I didn’t say it after the Week One loss.
Was it because I didn’t believe it? For all I knew, with no all-22 footage to work with, Baker Mayfield struggled because his receivers weren’t open. But Bob Stoops’s comments undercut that theory. Maybe he’d just had a rough week.
After tonight’s loss, there can be no real doubt: Mayfield isn’t living up to last season’s promise. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Mayfield has failed to meet expectations and OU’s nightmare scenario came true: a 1-2 start with two overwhelming losses.
Obviously Mayfield is not the biggest problem with this team. Clearly there are many problems with the team, on both sides of the ball, and having a top-10 (Top 15? Top 20?) quarterback is not going to draw sympathy from a lot of quarters. But it has to be said. Mayfield and the Sooners are now 1-3 in his last four starts, his one win is against Louisiana-Monroe, and this program has made a 180 degree turnaround in the wrong direction in that time.
Let’s throw some blame around. There’s plenty to be had.
What’s up with Samaje Perine? The former destroyer of worlds finished the night with a respectable 60 yards on 17 carries, but he struggled to get going for most of the night. OU ran him between the tackles over and over again, but Ohio State’s defense stuffed him consistently at the line of scrimmage. OU got behind the chains several times in the early going because they couldn’t move the ball on first down. If Perine is still not 100%, why are the coaches leaning on him so hard? If he is, why is he struggling?
And the defense. The Sooners respected Ohio State’s passing game all night, even though they weren’t going to it much, because they knew Ohio State could light them up at any given moment. The result was a field day for Curtis Samuel, who averaged 8.9 yards per carry and consistently found the edge with OU’s slower linebackers in pursuit.
Michiah Quick may be a better option than Parrish Cobb (even though he got posterized by Noah Brown in an utterly deflating display of Ohio State’s talent), but there are no good options in the corner slot opposite Jordan Thomas. Cobb, Austin, Quick—they’ve all been picked on mercilessly since the season began, and the pass-happy Big 12 has to be licking its chops for a chance at them.
The Buckeyes scored three offensive touchdowns from more than 20 yards out, again showing OU’s inability to shut down the big play. OU didn’t generate a single turnover and has yet to pull down an interception on the season.
Ultimately, though, this game is an indictment of the coaching staff. Lincoln Riley failed to get the ball to Joe Mixon often enough in the early stages, though after three carries he was averaging over ten yards. Mike Stoops consistently looks dumbfounded by talented offenses, failing to make adjustments and ceding the outside running game to Ohio State, which they accepted happily. Our defense was out of position and struggled to get set even though the Buckeyes operated at a leisurely offensive pace.
It’s not entirely unexpected when a team of four- and five-star recruits beats up on a team of three- and four-stars, but Oklahoma was thought to have the other important intangibles like experience, confidence, desperation. What this game shows is that the coaching staff’s recruiting failures will always matter in the biggest games. Even if Oklahoma can get through a generally mediocre Big 12 on top, like last season, Clemson showed OU just how far the gap had become. Now Ohio State has done the same, and they did it, ironically, in front of a bunch of recruits.
OU has settled snugly into the second tier of college football powers, capable of winning a conference title in any given season but not a serious championship threat. If the Sooners don’t turn things around soon, they may get even lower before this season is done with.