Not a lot went right for No. 2 Ohio State in its 31-16 loss to No. 5 Oklahoma Saturday night. The team lost the total yardage battle 490-350 and managed to score only one touchdown all game. Here are a couple stats worth delving into.
44 – highest receiving yard total of any wide receiver. Ohio State began to realize the problem with naming six players as starters at the position of wide receiver. Every wideout — Johnnie Dixon, Paris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor — made at least one catch during Saturday’s game, but no receiver had a standout game. Hill was the one who led the team in both receptions (five) and yards (44) in what was a rough game for the Buckeyes’ receiving corps. The only catch made by any any Ohio State player that went for more than 17 yards was a 31-yard reception made by Mack. The catch resulted in an injury, and he was forced to exit the game.
When it became known that Ohio State listed six players as starters at wide receiver, the question immediately became whether all six players were listed because they were all so good or if it was because no players really stood out. Only two games into the season, the latter appears far more probable. If Ohio State cannot find reliable targets to lean on when it needs to pick up yards in bulk, the offense could remain in this rut.
386 – passing yards from Baker Mayfield. The pass defense continues to stand out as a problem for Ohio State. After giving up 410 passing yards to Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow in Week 1, the Ohio State defense again allowed the opposing quarterback to have his way with the defense as Mayfield baked the secondary with a 27-of-35 performance for 386 yards and three touchdown passes.
Part of the blame for this high total goes to the defensive line, but credit should also be given to the offensive line of Oklahoma. Throughout the game, Mayfield was able to escape the collapsing pocket and give his receivers enough time to break free of the coverage, helping him complete seven passes of more than 20 yards. Though Mayfield himself was kept from racking up any rush yards against the Buckeyes (minus-five net yards on seven carries), he was able to avoid any pressure the defensive line put on him and had enough time to make the play he wanted. Ohio State will not often face a quarterback of his caliber, but if it faces more signal-callers with Mayfield’s type of elusiveness, it could run into some more troubles in the passing game.
“He’s a good player, really good player. And I told him afterwards,” coach Urban Meyer said. “Got a lot of respect. I love his competitiveness and energy. We had him wrapped up, I want to say, eight times and he came out of that thing. So a very good player. And move on.”
3 – points off turnovers. When the offense struggles, the defense can only do but so much to be able to help the cause. And in this game, Ohio State’s defense provided the offense with ample opportunities to put up some points. The Buckeyes forced and recovered two fumbles, placing the offense at the Ohio State 25 and Oklahoma 49, respectively.
Yet Ohio State managed to score only three points off the two fumbles. After the first turnover, Ohio State’s offense drove 26 yards and punted after eight plays. After the second turnover, the Buckeyes traveled 43 yards to the Oklahoma 6-yard line before stalling and being forced to kick a 24-yard field goal. Making opponents pay for mistakes is often a critical part of a successful offense, and it was not a good sign for the Buckeyes that the team seemed to stall every time it took over the ball.
35:17 – Oklahoma’s time of possession. For those who remember the 2017 Fiesta Bowl where Ohio State was shut out 31-0 by Clemson, a tired defense is what trotted out onto the field for most of the second half of the game. Clemson controlled the football for 35:51 of the game, and Ohio State could not keep up with them late. The same could be said of Ohio State’s defense that was on the field for 35:17 of the game.
The exhaustion felt by the defense was exacerbated in the fourth quarter when five seconds after Oklahoma scored its third touchdown of the game, Barrett threw an interception that brought the defense back out on its own 27-yard line. By this point, the defense had been on the field for 28:26 of the game. Four plays later, Oklahoma scored another touchdown. Though 31 points is too high of a total, it is worth noting the defense kept the game tied at three after the first half, and only seemed to be worn down as the game went deeper and Ohio State’s offense failed to do much of anything. The defense was out on the field for 10:34 in the fourth quarter of the game, and had clearly been thoroughly worn down by the time Oklahoma scored its fourth and final touchdown.
87 – penalty yards accumulated by Ohio State. A total of nine penalties by Ohio State nearly gave Oklahoma a whole field’s length worth of free yardage. One was a delay of game by the punter to get better field position, and another was an illegal kick out of bounds that occurred on an attempted onside kick, but other than that, the remaining seven penalties and 76 penalty yards were the result of two separate holding calls — one on offense and another on defense — two pass interference calls, one kick-catch interference call, an offsides and a false start.
Penalties are not the end of the world. They are a part of the game just as much as anything else. But when the difference in penalty yardage is 61 yards between the two teams, there is clearly an instance of some careless mistakes. And a quality opponent like Oklahoma will make teams pay for such mistakes. On drives where Ohio State committed a penalty, the Sooners were able to account for 17 of their 31 total points. Ohio State did not lose because it was penalized as much as it was, but certainly the mistakes contributed to the end result.