In 2016, a home loss to Ohio State dropped Oklahoma’s record to 1-2 and eliminated the Sooners from a spot in the college football playoff.
This season, under new head coach Lincoln Riley, a 31-16 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State on the road has vaulted OU to a No. 2 ranking and made them an early favorite to make the playoff.
Plus, OU quarterback Baker Mayfield played perhaps the best game of his career on national television Saturday night and he could be the new favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
OU hosts Tulane (1-2) Saturday at 5 p.m. Tulane beat Grambling State 43-14 to open the season but lost last Saturday to Navy, 21-23, in Annapolis, Maryland. Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks was a four-star recruit who spent the 2015 season redshirting at Kansas State before transferring to Independence Community College and then to Tulane.
Riley understands that this is all heady talk for a team that has only played two games so far this season.
“I told (his team) in there, we’ll be disappointed if this is the highlight of our season,” Riley said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go. We’ve only played two games.”
“Everyone is going to want to anoint us now.”
Few were ready to anoint the Sooners prior to Saturday. Lee Corso of ESPN picked Ohio State to win and tagged OU as “pretenders.”
The Sooners proved him and other naysayers wrong. Beating a No. 2 team on the road with a rookie head coach, a new set of receivers and running backs is quite an accomplishment.
“It’s special,” Riley said. “It’s one we’ll look back on. With the whole world watching and them performing in an environment like this is special. I love road games. I think they’re the best thing about college football, so I’ll definitely cherish it, but it’s really one game a week right now. You’re as good as your last performance.”
Even though Mayfield was outstanding, the defense was vastly improved over last season when the Buckeyes scored 45 points against OU in Norman.
“We did a better job of putting our players in position to have success,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Riley said everyone played well even though Ohio State has talented players and were playing in front of 109,00 rabid Buckeye fans. That was the largest crowd ever to watch an OU game in person.
“Everybody in the program gets a game ball, so they’ll all have a good keepsake,” Riley said. “It’s got to be a pretty special one to do that.”
Mayfield’s 386 passing yards is a career high against a top-25 opponent. He improved to 10-0 as a Sooner in true road games. In those contests, he has completed 218-of-307 passes (71 percent) for 3,004 yards and 35 touchdowns against five interceptions for an efficiency rating of 187.6.
“He’s a good player, really good player,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer about Mayfield. “And I told him afterwards. 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.”
His 386 yards marked the 15th 300-yard game of his career, matching Sam Bradford and Josh Heupel for second in OU history. He also had his 25th 200-yard passing game to tie him with Bradford for second in OU records.
The victory over Ohio State was win No. 25 in Mayfield’s career, tying Bradford and Jack Mildren for sixth in OU history. His three touchdown passes on the night moved him into third in OU history with 82 touchdown passes.
“We had that mood in the locker room that nobody believes in us,” said Mayfield. “You know the guys (wide receivers) were able to catch. You know the fact that nobody picked us on Game Day; you see it in social media throughout the week that there were about 80 percent of the country voted for Ohio State to win.
“And so right now we believe in ourselves and quite frankly that’s all that matters.”
There was no question about which team played better.
“Yeah, it was awful,” Meyer said after the game. “And we got beat by a good team, a very good team and a quarterback that was dynamic. I thought our defense hung in there against, like I said, a very good player.
“Offense was bad. So we’re going to do what we do and that’s go back to work as hard as we possibly can, starting somewhat tonight and tomorrow and figure this thing out.”
Fullback Dimitri Flowers caught a career-high seven passes for a career-best 98 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown reception was the ninth of his career, tying him with Joe Mixon for second-most TD receptions by a running back. Flowers’ 538 career receiving yards moves him to seventh all-time for a running back.
Freshman wideout CeeDee Lamb had a career high five receptions with 61 yards. Wideout Lee Morris got his second career touchdown on his second career reception. Mykel Jones tied his career high with 48 receiving yards. Wide receiver Jordan Smallwood got his first career rushing touchdown on his second career-rushing attempt.
Freshman running back Trey Sermon had his first two career receptions and scored his first career touchdown. Sermon had 62 yards on 17 rushes.
Linebacker Emmanuel Beal paced the Sooners and tied a career high with nine tackles. The Columbus native also registered a career-high 1.5 tackles for loss.
Cornerback Jordan Parker made his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo had 1.5 sacks to become 19th player, and second linebacker, to record at least 15.5 career sacks at Oklahoma.
The win marked the second time in school history that Oklahoma beat a nonconference team ranked No. 1 or 2 in the AP poll on the road. The other time was in 1963, Bud Wilkinson’s last year as OU head coach (No. 3 OU 17, at No. 1 USC 12).
The Sooners are on a 12-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the FBS. It’s the longest winning since posting 12 consecutive victories in 2004 (started 12-0 before losing in Orange Bowl).
OU is the only team to defeat two AP No. 2 teams on the road this century. OU previously beat No. 2 Kansas State in 2000. AP No. 2 teams have only lost 12 times since 2000; 13 overall since beginning of BCS era (1998).
Riley became the first OU head coach to defeat top-5 opponent in his debut season since Chuck Fairbanks (1970 – No. 2 Tennessee at the Orange Bowl). Gomer Jones also defeated No. 4 Nebraska in 1964.
OU moved to 3-0 all-time as the No. 5 team playing the No. 2 team. The Sooners registered their 12th consecutive true road win, which is tied for the third-longest streak in school history. OU also won 12 in a row on the road from Oct. 23, 1948 to Dec. 2, 1950.
Since the start of the 2009 season, the Sooners are now 15-2 against teams they lost to the previous season. The only occasions of losses they sustained to an opponent in consecutive seasons came to Baylor in 2013 and 2014, and Clemson in 2014 and 2015.
OU improved to 2-2 all-time against Ohio State and 2-0 in Columbus. The road team has won all four meetings.
For the second time to start the 2017 season, Mayfield has been named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.
OU tight end Mark Andrews injured his left knee against Ohio State but Riley on Monday said Andrews would play against Tulane.
On Monday, Mayfield apologized for planting an OU flag on the Ohio State logo in the middle of the field after Saturday’s victory.
“It was an emotional game,” Mayfield said Monday. “After the game, I did not mean for it to be disrespectful for Ohio State people at all, especially not for the team and the players because they are a great team and a great program. I didn’t mean for it to be disrespectful at all.
“We do the flag thing at OU-Texas. That’s just something I got caught in. It should have been in the locker room and I apologize for doing it in the middle of the field.”
OU announced that the road game at Baylor on September 23 will kick off at 5 p.m. and will be televised on FS1.