Baker Mayfield ran the Oklahoma flag to midfield at Ohio Stadium, planted it in the center of Ohio State's logo and celebrated with his teammates. He might as well have stuck it right in the hearts of the 109,088 fans — minus the few Sooners fans in attendance — who watched him lead the No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners to a 31-16 victory over the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night.
Ohio State suffered its third home loss in Urban Meyer’s six seasons, and this one will sting for weeks, if not all season. The Buckeyes play Army, UNLV and Rutgers the next three weeks — not exactly the type of opponents that the Buckeyes can beat to regain their standing in the national championship picture.
Instead, it’s No. 5 Oklahoma that looks like a playoff contender in part because its quarterback looks like a Heisman Trophy favorite. Mayfield threw three touchdowns in the second to half to break open a defensive struggle.
“We knew coming into the game what kind of player he was,” Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley said. “Things break down. With his great scrambling ability, he’s not looking to run the ball, he’s looking to make plays for his teammates. He’s one of the best competitors to play against.”
Here are seven takeaways from Ohio State’s home opener:
1. Barrett's struggles: In a duel of fifth-year senior quarterbacks, Mayfield was the clear winner. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 386 yards.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 19 of 35 passes for 183 yards and threw an interception. Meyer was asked if he would consider a change in quarterbacks, and he had a one-word answer: “No.”
2. One touchdown: The Buckeyes scored their only touchdown on the first drive of the second half. J.K. Dobbins scored on a 6-yard run. That gave the Buckeyes a 10-3 lead.
Ohio State couldn’t maintain the momentum on offense. It scored its other nine points on three field goals by Sean Nuernberger.
“We were just out of rhythm,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “Even the times we tried to go fast, there wasn’t a lot to it. We need to find a sequencing of plays to get us in the flow because tonight we were a little bit disjointed.”
3. Turning point: The Sooners scored touchdowns on four of their first five drives in the second half, turning a 10-3 deficit into a 31-13 lead. Four different players scored for Oklahoma: Dimitri Flowers, Lee Morris, Trey Sermon and Jordan Smallwood.
“It was awful,” Meyer said. “We got beat by a good team, a very good team and a quarterback that was dynamic. I thought our defense hung in there against a very good player. Our 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, starting somewhat tonight and tomorrow and figure this thing out.”
4. Running tandem: Mike Weber made his season debut for the Buckeyes after missing the opener against Indiana with a hamstring injury. He carried three times for 29 yards.
“My plan was to go off of what coach Meyer wanted to do,” Weber said. “I knew I was good enough to play, and I just tried to do the best I could with whatever he gave me.”
For the most part, it was still the Dobbins show. The freshman starred in the opener with 181 yards and carried 13 times for 72 yards in this one.
5. Slow start: Oklahoma opened the game with a nine-play drive that ended when it was stopped on 4th-and-4. The Buckeyes went 3-and-out on their first drive. Then Oklahoma put together another nine-play drive that ended with a lost fumble. Ohio State was outgained 119-25 in the first quarter.
“Credit to Oklahoma,” Wilson said. “We had some plays we missed. We also have some things we need to do better, whether it be calling, structure and even planning. We have a lot of work to do and we will work hard, get moving and get moving strongly in a great direction.”
6. Coaching first: This was the first career road game for Oklahoma's rookie coach Lincoln Riley. Meyer fell to 94-16 in matchups against first-year coaches. Riley hugged his predecessor, Bob Stoops, as he left the field after the victory.
“We’ll be disappointed if this is the highlight of our season,” Riley said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ve only played two games. But obviously a great win and one that’s very special to us.”
7. Looking ahead: Ohio State (1-1) will hope to follow a similar path the last time it lost its second game of the season. In 2014, it lost at home to Virginia Tech and didn't lose again, winning the Big Ten championship, the Sugar Bowl and the national championship.
“We lost and that’s never a great feeling,” Worley said. “It’s a journey and throughout my time here and the things that I’ve been through in life, I appreciate the journey. As much as it hurts, I know it’s going to get us better, somehow and some way.”