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But no matter what happens Sunday when Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield meet in the NFL playoffs for the first time, the numbers won't eclipse their meeting in 2016.
In was then, on a balmy night in Lubbock, Texas, that Oklahoma’s Mayfield and Texas Tech’s Mahomes squared off in one of the wildest games in college football history.
Oklahoma won in regulation, 66-59, and the game came down to who got the ball last. Each team rolled up an identical 854 yards of offense, and Mayfield’s 545 yards passing seemed modest when compared with the jaw-dropping, FBS-record 734 of Mahomes. The 1,708 yards of total offense was also an FBS record.
“We had to score every single drive in the second half to win that game,” recalled Mayfield, who began his college career as a Texas Tech walk-on before transferring to Oklahoma. “It was an unbelievable game and unbelievable atmosphere. Just the back and forth is something that I will not forget.”
Some defensive players — yes, each team technically fielded a defense — stopped removing their helmets on the sideline because there just wasn’t enough time.
“You probably had about a minute, maybe minute-and-a-half before you heard all the fans erupt,” recalled former Oklahoma outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who now plays for the Rams. “Then you’re going right back out. It was crazy. I’ve never been a part of anything like that.”
The game had a misleading start — Texas Tech’s Breiden Fehoko tackled Joe Mixon for a one-yard loss — but just about everything after that was full speed ahead. Mixon, who now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, had 377 yards of total offense and scored five touchdowns.
“After that first play, it was like, wow,” said Fehoko, now a Chargers defensive lineman. “Who knew?”
Well, there were some hints. Mayfield was at the controls of a Sooners offense averaging 40 points per game. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, were allowing an average of 40 points, fifth-most in the country.
Mahomes completed 52 of 88 passes with five touchdowns and an interception. To put 88 passes in perspective, it’s 54 more than Mayfield threw in Sunday’s 48-37 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I didn’t know I had thrown that many times," Mahomes said in 2018, before his first NFL matchup against Mayfield. "I remember one of my buddies who was my roommate my freshman year of college, he came up to me the last drive and was like, `You have 77 pass attempts right now.’ I was like, 'Man, that’s a lot of passes.’”
Recalled Texas Tech defensive end Kolin Hill: “It was definitely like a marathon. Both defenses were gassed.”
People were expecting a shootout, but not the theater of the absurd.
“We literally would suck on lozenges during the game — not because we had any issues when the game started, but we knew we were going to have issues by the time the game ended,” said Brian Jensen, radio play-by-play announcer for Texas Tech games.
His Oklahoma counterpart, Toby Rowland, said the Sooners and their fans are sickened by the memory of that game, even though their team won.
“As I was sitting there calling it,” Rowland said, “I’m thinking, we’re witnessing history, one of the great quarterback showdowns of all time. This is an epic, and we’ll remember this game forever.
“When I got in the car after the game and turned on the radio and looked at social media, I realized that the fan base hated it. The fan base was disgusted by it. And to this day they are embarrassed about that game. Even though Oklahoma won it, the way their defense played that night, you are not supposed to talk about that game.”
Among the other current NFL players on Oklahoma’s 2016 roster are running back Samaje Perrine (Cincinnati), receiver Dede Westbrook (Jacksonville), tight end Mark Andrews (Baltimore), tackle Bobby Evans (Rams), guard Ben Powers (Baltimore), linebacker Jordan Evans (Cincinnati), safety Steven Parker (Dallas), and kicker Austin Siebert (Cincinnati). Texas Tech’s roster included receivers Cameron Batson (Tennessee), Keke Coutee (Houston), and Derrick Willies (Cleveland).
Thierry Nguema, a former Texas Tech defensive back who lives in Corona, said the four years haven’t faded his memory of that game.
“I can’t tell you the feeling I had coming down the tunnel, and especially playing against Baker Mayfield,” Nguema said. “Man, just incredible. . . . Thinking about these guys playing each other again. I get goose bumps because I’m so excited.”
Maybe that’s what people remember most about that game: the electric atmosphere. One of the peculiar traditions at Texas Tech is fans throwing tortillas like Frisbees onto the field.
Randi Mahomes, the quarterback’s mother, told the Athletic’s Bruce Feldman that the family was seated behind Oklahoma’s bench and that her 16-year-old son, Jackson, threw a tortilla that hit Mayfield on the sideline.
“His brother wasn’t throwing it to be mean,” she told Feldman, who was Fox’s sideline reporter during the game. “He was doing it to be funny. I’ve always said he’s my class clown. Baker picked it up and took a bite out of it. Then Patrick’s brother got thrown out of the game.”
In a Twilight Zone of a shootout, when all sorts of records fell, that might have been the weirdest tidbit of all.
When it came to throwing, Patrick was the second-most accurate Mahomes of the night.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.