In Oklahoma’s two losses to start this season, a number of problems have reared their heads.
Opponents have picked on the corner position occupied by the trio of Dakota Austin, Parrish Cobb and Michiah Quick. The Sooners are missing their Eric Striker as an edge rusher. The new crop of wide receivers don’t quite have Sterling Shepard’s ability to find openings in the defense and finish plays. The offense has an on-again, off-again relationship with the running game.
Nothing has hurt the Sooners as badly as the poor decisions being made by their quarterback, though. Baker Mayfield made the same kinds of mistakes on Saturday that he made when OU lost its season opener to Houston. The difference is that against Ohio State, they were even more catastrophic:
- Mayfield’s first interception was returned for a touchdown to put the Sooners in a two-score hole early.
- He took a 13-yard sack on second-and-goal from OSU’s 3 yard line in the second quarter, forcing OU to settle for a field goal.
- After OU’s defense forced a punt on the ensuing possession, Mayfield opted against an easy throw/run on a rollout to take an ill-advised deep shot that was picked off. (The Buckeyes scored a touchdown on the next play to go up 28-10.)
- With OU trying to spark a rally early in the fourth quarter, he took a sack on a fourth down conversion attempt.
- The next drive also ended with Mayfield getting sacked on fourth down.
Those are errors of commission by OU’s QB. They destroy any chance of winning against a quality opponent like Houston, let alone a bunch of monsters like the ones dressed in scarlet and gray last night.
Mayfield’s tightrope act breathed life into OU’s program a year ago. Almost all of his gambles paid. So far this season, the Sooners are finding out what it feels like when they go bust.
Although I have no doubt that Bob Stoops appreciates his QB’s vow to buckle down, the truth is that OU’s coaching staff probably needs to reorient Mayfield’s view of his role in the offense. He needs to take less on his shoulders, not more.
*OSU played the field position game masterfully. On average, OU started its drives on its own 25. Half of the Sooners’ 12 possessions started inside their own 20. OSU had just one.
*I honestly don’t know what the answer is at cornerback. Teams aren’t even looking Jordan Thomas’ way, but the other side of the field has been brutalized.
Maybe OU can get Cobb/Quick/Austin a little more help from the safeties the rest of the year as the quarterback running game becomes less of a threat? It would also help for the CBs to just get better.
*One big bright spot: Emmanuel Beal is giving the linebacking corps some needed depth on the interior. He’s playing like a guy who knows what it’s like to put in some time at Lackawanna Community College. Given Tay Evans’ up-and-down health situation, Beal will likely see plenty more time on the field going forward.
*I have no idea how Joe Mixon’s off-the-field issues will affect his stock with NFL scouts, but his play on the field has left no doubt that he’s one of the elite weapons in college football. Lincoln Riley needs to continue finding ways to get the ball in his hands more often – 11 touches on 67 offensive plays probably isn’t enough.
*I’ve been waiting for Riley to incorporate the jet sweep action that we saw with Dede Westbrook into the offense. It’s a nice wrinkle that can keep defenses honest.
*Based on what I’ve seen so far, OU is still the favorite to win the Big 12. The squad also has taken a physical pounding in the first month of the season. Winning out means hoping the injury bug doesn’t bite too fiercely the rest of the way.