BC-FBC--T25-Rose Bowl-Mayfield,2nd Ld-Writethru

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield made it to Rose Bowl media day after all, swooping in late and providing a jolt of drama as he noted he has been dealing with ‘‘flu-like’’ symptoms.

The Heisman Trophy winner missed the first half of the 45-minute session Saturday morning at a downtown hotel, but arrived in time to meet with the media for the first time this week ahead of the College Football Playoff semifinal between the second-ranked Sooners and No. 3 Georgia on Monday evening.

In the other semifinal, No. 4 seed Alabama meets top-seeded Clemson in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Monday night.


Mayfield was not expected to attend as he’s been dealing with the illness the past few days.

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‘‘Yeah, I’m not dying,’’ Mayfield said.

Mayfield’s unexpected entrance had reporters and camera operators scrambling to get to the dais where he was speaking, in the corner of a ballroom crowded with reporters, plus Oklahoma’s entire roster and coaching staff. Mayfield said he changed his mind about missing media day after turning on the television at the team hotel and seeing coach Lincoln Riley answering questions about the quarterback’s status.

‘‘I realized this whole thing is not about me,’’ Mayfield said. ‘‘Oklahoma is here to play a playoff game. It’s not about any sickness that I have. We’re here to win a game, and that’s what it needs to be about. My teammates don’t need to answer questions on my behalf. I’m not dying. I’ll be playing.’’

Drinking a cup of coffee with honey and lemon because Mayfield was sick of drinking tea, the only noticeable sign of illness was his raspy voice. That was as much a product of yelling during practice Friday as it was being under the weather, Mayfield said.


‘‘I hope I’m 100 percent on Monday. I think I will be,’’ said Mayfield, who has thrown for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns this season.

Mayfield has been at practice each day this week. He said the practices have been a little tougher than usual.

‘‘But I’d rather go out there and practice than have to go do other activities. I’d rather by with my teammates and working on our game plan,’’ Mayfield said.

He did not attend the team’s trip to Disneyland on Wednesday, dinner on Thursday or his scheduled media availability Friday.

‘‘He’ll be ready to play,’’ Riley said. ‘‘Will he be at 100 percent physically? We’ll see. He’s not going to miss this one.’’


Mayfield started getting sick when he was home for Christmas in Austin, Texas. When the team reconvened in Norman, Oklahoma, it just got worse. The former walk-on at Texas Tech does not believe the illness will hinder how he plays against the Bulldogs.

‘‘We look pretty good right now,’’ Mayfield said. ‘‘I think we’re practicing well. I think we’re settling into the game plan. Been working on it for a while, and I’m confident where we’re at right now.’’

The absence of Mayfield has not diminished his presence in the buildup to the Rose Bowl. Teammates and co-offensive coordinator Cale Gundy were pestered with questions about his status on Friday. Georgia coach Kirby Smart has raved about Mayfield’s ability to consistently make ‘‘wow’’ plays.

Even Bulldogs freshman walk-on Stetson Bennett, the scout team quarterback who has been mimicking Mayfield to prepare the Georgia defense, was a popular interview subject on Saturday.

‘‘You love having fun, and he has the most fun out there,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘He’s the most exciting player. I got excited when we found out we had to play them.’’

In the other semifinal, a rematch of the last two championship games, Alabama has used the month-long hiatus to figure out what to do at linebacker, where the Crimson Tide have been fighting injuries all season.

Linebackers Dylan Moses, Hootie Jones, and Shaun Dion Hamilton are unavailable to play in the Sugar Bowl. Moses’s injury perhaps speaks most to Alabama’s ill fortune at the linebacker spot; it happened during a practice after he’d made it to the end of the regular season healthy.

Jones, meanwhile, was injured during Alabama’s Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. Hamilton started the first nine games of the year before injuring his knee against LSU in early November.

‘‘The injuries, they mess up a lot of things. They mess up chemistry, they mess up schemes,’’ linebacker Rashaan Evans said. ‘‘We’ve lost some guys, gained some guys, we lost another guy . . . We just have to do what we can do with what we’ve got.’’

But Alabama has gotten back three potentially important members of its linebacker corps, including a pair of players in Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis, who could bolster an edge pass rush that has been relatively anemic this season by Alabama standards. Miller and Lewis missed nearly the entire season after getting hurt in the season opener against Florida State.

Also back is Mack Wilson, an inside linebacker who wasn’t all that effective in his return against Auburn, but who could very well be a step quicker now.

Pruitt said Wilson played much of the season with a foot injury that required surgery after the LSU game.

‘‘We’ve had to limit what he could do at practice,’’ said defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who will be leaving to take over as head coach at Tennessee after this season. ‘‘The fact he’s been back obviously will help us, especially with Dylan being out. We’re excited to have him back. We need him back. He was playing really well until he got hurt. So we’ll see how he plays in this game.’’

Alabama plays a 3-4 scheme, meaning in a good year, outside linebackers will pile up sacks. This season, Alabama’s 31 sacks ranks 25th nationally, well behind second-ranked Clemson’s 44.

Still, it’s not like Alabama had a lot of busts on defense. The Crimson Tide ranked second nationally in total defense, giving up an average of 257.8 yards per game.

‘‘They keep saying there are a lot of injuries, but they just keep rolling guys in there,’’ Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot said. ‘‘Really the linebacker position is the one that probably gives them the biggest issue just because they ask those guys to do so much.

‘‘But when [Wilson] was in there, you saw him come back from his foot injury later in the season versus Auburn playing at a high level,’’ Elliot added. ‘‘One of their best players on defense is [Evans], the way that he runs around. So I anticipate that with the time off, they have an opportunity to get those guys healthy and really haven’t seen them go away from what they do. They just keep plugging guys in and asking those young guys to step up.’’