Ohio State Win Fun, But Sooners Not Done

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John Rohde
By John Rohde
Special to SoonerSports.com
SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

Oklahoma's 31-16 victory at No. 2-ranked Ohio State last Saturday figures to resonate throughout the rest of this season and beyond.

Many of the Sooners' achievements were historic. There was a mile of milestones:

  • The largest crowd over to witness an OU football game (109,088) watched the Sooners erupt for 21 straight points in a span of less than eight minutes to hand Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer only his third home loss in his six seasons at the school.
  • It marked just the second time in school history OU beat a non-conference team ranked No. 1 or 2 in the Associated Press poll on the road. The previous time was in 1963 when the No. 3 Sooners beat No. 1 USC 17-12 in Bud Wilkinson's last year as head coach.
  • Quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 27 of 35 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns against one of the nation's premier defenses and is a Heisman Trophy contender for the third straight season. "We got beat by a good team, a very good team, and a quarterback that was dynamic," Meyer said afterward. "I thought our defense hung in there against, like I said, a very good player."
  • The Sooners were named the Football Writers Association of America's National Team of the Week and rolled up 490 total yards of offense (most by an Ohio State opponent in Columbus in five years) while handing the Buckeyes their largest margin of defeat at home since 1999. OU's 386 passing yards were the most by an OSU opponent at Ohio Stadium in 32 years.
  • The last time OU gave up fewer than 13 points to a top-five AP opponent was in 2004 in a 12-0 shutout over No. 5 Texas.
  • Lincoln Riley became the first Sooners head coach to defeat a top-5 opponent in his debut season since Chuck Fairbanks beat No. 2 Tennessee at the Orange Bowl in 1970.
  • It was the Sooners' 12th straight true road win, 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.
  • The Sooners were able to avenge last year's 45-21 home loss to the Buckeyes on Sept. 17. OU hasn't lost since and owns the longest active FBS winning streak at 12 straight. The Sooners improved to 15-2 since 2009 against teams they lost to the previous season.

Impressive as last Saturday night's grudge match victory was, Riley quickly turned the page. In fact, he did so immediately afterward inside his jubilant locker room.

"I told them, 'We'll be disappointed if this is the highlight of our season.'"
- Lincoln Riley

"I told them in there, 'We'll be disappointed if this is the highlight of our season,'" Riley said during his post-game interview session in the bowels of Ohio Stadium. "We've still got a long ways to go ... We've got to get a lot better. We've taken some positive steps. One of our early season goals was playing better early, period. But now our challenge will be to improve as we have the past two years here. Everybody's going to keep getting better and we've got to do the same."

Riley reiterated this same attitude two days later at his weekly media luncheon as the now No. 2-ranked Sooners (2-0) prepare for their Saturday's 5 p.m. home contest against Tulane (1-1).

"We've won two games," Riley said with a shrug. "We appreciate it. We're happy about it, but there's so much more to go. We certainly didn't play perfect, by any stretch. We found a lot of things that we have to do better at as a team, but our mentality really was at a high level the whole night. We're happy that we won it, but now we've got to all move on. We've got a lot of ball left here."

First-year OU assistant head coach/defensive tackles coach Ruffin McNeill, who served as Riley's boss at Texas Tech and East Carolina, has been in college coaching since 1985 and constantly is tapping into the minds of players.

McNeill frequently calls out "FIDO," which stands for "Forget It and Drive On."

"Something tough happens, forget it, play (the) next play," McNeill explained last month. "Something good happens, forget it, play (the) next play. Yesterday's history. Tomorrow's a mystery. Make today a masterpiece. Once they grasp that, they'll be ready."

The Sooners seem to have grasped McNeill's credo quite well. Riley agrees.

Asked if he will continue to stress the importance of his players not dwelling on Saturday's unforgettable triumph, OU's head coach said, "If we're going to be the team we hope that we can be, it shouldn't be something I should have to address over and over. Our mindset should already be there. You have to be all-in each week. We were all-in as far as winning that game. Our guys really put it on the line all night, but you're only as good as your next performance."

That next performance will come against the Green Wave, an American Athletic Conference program Riley faced as an assistant at East Carolina.

The Sooners started last season 1-2 against non-conference opponents with a season-opening loss at Houston, a home victory over ULM and the home loss to Ohio State. This led to Riley stressing the importance of getting off to a good start this season.

"This is still the start," Riley said of Saturday's game against Tulane. "The start for me is until we get to Big 12 play."

That comes next Saturday at Baylor. This week, the focus is on Tulane.

Drive on.