Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield might be the best player Ohio State will face this year. That being said, allowing 386 passing yards and three touchdowns on a completion rate of 77 percent is inexcusable.
Ohio State had difficulty defending the pass against Indiana in its Week 1 victory — allowing 420 yards through the air — which left many to correctly predict Saturday’s outcome if the Buckeyes didn’t fix those issues.
They didn’t. And yes, Ohio State’s issues extended well beyond the secondary in Saturday’s 31-16 loss in Ohio Stadium, but defensive coordinator and safeties coach Greg Schiano provided an ominous foreshadowing if the secondary’s play was to continue.
“I think our problems in the secondary tonight were different than [against Indiana],” Schiano said. “It doesn’t make it better or worse. It wasn’t as much one-on-one coverage. It was more mistakes and we need to do a better job coaching.
“When you make mistakes, it’s the coach’s fault. We need to get that fixed in a hurry.”
Mayfield was masterful in scrambling out of the pocket, throwing on the run, fighting off blitzes and forcing the linebackers to bite on his run fakes. All of that allowed him to throw into a space where his receiver, tight end or fullback would have space to run after the reception.
This was most evident on Oklahoma’s four-play, 92-yard drive that took the lead for good, 17-13 at 2:17 remaining in the third quarter. Mayfield completed three straight passes for 17, 42 and 18 yards on his way to what would be the game-winning score.
On the touchdown pass to wide receiver Lee Morris, Mayfield faked the handoff which caused linebacker Malik Harrison to come in off his assignment, leaving Morris wide open between him and safety Erick Smith.
Schiano said that for now, he’s not thinking strictly about personnel changes, rather the big picture.
“Well, we have to evaluate everything,” he said. “That starts with yourself, starts with me and then work down through. You don’t have a lot of time to do it when you’re in the season, you’ve got to go. You’re going to have to figure it out quickly.”
There’s no denying that Mayfield was spectacular Saturday night. After a disappointing performance in Norman, Oklahoma, against the Buckeyes last season, he buried the same team that made him look pedestrian a season ago.
Ohio State did have three eventual first-round picks in last season’s secondary, so a drop-off was expected. But it’s clear through two games that there will need to be major changes to the passing defense if Ohio State is to compete for a conference title and possibly play into the College Football Playoff.
“People are going to make some first downs; you have to stop them,” Schiano said. “You can’t give up big plays. We gave up too many big plays tonight. To me, that all goes back to coaching. We have to figure out how to do that; how to get [the defense] to be able to play within their skill set and make the plays necessary to win.”