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    Grant 'Boomer' Calcaterra was born to be a Sooner

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Special to SoonerSports.com

    Nov. 18, 2017

    Last weekend was the first time the entire Calcaterra family had been together since June, and their timing couldn't possibly have been better.

    They gathered at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for the showdown between No. 5-ranked Oklahoma and No. 6-ranked TCU and were part of the largest crowd (88,308) ever to witness any event in Oklahoma.

    On hand were the mother (Diane) and father (Chris), their eldest son (Nick) and the triplets (Andrew, Claire and Grant).

    "It was the perfect weekend," Grant said. "You couldn't have done it any better."

    The Sooners (9-1 overall, 6-1 Big 12) kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive with a convincing 38-20 victory over the Horned Frogs. With the clock ticking inside the 4:00 mark in the first quarter, Grant entered the game. Never before had starting tight end Mark Andrews and Grant been on the field together.

    There's a good chance they'll play together again because Grant made a dazzling 13-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone from quarterback Baker Mayfield to give OU a 17-7 lead. "I was shocked when I saw Grant run on (the field) and I didn't see Mark run off," Chris said. "And who was the first one to congratulate him after the touchdown? Mark Andrews."

    Grant said, "It was just a good play for the defense they were in. Hopefully, we'll keep on doing it."

    Since joining the Sooners, Grant has created another set of triplets. His best friends on the team happen to be the aforementioned Mayfield and Andrews. That's pretty heady company for a true freshman out of Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic High School.

    Grant left high school last December to enroll early at OU. Three months later, a budding friendship grew during spring break at Cabo San Lucas, where Grant joined Mayfield, Andrews, plus a slew of other teammates and OU students. Andrew and Claire also were on hand.

    During the Sooners' open date in late September, Mayfield went to California and stayed with the Calcaterras. "He was such the gentleman," Diane said of Mayfield, who is anything but when battling an opponent on the football field. "(Mayfield's mother) Gina was like, 'Are you sure this is OK?' I told her, 'I'll treat him like one of mine.'"

    Mayfield enjoyed home-cooked meals, huddled around the fire-pit at night, went to the beach and even took in an Anaheim Ducks preseason game. "We fed them well and we let them rest," Diane said. "It was really nice to get to know him (Mayfield) away from the stadium, away from the crowds. To us he's Baker, the kid who is Grant's friend. The same with Mark. They're just great, talented players who happen to be friends of my son."

    Chris also is member of the Mayfield-Andrews fan club. "They are tremendous mentors for Grant in so many ways," Chris said. "Baker in particular has taken it to the next level in terms of advice for future stages Grant might experience. It's been really cool."

    Grant has taken full advantage of learning under two of the nation's elite at their positions. It was Andrews and Mayfield who helped lure Grant to sign with OU during his recruiting visit.

    "I really spent a lot of time with Mark," Grant said. "It was a big part in my decision because I really love the position that Mark plays (split wider than the usual tight end position) and how they use him in the offense. I fell for that. I thought I could come in and kind of step into his shoes when he leaves and play that role."

    On the season, Grant has four catches for 63 yards (15.8-yard average) and half his receptions have been for touchdowns.

    "I think I made my biggest improvement because of Mark, just because of his understanding where the defense will be, especially on running plays," Grant said. "He's helped me a lot with my blocking, where I need to position myself. Once Mark leaves, I think I can be everything that he was. I have good potential and I think coach (Lincoln) Riley is going to put me in position to be successful. I think I have all the tangibles, but there's always room for improvement in every area."

    Andrews' and Mayfield's friendship with Grant has spread throughout the entire Calcaterra clan. They all frequently stay in touch via text.

    Chris and Diane don't seem to mind adding a couple more boys to their family, especially with their biological children spread throughout four states.

    Nick, who is five years older, attended the University of Oregon and lives in Seattle. Meanwhile, the triplets have scattered since sharing the same womb.

    Andrew is a freshman at Ohio State, which made for an interesting trip to Columbus for the Sooners' 31-16 victory over the Buckeyes on Sept. 9. "He said he was kind of indifferent about who won," Grant said of Andrew's allegiance, "but it was cool to go up there and beat them."

    Claire is a member of the Kansas State soccer team. Chris, Diane, Grant, Mayfield and Andrews were on hand to watch K-State's game at OU on Oct. 22, which the Sooners won 3-2. "Mark and Baker came to the game and cheered for Claire, even though it was Oklahoma's turf," Diane said. "It was really sweet. They have a good friendship."

    The triplets were born Dec. 4, 1998, on a Friday afternoon at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. Andrew arrived first at 2:58, then Claire at 2:59 and finally Grant at 3:01. They were born prematurely. Andrew weighed 3 pounds, 10 ounces; Claire weighed 3 pounds, 11 ounces; Grant tipped the scales at 3 pounds, 15 ounces. Diane was restricted to bed rest for 20 weeks.

    From the start, Grant evidently was born to play for the Sooners. Chris gave each of his children a nickname. He called Andrew "Boo-Boo" after Yogi Bear's best friend. The heftier Grant earned the name "Boomer."

    Purely coincidental.

    "He was always the biggest," Chris said of Grant, who is now 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds. "Grant got the name 'Boomer' just because he was so physical and so strong and bigger than the other kids. I'm probably the only one who calls him that. Maybe Diane every now and then. 'Booms' for short."

    Grant also excelled in lacrosse and basketball at a younger age, but football always topped the list. Grant stopped playing lacrosse after eighth grade and gave up basketball after his sophomore year in high school.

    Around Easter of Grant's junior year in high school, he and Chris hit the road to scout colleges. The trek began at OU and included stops at Vanderbilt, Michigan, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Indiana and Kentucky.

    "We had set up a full week of tours," Chris recalled, "but we could have gone home after Norman. As soon as we did Oklahoma, I called Diane and told her, 'He's going here.' It was a great visit. It's a beautiful school, a big-time program. Yeah, I knew right away."

    So did Grant.

    "After I took my visit, I was pretty dead-set on coming here," Grant said. "I knew I belonged here. I think I made the right decision."

    Chris chuckles at the irony of where Grant wound up playing college football.

    "It was destiny," he said of Boomer playing for the Sooners.

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    'There's no place like road' for Sooners and Mayfield

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Special to SoonerSports.com

    Nov. 18, 2017

    Perhaps no football player feels more at home while playing on the road than Oklahoma senior quarterback Baker Mayfield. Teams hoping to beat the Heisman Trophy favorite on their home field are now all out of chances.

    A 41-3 victory at Kansas on Saturday not only clinched a spot for the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, it also meant Mayfield finished his OU career with a 14-0 mark in true road games and a 12-0 record in Big 12 road contests.

    First-year head coach Lincoln Riley became the Sooners' offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2015, the same year Mayfield returned to the field after transferring from Texas Tech. This means Riley also is 14-0 in true road games and 12-0 in Big 12 road games at OU, as is every third-year player on the roster.

    Odd as it sounds, playing on the road fit perfectly into Mayfield's wheelhouse. His attitude, confidence and determination seemed equally as heightened on the road as they are inside the friendly confines of Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

    "I've had a mindset that's perfect for going on the road and I think I've been able to kind of help out other guys on the team," Mayfield said prior to his final conference road game. "When those fans start chirping, you want to shut them up or come right back and talk to them."

    Every time they hit the road in conference play, Mayfield and Sooners extend their historical success in the Big 12.

    Against the Jayhawks, Mayfield completed 20 of 30 passes for 257 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, marking the 15th time he has thrown at least three TD passes without a pickoff. Mayfield set a Big 12 record with his 37th straight game (every game of his OU career) with at least one touchdown pass. He also extended his record of at least two touchdown passes to 24 straight games, which is believed to be the second-longest streak in FBS history.

    "It's about bragging rights on the road," Mayfield said. "It's about going into someone else's house and winning. It really is just you and your team on the sidelines."

    The more hostile the crowd, the more Mayfield embraces the atmosphere.

    "When you go on the road, there's always people who buy seats behind the visitors' bench for certain reasons," Mayfield said. "They want to chatter back and forth. I love that. They take it personal and try and get under our skin."

    Asked which Big 12 road trips ranked as his favorites, Mayfield smiled and said, "Whenever you go to Stillwater there's always someone there chirping. West Virginia's always a fun place to go play. They always bring their 'A' game there."

    Riley said preparation during the week of a road game doesn't seem particularly more focused or intense than it is for a home game, and he credits his team's pre-existing mentality under coach Bob Stoops.

    "I don't really feel anything different during the week, but I always feel we have always embraced playing on the road," Riley said. "Going on the road is something you just have to handle as something you're up against. I've always been wired that way and I know he (Mayfield) certainly is."

    Riley chuckled at the notion it appears Mayfield was born to play in hostile territory. "The more they yell, the better it is for us, honestly," Riley said. "He feeds off that stuff. He really does. (Mayfield embraces) the challenge of going into someone else's place and playing as well as you can."

    Saying you love to play on the road is one thing, but the proof is in the performance.

    "We talk beforehand about the mentality we want going into those environments," Riley said. "You can talk about it all you want, but it's still about the guys believing. And when your leaders feel that way, the rest of the team tends to follow suit."

    The Sooners have now won 16 straight true road games, the nation's longest active streak and the second-longest in OU history. The Sooners' 14 straight Big 12 road wins also is a conference record. OU's last true road loss came more than three years ago with a 37-33 setback at TCU on Oct. 4, 2014.

    During the 16-game streak, the Sooners have outscored opponents 784-436 (49-27 average) and outgained them 8,798 total yards to 6,456 (579-413 average). Seven of the 16 wins have come against AP Top 25 teams.

    OU has won 23 of its last 24 conference games dating back to the 2015 season. Its lone loss came Oct. 7 at home against Iowa State this season.

    The Sooners also have now won 13 straight against the Jayhawks, including seven straight in Lawrence. Each of those 13 victories have been by at least 15 points. OU's last loss at KU came in 1997 in the Big 12's second year of existence.

    The Sooners are finished playing true road games this season. They close the regular season at home Saturday against West Virginia. Then come neutral site contests at the Big 12 title game and potentially two postseason games in the College Football Playoff with a shot at the program's eighth national title.

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    Caitlin Riley has two girls ... and roughly 115 boys

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Special to SoonerSports.com

    Oct. 27, 2017

    Lincoln and Caitlin Riley have two daughters, but you'll frequently hear Caitlin refer to “the boys.” In her eyes, her husband doesn't coach the Oklahoma Sooners. He coaches the boys. And Caitlin considers them family.

    "That's the truth," OU senior quarterback Baker Mayfield confirmed with a chuckle. "She has two daughters, but she also has about 115 boys."

    Having always been a football wife, Caitlin said there were no major adjustments when Lincoln was promoted from offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach to replace Bob Stoops as the Sooners' head coach on June 7 of this year.

    "It's been good, exciting, never a dull moment," Caitlin said. "It's what I had anticipated — having the desire to win, to feel strongly involved and invested, that didn't really change. I felt that way when Lincoln was offensive coordinator."

    Caitlin already is reaping high praise from OU players.

    Senior defensive end/outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: "She's really one of the nicest humans I've ever met."

    All-American junior offensive tackle Orlando Brown: "Great, great woman."

    Mayfield: "She is one of the sweetest ladies."

    At age 34, Lincoln Riley is the youngest FBS head coach, but Caitlin said a lot of work went into her husband's rapid ascent.

    "Him coaching football started fresh out of high school, so it's all I know," she explained. "I thought he'd be a high school coach when we started dating in high school. It's seems like a long time ago. We left (Texas) Tech eight years ago, four years as a coach and as a student before that. So it seems like a lot of work has gone into it. He is very young, but he has put a lot of time in."

    Lincoln attended Muleshoe (Texas) High School, about 70 miles northwest of Lubbock, and rival Dimmit High School was located roughly 45 miles northeast of Muleshoe. The Rileys started dating in 2002 when Lincoln was a freshman at Texas Tech and Caitlin was a senior at Dimmit. Lincoln graduated in December of 2005, Caitlin graduated in May of 2006 and they got married July 14, 2007.

    Every Monday and Wednesday, Caitlin brings Sloan, who will be 5 in December, and Stella, 1, to practice. "We go to see dad," Caitlin said. "Those are two of his later nights, so he's generally not home to put the girls to bed. So we run around and see the boys. We take dinner out there and have practice picnics."

    Caitlin, who was a kindergarten teacher before starting a family, said she particularly enjoys having the boys over to their house for functions. "I love to be involved in the middle of it, get to know the boys as people and learn about their families and what they love," Caitlin said.

    Lincoln and Caitlin used to host players on offense, but now it's the entire team, plus recruits. "We just needed a little more space to have them all over," she said. "We get to have everybody. We get a lot more hugs now. We have our two girls and we have all our boys. That's who we know and love and that grows."

    Mayfield laughed at the sheer magnitude of hosting an entire football team at the house. "It's kind of like a herd of animals coming in and out of the house," Mayfield said of the occasions. "They always do a great job caring for us. It's not under their contract or job description to truly care for us, but that's what makes it so special about them."

    The Rileys' mutual admiration is easily evident, and they don't mind sharing that bond with the entire program.

    "The family atmosphere has always been here," Mayfield said. "With Carol Stoops, the special thing about her is she would write hand-written letters to the guys. She would always do stuff like that. Now you have Caitlin. For kids who come a long way from home, it's important to see Coach Riley and his wife really hold together the family and the unity. They truly care about everybody around here and that's important."

    In just her first five games, Caitlin already had experienced the highest highs (a 31-16 victory at No. 2-ranked Ohio State) and the lowest lows (a 38-31 loss at home to then-unranked Iowa State) of being the First Lady of Oklahoma Football.

    "The hardest part about losing a game is I know what they all put into it, how hard they've worked and how badly they want it more than anybody else could ever want it," Caitlin said of those within the OU program. "Their heart is totally in it."

    Caitlin is so invested in her husband's duties, she asked permission to attend his often-tedious weekly media luncheon every Monday. Lincoln initially balked at the idea, until Caitlin explained why she wanted to do it. "I've always felt it's important to be by his side in the good and the bad, so I want to be there every week no matter what," Caitlin said. "Honestly, it's a good 10-minute walk (from his office) that we get to see each other and visit alone. It's some time we get to catch up during the day."

    Lincoln smiled and said, "She's got some good points. This time of year, finding 10 minutes just to talk or spend some time together, you don't get much of it right now."

    Caitlin said she's impressed with how her husband handles the media demands. "He makes it seem like he's done it forever and gives honest, thoughtful answers. It's also a good way for me to get information on the team without him having to repeat it at home, so I can stay in the loop."

    Brown said he believes Caitlin is partly responsible for her husband's calm demeanor. "I think she really understands everything that he (Lincoln) goes through," Brown said. "For the most part, I think the reason he's able to be so calm and be there for us is because of her and all the pressure she takes off of him."

    Whenever Lincoln seeks some head coaching counsel, he can easily chat with former bosses in Stoops and Ruffin McNeill, whom Riley served with at Texas Tech (2003-09) and at East Carolina (2010-14). After becoming OU's head coach, Riley quickly hired McNeill as the Sooners' assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach.

    Turns out, Caitlin looks in the same direction when she seeks insight. "I talk to Carol Stoops a lot and to Erlene McNeill also," Caitlin admitted. "They're both very dear to my heart. I trust them and know they will always have great advice, plus I got to see first-hand how they handled things."

    At 7 p.m. Saturday, the No. 10-ranked Sooners host Texas Tech, the Rileys' alma mater. Caitlin and Lincoln may have experienced some unpleasant flashbacks this week.

    Caitlin's first-ever experience at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium was the 2008 contest when the No. 5 Sooners hosted the No. 2-ranked and 10-0 Red Raiders. It's affectionately referred to as the "Jump Around" game, with OU fans incessantly bobbing up and down to House of Pain's rhythmic rap blasting full volume through the loud speakers. The Sooners dominated with a 65-21 victory.

    "Oh my goodness, I've never seen anything like it," Caitlin recalled.

    The game remains fresh in the mind of Lincoln, who was Texas Tech's inside receivers coach at the time. "Ooh, a nightmare," Lincoln said Monday, with a nodding Caitlin watching roughly 25 feet away to his left. "That was still to this day probably the best atmosphere I've ever played or coached or been a part of. That's one of my lasting memories of it. Those who think a crowd or a great atmosphere can't have an effect on the game, they weren't at that game that night. I mean it was just unbelievable. It was a tough game, man. Oklahoma got the momentum and took it away from us and we could never get it back. It felt like we were just going head-first into a buzzsaw. It was amazing. It was a great atmosphere. It was a great team. It was a long night for us."

    Fully aware that being a football wife is no easy gig, Lincoln said he knew he found a special match in Caitlin.

    "It's a hard life for them, but she's been nothing but incredibly supportive and unselfish," Lincoln said of his better half. "You hear about it a lot, but it really is a hard life for them. It's lonely a lot, and all that goes along with it, especially if something doesn't go well. It's hard, but she's been great. She keeps me going, there's no doubt. She inspires me to keep things rolling because she certainly does. She's always been supportive and she's always been a person to put others in front of herself and she's certainly done that with me and my family."

    And what does Caitlin admire most about her husband? "His honesty. His integrity. His heart," she said. "This (coaching) is really what he loves. The boys are what he loves. Well, they're not boys. They're big, but they're boys."

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    Oklahoma-Texas rewind: Jump in front, fall behind, and win

    Baker Mayfield dons the victorious Golden Hat Trophy following Oklahoma's 29-24 win over Texas in Dallas on Saturday. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Special for SoonerSports.com

    Oct. 14, 2017

    For the third straight game, the Oklahoma football team pounced early on its opponent for an early lead, only to eventually end up trailing.

    This Saturday was the same, yet different, because it meant so much more. The opponent was Red River rival Texas and the Sooners needed a victory to keep alive their chance at making this year's College Football Playoff.

    • Against Baylor on Sept. 23, the Sooners led 28-10 and then fell behind 31-28 before managing to pull out a 49-41 victory in Waco.
    • Last week at home against Iowa State, OU led 24-10 before the 30½-point underdog Cyclones closed with a 28-7 run to post a stunning 38-31 victory that sent the Sooners plummeting from No. 3 in the polls to No. 12.

    On this overheated Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl, OU jumped out to a 20-0 advantage against the unranked but surging Longhorns late in the second quarter, and once again surrendered the lead.

    Trailing 24-23 midway through the fourth quarter, the Sooners immediately responded with a 78-yard drive that required just three plays and 68 seconds and eventually resulted in a 29-24 victory before a sellout crowd of 93,552 in the 112th meeting of the series.

    The game-winner came on a 59-yard touchdown pass from OU senior quarterback Baker Mayfield to wide open junior tight end Mark Andrews down the right sideline with 6:53 remaining.

    "We felt like at that moment we needed a little bit of a spark," first-year Sooners coach Lincoln Riley explained afterward. "We took a chance and the guys executed it to perfection."

    Mayfield described the play succinctly: "Great protection. Great play call. It makes my job easy. He (Andrews) was wide open," he said.

    The victory keeps playoff hopes alive for the Sooners (5-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) after last week's stunning defeat, which snapped their nation-leading 14-game winning streak that dated back 385 days and their 17-game Big 12 winning streak that lasted 728 days.

    Mayfield said he was not focused on any potential CFP scenarios during the game-winning sequence, however. "It's a single focus," Mayfield said. "The thought of a college football playoff is not running through your head right there. It's about doing your job, winning that game and beating Texas. There was no other motivation besides doing our job in that moment."

    And for the first time in three games, credit finally was bestowed upon the OU defense afterward.

    With several players exhausted and frequently battling cramps, the Sooners defense sealed the win by stopping the Longhorns' final two drives. Temperature at kickoff was 90 degrees, the highest for an OU-Texas game since 1991 (93 degrees).

    "That was a hard-fought game," said Sooners senior defensive end/outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who finished with five quarterback hurries, one sack, one pass breakup and five tackles. "We swung until the very last second."

    The overriding theme for OU remains figuring out how to protect and extend its early leads.

     

    "There's going to be a lot of things that we can do better to continue to push those leads," Riley said. "We've been in that situation there for a few games in a row, but I loved our guys' fight. We fought all day, even when we didn't play our best ball, even when we had things go against us. I think we really took some steps forward as a team. We're going to play a lot better as this thing goes on. We're going to get a lot better as a team, but anytime you come out of here with a win, it's a special moment."

    Despite frequently being pressured by the Texas defense, Mayfield still completed 17 of 27 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns. He has now thrown at least two touchdown passes in 19 consecutive games, extending his own Big 12 record.

    However, Mayfield's streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception ended at 200, breaking the previous school record of 198 set by Heisman Trophy winner Jason White in 2004. Saturday marked Mayfield's first interception since playing at West Virginia in the third-to-last game of the 2016 season.

    Mayfield, who grew up as a Sooners fan living in Austin, beat his hometown team for the second straight year, but nearly was knocked out of the game in the third quarter favoring his right arm after being hit hard on an incompletion.

    "You definitely don't want to come out," Mayfield said of leaving the game due to injury. "You'll fight through a little extra pain for this one. It was a mental decision for all of us. When you play Texas, it always takes it all out of you. You have to expect that in games like this. We talked about it as a team and made the decision last night how we were going to handle adversity and toughness like that."

    When the OU offense stepped onto the field after the team fell behind, its impact was instantaneous.

    "We approach every drive with the mentality to score," said Sooners All-American offensive tackle Orlando Brown. "Being in that situation, we understand the meaning of that drive for the game. We just approached it with the mentality we had to score. We've got a bunch of playmakers."

    Despite running 15 fewer plays, the Sooners outgained the Longhorns 518-428 in total yardage, averaging 7.7 yards per play to UT's 5.2.

    Andrews finished with four receptions for 104 yards. Sophomore receiver Marquise Brown added four catches for 73 yards and freshman receiver CeeDee Lamb had three receptions for 74 yards. Freshman running back Trey Sermon rushed 20 times for 96 yards and sophomore running back  Rodney Anderson carried 10 times for 48 yards, including a 15-yard rush in the second quarter that put OU ahead 17-0.

    Senior linebacker Emmanuel Beal led OU with seven tackles, while Okoronkwo, senior end D.J. Ward and sophomore lineman Amani Bledsoe all registered a sack. Okoronkwo has at least a half-sack in all six games and at least one full sack in five contests (6.0 on the year).

    The Sooners play at Kansas State next Saturday. Kickoff time and TV information will be announced Sunday.

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    Baker Mayfield was Texas-born, but Sooner-bred

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Special to SoonerSports.com

    Oct. 12, 2017

    Deep in the heart of Texas, in the same town where locals worship burnt orange, Baker Mayfield's bedroom was drenched in crimson and cream and the interlocking OU.

    "We certainly had plenty of it," Mayfield's mother, Gina, said of collecting Oklahoma Sooners paraphernalia in the family's hometown of Austin, which is the home of the University of Texas. "Baker's room in particular was decked out in OU pillow cases, chairs, blankets and jerseys." There also was a football sent by former Sooners receiver Tinker Owens.

    Not surprisingly, the same brash quarterback who confidently has led the Sooners the past three seasons walked fearlessly among Texas Longhorns supporters as a youngster while boldly draped in an OU T-shirt, shorts, sweatshirt, jersey or cap.

    Older brother Matt recalled him and his little brother wearing Sooners gear while posing for their elementary class pictures. "I always seemed to have something OU on," Baker recalled. "It was something fun to talk about with my friends."

    Baker would flash the upside-down Hook 'em Horns sign, even when he was too young to understand what the hand gesture meant. "Not the true meaning of it anyway," Baker said with a smile. "I thought it was all fun and games, but it means so much more than that."

    Stunned classmates would ask Baker how he possibly could side with the hometown's Red River rival. "They just wouldn't understand the reasons why," Baker said, shaking his head.

    "The local kids would always make comments," Gina said. "Baker and Matt endured that for quite a while."

    The Mayfield cars were adorned with OU window flags. Many who surrounded the family wearing burnt orange actually were friends. Chris Petrucelli, the husband of one of Gina's closest friends, used to be UT's soccer coach.

    "Our neighbors don't go out to the mailbox without wearing their orange," Gina said. "They bleed orange. They have boys Baker's age. That just fueled all of it."

    Baker got into arguments with schoolmates about the OU-Texas rivalry. "Oh, nothing out of the ordinary," Baker explained. "Just little kids being stupid, bickering back and forth. It was about bragging rights for the whole year until the next rematch."

    "We always, always loved OU," said Matt, who is five years older than Baker. "Even more so now with Baker there."

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    It's Iowa State week, time for Dimitri Flowers to bloom

    BY JOHN ROHDE

    Special to SoonerSports.com

    Oct. 5, 2017

    In a routine game, Oklahoma senior fullback Dimitri Flowers continually will block opposing players and create opportunities for teammates. He also might catch an occasional pass or two. Whatever his duty, Flowers' effectiveness and timeliness are habitually impeccable.

    There has been nothing routine about Flowers whenever the Sooners face Iowa State, however.

    During his freshman season three years ago, Flowers gained all 14 of his career rushing yards to that point on an option pitch past the line of scrimmage from quarterback Trevor Knight at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. Despite the gain, Flowers was not credited with an official carry due to the nature of the play.

    On OU's first play from scrimmage against the Cyclones two years ago in Norman, Flowers hauled in a 75-yard touchdown on a reverse pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield. Flowers caught the ball near midfield and sprinted into the end zone untouched.

    In the Sooners' 34-24 victory at Iowa State last season, Flowers rushed for 115 yards on 22 carries (5.2-yard average) and added four receptions for 34 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown catch. His 22 rushes were the first of his career.

    Last year's stunning performance was particularly timely given OU was without starting running back Samaje Perine (injury) and leading rusher Joe Mixon (one-game suspension). Adding to the challenge was it came during a short week of preparation for a nationally televised Thursday night game on ESPN.

    "We didn't have a ton of prep time," recalled first-year OU head coach Lincoln Riley, who served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the last two seasons. "We knew about Samaje's injury. We didn't find out we were not going to have Joe until maybe the day before the game. We really just pieced it together, honestly. I remember it was challenging just because taking Dimitri out of his normal world changes a lot of other parts, too. ... We had to push it together. Had we not had the experience that we've had together as a staff, it would have been a nightmare."

    Asked if there was any playful banter inside the huddle when he continued to grind out yardage (his longest rush was 13 yards) against the Cyclones, Flowers said, "No, but a lot of people didn't think I could do it. They were like, 'Wow, I didn't know you could do that.' Of course, I just had that smirk on my face."

    One of those non-believers was his own quarterback, who didn't think Flowers could do what he did with such little preparation at a different position.

    "I never would have imagined it going that smoothly," Mayfield admitted. "He's done a lot of things for us being able to react and he's such a smart player. I probably should have realized that could happen. He really took over the game. ... That's a lot of stuff to learn, but I think he already had a good idea just because of how smart he was."

    In three career games against the Cyclones, Flowers has 129 rushing yards, 109 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In his 40 other career games, he has 8 rushing yards, 481 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

    "It's crazy to think about because it's not like it was planned like that," Flowers said of consistently making his mark against Iowa State. "It's just something that kind of happens. It's pretty cool."

    Flowers' final showdown against the Cyclones (2-2, 0-1) comes Saturday at 11 a.m. when the No. 3-ranked Sooners (4-0, 1-0) welcome ISU to Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

    Though his contributions rarely draw the spotlight because of the position Flowers plays, his value is undeniable. Flowers frequently is referred to as the team's "Swiss army knife," a moniker he cherishes.

    "I'm not just a fullback," Flowers said. "I feel I'm more of a hybrid, H-back type of guy. It kind of goes hand-in-hand. Technically, am I a fullback? Yes, but I think I can do a lot more than be just a fullback."

    When it comes to his competitiveness and determination, Flowers attributes these traits to his father, Erik, an Arizona State defensive end/linebacker and a first-round draft pick (26th overall) of the Buffalo Bills in 2000 who played five seasons in the NFL.

    Throw in Flowers' sense of humor and unselfishness and it's darn near impossible to not like the kid. These traits come from Flowers himself. "That's just how I am as a person," Flowers explained. "It just translates to everyone."

    Flowers no doubt has confidence in his abilities. The manner in which he playfully expresses this often leaves teammates and coaches laughing.

    In August, Flowers proudly proclaimed himself OU's second-best quarterback, just a skosh behind Mayfield, a three-time Heisman Trophy contender. If Flowers wasn't already busy starting at fullback, he said he'd like to be the Sooners' starting quarterback.

    Informed of this revelation during this week's media luncheon, a stunned Mayfield couldn't suppress his laughter.

    "Did he actually say that? He'd have to stop eating cake and desserts if he wanted to do that," Mayfield said of the 6-foot-2, 247-pound Flowers. "I'm not one who lacks confidence, but Dimitri is definitely not one who lacks that either."

    Mayfield said he heard stories of Flowers' athleticism from former OU teammates Trevor and Connor Knight, who played high school baseball against Flowers in San Antonio. "He's a good athlete, don't get me wrong," Mayfield said of Flowers. "I'm sure if he spent time and effort into playing quarterback, he would actually be pretty good, which is the sad part about that and I might actually have to worry about my job. Luckily, we have a place for him and he's catching the ball and on the receiving end of that."

    Would Flowers rather have 10 carries in a game or 10 catches?

    "Oooh, can I go five and five?" asked Flowers, who eventually chose having 10 catches.

    "He'll take just 10 touches with the ball," Mayfield said. "He loves to have the ball in his hands, which I can't blame him. He's good with it."

    This being Iowa State week, perhaps Flowers can continue to show his versatility with an opportunity to throw the rarely executed fullback option pass.

    Flowers smiled and said, "Hey, can't give away any of our secrets."

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