FORT WORTH — The question posed to Gary Patterson on Tuesday morning was a light-hearted one, an innocuous throw-away line designed to put the TCU football coach in an upbeat mood.Did he know that Alabama and Ohio State were cheering for the Horned Frogs to defeat Oklahoma on Saturday in the Big 12 title game?
But Patterson, as he often does in his news conferences, meandered to what he really wanted to discuss.
In this case, it was Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, OU head coach Lincoln Riley and an incident earlier this month that was blamed on TCU’s players.
In the end, Patterson intentionally created some bulletin-board type chatter and added to a grudge that the TCU coach and OU quarterback have borne against each other since Mayfield was a senior at Lake Travis High School.
First, here’s the background on what continues to irritate Patterson: In pre-game warmups before the Frogs and Sooners played Nov. 11 in Norman, Mayfield threw a hard pass at the head of TCU starting safety Niko Smalls.
The ball bounced off of Smalls’ helmet because an unsuspecting Smalls never saw it coming. Video recorded from the stands showed the TCU players jogging single file around the end zone and then down the sideline to get to their warmup area. Mayfield was standing at the 5-yard line when he zipped the pass, looking more like a pitcher trying to bean a batter.
Smalls played in the game — a 38-20 loss for TCU — but he hasn’t been in the lineup since. Patterson has not specified Smalls’ injury, although it’s believed to be a concussion.
“No, I’m not saying that was the reason,” Patterson said about Mayfield’s pass that struck Smalls, “but let me just give you a little history.
“Baker played at Texas Tech and Lincoln (Riley) was at Texas Tech and I have a coach that was at Texas Tech,” Patterson said. “It was common practice. There was a Texas Tech pretty well-known quarterback that hit a guy … in the head, and they all thought it was funny to throw balls and do those kind of things back in those days. It’s their prerogative. They can do whatever they want to. We’re just not going to do them here.”
Patterson went on to add: “But I’m not going to make this game, because it’s a championship game, about all that stuff. It’s not. They want to bring it out in the open, they want to call us out, they can do it. They said we that were the ones that were trying to cause all the problems. I beg to differ. But we’re going to play a game Saturday and hopefully it’ll be two football teams that are playing with high intensity the right way without talking.”
Earlier this month, Riley was asked about the incident. He told reporters that the TCU players ran “right through the middle of our warmups. When you do that, things like that are going to happen.”
Mayfield’s on-field extracurricular conduct has been a much-discussed topic this season. It started with a flag planting at Ohio State, continued with taunts at Baylor and the trolling of Texas Tech. Riley benched Mayfield for the opening series of Saturday’s game against West Virginia and stripped him of his captain’s role after the quarterback grabbed his crotch and screamed expletives at Kansas players on Nov. 18.
Mayfield, perhaps the most famous walk-on to play college football, blames his initial lack of a scholarship on Patterson. Mayfield first played at Texas Tech before transferring to OU in 2014. In interviews throughout the years, Mayfield has said that TCU coaches offered him a scholarship but never followed through, leaving him no option but to walk on with the Red Raiders.
Mayfield once said that Patterson “doesn’t like me and I have no comment about that.”
Patterson responded: “If Baker Mayfield wants to blame TCU for 128 BCS schools not offering him a scholarship, that’s fine.”