COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mistakes in the first half didn’t hurt the Oklahoma Sooners in their quest to take down the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Rather, those errors served to inspire the Sooners to a near perfect second half.
Fifth-ranked OU went into The Horseshoe and dominated the Buckeyes from start to finish, winning 31-16, avenging a 21-point loss to Ohio State in Norman last year, crushing the hopes of 109,088 Buckeye fans and touching off a raucous and emotional postgame celebration.
“It was emotional,” said first-year coach Lincoln Riley. “Games like this are tough. You go on the road against a top five team and a team that’s as talented and as well coached as Ohio State is, you know, they’re tough. And this team, we’ve been looking forward to this game, there’s no question about it. So just to see our guys play, we never got down—even with the ebbs and flows of the game. We stayed in it, we competed at a high, high level, and so yeah, I was just proud of them.
“But we expected to win this game.”
Baker Mayfield was at his absolute best, completing 27-of-35 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns. Mayfield lost leading receiver Mark Andrews to a knee injury—the extent of Andrews’ injury isn’t known yet, Riley said — but then threw TDs to a fullback (Dimitri Flowers), a walk-on (Lee Morris) and a true freshman running back (Trey Sermon).
Flowers finished with 98 yards on seven catches, while Jeff Badet had five receptions for 82 yards and CeeDee Lamb caught five for 61 yards. Sermon led the Sooners with 62 yards rushing on 17 powerful carries.
OU took control by scoring touchdown on four of its first five second-half possessions.
Oklahoma tied it at 3-3 and 10-10, then took the lead at 17-13 on Morris’ 18-yard TD grab in the third quarter, then pulled away to a 31-13 lead on fourth-quarter TDs from Sermon and Jordan Smallwood.
The Sooners outgained Ohio State 490 yards total offense to 350.
The Sooners, usually up-tempo on offense, smartly played slow and deliberate in the first half, limiting Ohio State to just four usable possessions (the fifth was a kneel-down at the end of the half) while compiling 222 yards and 13 first downs. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, gained just 97 yards and seven first downs before halftime.
But while the OU drives were effective — 35 yards, 66 yards, 36 yards, 51 yards and 55 yards — only the final one produced points. On the others, the Sooners were stopped on downs, fumbled a handoff, dropped a lateral pass and missed a field goal.
Another reason Oklahoma needed to slow the game down: top receiver Mark Andrews sustained a left knee injury on the final play of the first quarter on a middle-screen pass. Andrews caught two passes for 23 yards, and his status was not immediately known.
One massive point of contention for the Sooners on this Saturday night: The game was a rematch of last year’s 45-24 Ohio State victory in Norman. Revenge was needed.
And the series was a long overdue renewal of a classic, won 29-28 by Oklahoma at Ohio Stadium in 1977 and won 24-14 by the Buckeyes in Norman in 1983. The Sooners were ranked No. 3 and No. 4 in the two meetings, respectively, while Ohio State was ranked No. 5 and No. 6. Last year’s game featured a Buckeyes squad ranked No. 3, while OU was ranked No. 14.
Last year, the Associated Press ranked Ohio State No. 1 in its all-time college football poll and ranked the Sooners No. 2.
OU (2-0) hosts Tulane next week at Memorial Stadium.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” Riley said, “but obviously a great win and one that’s very special to us.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.