Oklahoma Notebook: Austin Mack Injured, Malik Harrison Gets Expanded Role, Special Teams Plays Well in Loss

By James Grega on September 10, 2017 at 6:00 am
Malik Harrison

Ohio State's offense struggled to find any rhythm in a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night. 

One of the only bright spots for the Buckeye's and their passing game came when quarterback J.T. Barrett found sophomore wide receiver Austin Mack for a 31-yard gain on a corner route to put Ohio State at the Sooner 10-yard line. 

Unfortunately for Mack and the Buckeyes, the Indiana native landed hard and appeared to suffer a head injury as he left the game and did not return after making his lone catch of the night. 

While there was no official word from the Ohio State coaching or training staff after the game on Mack's injury, Annie Apple, mother of former Buckeye cornerback Eli Apple, tweeted shortly after the game that Mack suffered a concussion on the play. 

Mack's catch was just his second of the season and fourth of his Ohio State career. He caught one pass for six yards in the Buckeye's season opening win over Indiana on Aug. 31. 

On the Oklahoma side, Sooner tight end Mark Andrews suffered an injury in the first half of the game and did not return. He left after making two catches for 23 yards. 

Harrison Gets A Bigger Role

While we don't yet have an exact number of plays for Malik Harrison in the loss to Oklahoma (look for Dan Hope's Snap Counts feature on Monday), it was clear that the sophomore linebacker played almost as many, if not more reps as starting outside linebacker Dante Booker in Saturday's game.

The stat that stands out for Harrison, however, is that the true sophomore did not record a single tackle in the game. Booker, who spent a good portion of the game watching from the sidelines, registered four tackles on defense. 

Ohio State's other two linebackers, Chris Worley and Jerome Baker, combined for 18 total tackles, with Worley putting together a career-best 11-tackle game that also featured a forced fumble in the first quarter. 

Worley described one particular play, where Harrison was caught out of position, that led to an Oklahoma score. 

"They ran a bubble-and-go. We were in man (coverage) and I think Malik bit on it too much and they beat him back inside," Worley said. "It wasn't anything we didn't expect, but at the end of the day, we didn't make the plays we needed to to win.

"At the end of the day, (the outside linebacker's) job is to eliminate the bubble (screen)," Worley continued. "It's a tough play. You have to give kudos to Oklahoma for having top-notch coaches and players."

Special Teams Provides Silver Lining

Not much went right for the Buckeyes against Oklahoma, but the one area that Ohio State won in the game was special teams. 

In just his second collegiate game, punter Drue Chrisman booted each of his four punts inside the Oklahoma 20-yard line, averaging 45.8 yards per kick. To compare, Cam Johnston averaged 46.7 yards per kick in his senior season. Chrisman's longest punt of the night went 52 yards.

Chrisman wasn't the only kicker that did his job effectively. Placekicker Sean Nuernberger stayed perfect on the season, converting on all three of his field goal attempts, albeit short attempts. 

The redshirt junior, who has taken over full-time placekicking duties for the first time since the end of the 2015 season, converted on two kicks of 24 yards and a third of 32 yards in the loss. He is now 5-for-5 on the season.

Outside of the drive after Barrett threw an interception, the Sooners started each of their drives on their own side of the ball. Add in Barrett's pick, and OU's average starting field position was still its own 30-yard line. Ohio State's was its own 32-yard line. 

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