You could blame it on the guesswork of preseason rankings. You could blame it on being fooled by the brand, the history and the tradition.
But let’s just crank up The Who to remind us that when it comes to Oklahoma and high expectations, Sooners, we won’t get fooled again.
Saturday night, Ohio State did to OU what Clemson and Houston did. Those last three opponents have played Big Boy Football. BBF, in this case, is designed as running the football, controlling the line of scrimmage, and making Oklahoma look outclassed and undermanned, especially on defense.
After a 90-minute weather delay Saturday – it presaged the natural disaster that took place on the turf at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium — No. 3 Ohio State folded, spindled and mutilated No. 14 Oklahoma, 45-24.
“It’s fair to say,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said when asked about the Sooners’ missing leadership that helped create last season’s 11-2 record. “The leadership isn’t close to what is was a year ago. That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job.”
We have to asterisk that final score, too: Joe Mixon’s 97-yard kickoff return that made it 14-7 and appeared to shift momentum. Mixon apparently thought it was Casual Saturday as he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line. The Big 12 replay official didn’t catch the gaffe and the play stood.
That provides a snapshot of Oklahoma’s evening. Quarterback Baker Mayfield tossed a pick six and had another pass intercepted. The Buckeyes gashed the OU defense for 291 yards rushing, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
Mayfield said he let the team down with his performance. Running back Samaje Perine (60 yards on 17 carries) said that the coaches would take the blame, but it was the players’ fault. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops: “The normal person’s not gonna understand what happens during a game.”
The “normal person” who watches Oklahoma play wonders if it’s too much sizzle and not enough steak. The last four times the Sooners began the season in The Associated Press top five, they twice finished with three losses and twice finished unranked with five losses.
After a solid first drive ended in frustration — when a 27-yard field goal doinked solidly off the right upright — the Sooners fell behind 14-0, and there was never a feeling that Oklahoma was capable of competing with the young but uber-talented Buckeyes.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was cruelly efficient, completing 14-of-20 for 152 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Jordan Thomas is OU’s top cornerback – and the Buckeyes’ game plan was to attack the other corner. Freshman Parrish Cobb was burned for two touchdown passes that helped the Buckeyes establish control early.
All four of Barrett’s TDs were snagged by 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown. The capper came near the end of the first half with Brown’s 21-yard reception – snagged against the back of OU defender Michiah Quick (who replaced Cobb) – is being shipped directly to the Highlight Hall of Fame.
“Good hands, like State Farm,” Barrett said. “Or wait, that’s Allstate.”
That made it 35-17 at halftime. That’s the most points scored by an opponent in the first half in OU’s stadium. The crimson in “crimson and cream” represents embarrassed.
In their losses to Clemson in the College Football Playoff and to Houston in the opener, the Sooners were punked after halftime. The sliver of good news in the pile of bad news was that the Buckeyes only outscored the Sooners 10-7 after halftime.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ve got to get some guys healthy and go back to work and keep a positive attitude if that’s possible,” Stoops said. “I believe it is, at least in our building. I believe that’ll happen. We’ll work to make improvement, give ourselves a chance for the next Big 12 game. Big 12 is now just starting.”
After the Houston loss, Oklahoma’s CFP chances were reduced to winning its final 11 games. Now, all that the Sooners have to play for is a Big 12 title.
Leadership and lucid, convincing football have been missing from the Sooners’ arsenal in big games this year. If Oklahoma doesn’t create a transformation in its locker room, a conference championship will slip through its fingers, and a season which has already been diminished will sink to even lower depths.