When Oklahoma’s 31-16 victory over Ohio State was over, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield grabbed an OU flag, paraded around the Ohio Stadium field and then planted it right in the Block O at midfield.
For Mayfield and the No. 5 Sooners, it was the exclamation point and sweet redemption for the Buckeyes’ convincing 21-point victory in Norman last year.
For the soon-to-be-former No. 2 Buckeyes (1-1), it was the final insult of a dispiriting night. A crowd of 109,088 watched the most-lopsided home loss since the Buckeyes lost 46-20 to Illinois on Nov. 25, 1999.
Using his feet to escape pressure and a strong arm to rifle balls to receivers, Mayfield completed 27 of 35 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns and proved why he’s a prime Heisman Trophy candidate.
“We got beat by a very good team and a quarterback that was dynamic,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.
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Dynamic was not an applicable adjective for the Buckeyes’ offense. J.T. Barrett completed only 19 of 35 passes for 183 yards. The deep game was again nonexistent, and receivers seldom caught shorter passes in stride, which was key in the season-opening victory over Indiana.
“We’ve worked really hard at it,” Meyer said of the passing game. “We have to get the damn thing fixed.
“We’re just not getting into a flow on offense. I’m seeing the same things you’re seeing.”
Meyer gave a succinct “No” when asked if he would contemplate a change at quarterback.
“I’m not going to point a finger at the quarterback,” Meyer said. “I’m going to say he’s the head dog, and he’s accountable. (But) it’s not a bull’s-eye on J.T. It’s the system and a group that has to get better.”
The Buckeyes scored only one touchdown; it came on a 44-yard drive after Parris Campbell returned the second-half kickoff 56 yards. J.K. Dobbins capped the drive with a 6-yard carry.
Ohio State otherwise managed only three field goals from Sean Nuernberger. That was not nearly enough against the Sooners and Mayfield. The Buckeyes held Oklahoma scoreless for almost the entire first half, but it had the feel of trying to keep a dam from breaking.
Oklahoma (2-0) drove into Ohio State territory in all five of its possessions in the first half. The Sooners came up empty on the first four, thanks to a fourth-down incompletion, two fumbles and a missed 37-yard field goal.
Oklahoma finally scored with 25 seconds left in the half on a 35-yard field goal to tie the game at 3.
They would not be thwarted in the second half. The Sooners needed only five plays to go 67 yards to answer the Buckeyes’ touchdown and tie the game at 10. The final 36 yards came on a play-action pass to fullback Dimitri Flowers, who outran safety Erick Smith to the end zone.
Ohio State then put together its longest drive — 69 yards — but it stalled inside the 10 before Nuernberger kicked his second field goal.
After that, Oklahoma took control. The Sooners went 92 yards in just four plays to take their first lead, 17-13, late in the third quarter. Mayfield made a beautiful 42-yard pass to Mykel Jones just over cornerback Kendall Sheffield. He then threw to Lee Morris for an 18-yard score and a 17-13 lead.
Another touchdown followed, and any suspense ended when Barrett was intercepted with 11 minutes left at the Ohio State 27 and the Sooners scored again to make it 31-13.
Ohio Stadium then began to empty, and a chorus of “OU! OU!” rang out from the Sooners fans. It was a stark contrast to the “O-H I-O” chant by Buckeyes fans last year in Norman.
The loss probably eliminates any margin for error if Ohio State hopes to return to the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes overcame a similar loss in 2014 in their home opener to Virginia Tech to win the first College Football Playoff. But they’ll have to show a lot of improvement if that’s to be possible.
“We’ve got to beat Army and get on a roll,” Meyer said. “You’ve seen a roll around here a few times. That’s what has to happen.”