Changes needed at ‘The Shoe’ as Ohio State humbled by Oklahoma
COLUMBUS – Frustration. Disbelief.
To a man, every Ohio State coach and player who entered the interview room following the Buckeyes’ 31-16 loss against Oklahoma on Saturday night admitted things need to change.
Exactly what that change involves remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, it’d better come quick.
“We lost a game,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said following the nationally-televised showcase pitting two of the nation’s top programs.
“We lost a game to a good team. Didn’t play very well.”
While the then-No. 5 Sooners won by 15 points, it felt like 100 to most of the 108,000-plus that crammed themselves into The Horseshoe on a chilly September night.
Oklahoma laid a beat down on the then-No. 2 Buckeyes in almost every phase of the game in avenging a 21-point loss last fall in Norman.
And the player doing most of the damage was Baker Mayfield, the Sooners’ fleet-footed quarterback.
Mayfield shredded the Ohio State defense for 386 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions on a 27-for-35 showing.
The Buckeyes had no answer one week after allowing Indiana’s Richard Lagow and Peyton Ramsey to put up 420.
“He’s a good player, really good player,” Meyer said. “And I told him that afterwards. Got a lot of respect. I love his competitiveness and energy.
“We had him wrapped up, I want to say, eight times, and he came out of that thing. So, a very good player.”
When the Sooners needed a play, they turned to Mayfield, who already looks like he’ll be packing his bags for New York City in December and another trip to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Ohio State’s defense bent, but didn’t break during the first half. But Mayfield helped blow the door down in the second. The Sooners looked fluid, reaching the end zone on four of their final six possessions.
Oklahoma’s penchant for making things look easy was most demonstrated on a four-play, 92-yard march that gave it the lead for good late in the third quarter.
After a short draw play that turned into much more thanks to an Ohio State holding flag, Mayfield completed three straight passes of 17 yards or more, the final one – an 18-yarder to Lee Morris – put the Sooners up 17-13.
Mayfield’s longest completion of the night came on the drive – 42 yards.
J.T. Barrett’s longest completion of the night? Thirty-one. That went to Austin Mack during the third quarter on a play that was overturned by officials and resulted in a field goal that knotted the game at 10-10.
Barrett, the Buckeyes’ fifth-year senior, completed 19 passes, but ran 18 times, most of any OSU runner. Five more times that freshman phenom J.K. Dobbins and 15 more than Mike Weber, who made his season debut.
Barrett carried the ball twice on Ohio State’s drive following Oklahoma’s go-ahead. It was a microcosm of the Buckeyes’ struggles. While it moved the ball to the Oklahoma 36, it ended without a score on a 4th-and-four play that left some scratching their heads.
Saturday night’s game was supposed to be matchup of two of the nation’s top offenses, the Buckeyes struggled to gain any traction, especially passing-wise, as Barrett finished with just 135 yards. This, after going for 304 last week in Bloomington vs. Indiana.
On a team full of playmakers, Meyer and first-year offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson struggled to get many involved.
“We were just out-of-sync, out-of-sorts,” Wilson said. “We were very disjointed.”
Complicating matters was Ohio State’s ability capitalize in the red zone. The Buckeyes scored three times inside the 20 via field goals, while the Sooners registered three TDs.
“Yeah, it was awful,” Meyer said. “Offense was bad. So, we’re going to do what we do and that’s go back to work as hard as we possibly can and figure this thing out.”
But what Meyer will not do is place all the blame on Barrett.
“But, I’m going to make it perfectly clear, there’s not a bullseye on J.T. Barrett,” he said. “It’s part of the system and a group that has to get better.”
Things aren’t all doom and gloom in Columbus. The loss came early and came against a Top 5 team.
The last time OSU won a national title three years ago it did so following an embarrassing home loss to Virginia Tech. The pressure is, however, on the Buckeyes’ braintrust to right the ship.
“So, we’ll go back at it,” Meyer said. “It’s a long, long season.”