Current and former Ohio State Buckeyes tried to put their best spin on the 31-16 loss Saturday to Oklahoma, even as their fans woke up Sunday morning hoping it was all a bad dream.
“Buckeye fans, y’all kill me sometimes,” former linebacker Joshua Perry wrote on Twitter. “It’s one game. One loss. It’s not over. It’s still early. We’re good. Trust me.”
“I remember losing a home game week two and then winning the rest of the games and getting rings,” wrote Centerville grad and former defensive linemen Michael Bennett, “and it all worked out in the end, so don’t panic.”
“Buckeyes never quit,” kicker Sean Nuernberger wrote.
It’s too early to write off the Buckeyes, but it’s not too early to wonder what’s wrong with them. No. 5 Oklahoma didn’t just beat No. 2 Ohio State, it dominated the game from start to finish. Ohio State’s revamped passing game showed the same problems that plagued it in the 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
A frustrating night ended with Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield planting the Oklahoma flag in the middle of the Block O at midfield, creating the most lasting image on a night to forget for the second-largest crowd (109,088) in Ohio Stadium history.
Here’s a list of three reasons the Buckeyes lost their home opener for the second time in the last four seasons:
1. Excellence of Mayfield: Mayfield set a career high for passing yards (386) against a top-25 opponent. He improved to 10-0 in true road games as a starter. In those games, he has completed 70.1 percent of his passes. He completed 77.1 percent (27 of 35) in this game, including 16 of 17 in the second half.
After the victory, Mayfield explained his post-game celebration. He was motivated by watching Ohio State sing “Carmen Ohio” after beating the Sooners 45-24 in Norman, Okla., last season.
“It was embarrassing for them to sing their fight song on our field,” Mayfield said. “They’re probably feeling the same way right now. We’ve had that mood in our locker room that nobody believes in us. The guys were able to catch that nobody picked us on (ESPN College) GameDay. You see it on social media throughout the week. About 80 percent of the country picked Ohio State to win. Right now we believe in ourselves, and quite frankly, that’s all that matters.”
2. Lack of explosiveness: The Buckeyes talked all offseason about the need to complete more deep passes. They turned short passes into big gains in the 49-21 victory over Indiana in the opener but had neither deep passes nor big gains against Oklahoma.
J.T. Barrett completed 19 of 35 passes for 183 yards. His longest completion was to Austin Mack for 31 yards. Barrett and J.K. Dobbins each had runs of 16 yards. Those were the longest rushes.
“There will not be radical changes, but we do have to play in rhythm,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “We do have to play in sync. We do have to play collectively together because J.T. Barrett is a really good quarterback when his surrounding parts are well. That includes the coaches, and the game planning and the structure of practice to give those guys a great chance. We own it. I own it. A very poor job. A lot of work to do, but not radical work. We’ve got a bunch of great players. We’ve had a great preseason. We were out of whack tonight, and we’re going to get it back on track.”
3. Issues in secondary: Ohio State kept them out of the end zone for the first 34 minutes. Then Oklahoma scored touchdowns on four of its next five drives. Oklahoma dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for 35 minutes, 17 seconds.
For the second straight game, Ohio State’s secondary proved to be a problem. Indiana threw for 420 against against Ohio State. The Buckeyes rank last out of 130 teams in the Football Bowl Division in pass defense (403 yards per game).
“I think our problems in the secondary tonight were different than the other night,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “There wasn’t as much man-on-man coverage. We need to do a better job coaching them. If we make mistakes, it’s the coaches’ fault.”