COLUMBUS — Baker Mayfield threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns as No. 5 Oklahoma pulled ahead in the second half to knock off No. 2 Ohio State 31-16 on Saturday night to give first-year head coach Lincoln Riley an early signature win.
Mayfield lived up to his billing as a Heisman Trophy candidate in shifting the Sooners (2-0) into overdrive and piling up the yards in the second half as the Buckeyes’ offense sputtered. Oklahoma took its first lead of the game near the end of the third quarter and cruised in the fourth. Mayfield sprinted around the field with a huge Sooners flag and emphatically planted it at midfield among his cheering teammates as the Buckeyes’ marching band stood and watched nearby.
“We should have won by more,” Mayfield said.
Ohio State’s title hopes didn’t evaporate, but it will have to solve a multitude of offensive problems and play much better to get back in the hunt for the College Football Playoff. True freshman J.K. Dobbins again was a bright spot for the Buckeyes, rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown, but quarterback J.T. Barrett couldn’t hit the big passes when he desperately needed them to extend drives. He often resorted to pulling the ball down and taking off himself after not finding an open receiver.
“It was awful,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “We got beat by a very good team and a quarterback that was dynamic. I thought our defense hung in there against, like I said, a very good player.”
Mayfield was sharp again, hitting 27 of 35 passes and tossing TD passes to Dimitri Flowers, Lee Morris and Trey Sermon.
Ohio State (1-1, 1-0 Big Ten) was plagued by the same problems with the passing game that has tripped it up since last season. Receivers had trouble getting open and when they did, Barrett couldn’t get the ball into their hands. He was intercepted by Parnell Motley in the fourth quarter, allowing the Sooners to score a minute and 40 seconds later on a 3-yard run by Jordan Smallwood to make it 31-13.
Oklahoma avenged the Buckeyes’ 45-24 win in Norman last year. Barrett didn’t look anything like the quarterback who tossed four touchdown passes in that game as Ohio State lost at home for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015. He was 19-for-35 for 183 yards.
Meyer said there was plenty of blame to go around.
“I’m going to make it perfectly clear, there’s not a bull’s-eye on J.T. Barrett,” Meyer said. “It’s part of the system and a group that have to get better.”
Oklahoma: The Sooners staked a legitimate claim as a national championship contender. Oklahoma’s experienced offensive line won the battle of the trenches, and Mayfield picked apart the young Ohio State secondary.
Ohio State: History shows that an early season loss to a top five team doesn’t always spoil playoff hopes, but the Buckeyes face a much tougher road to get back there. They showed they are still susceptible to killer mistakes that need to be corrected if they expect to win out.
Oklahoma: The Sooners will move up at least one spot.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will drop, but should stay in the top 10.
Oklahoma: Hosts Tulane next Saturday.
Ohio State: After two tough games to start the season, the Buckeyes face Army at home next weekend.
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