most important games in OU’s recent past—hopefully, though, this weekend’s matchup is a little less dramatic.

Here’s a large collection of that evening’s tweets (with a dash of Cubs tweets) in chronological order. I’m not going to lie — going back through these tweets uncovered some old emotions, and I’ll probably be upset for the rest of the day. Proceed with caution.



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