NORMAN, Okla. -- When it comes to the negative, Oklahomacoach Bob Stoops prefers to avoid singling out his players.
But during his weekly Monday news conference, Stoops couldn't help but reference one player on the heels of the Sooners' 33-23 Week 1 loss to the Houston Cougars.
Stoops, however, was a few minutes too late. That player had already singled himself out.
"That's all on me," quarterback Baker Mayfield said of the offense's second-half problems. "[The receivers] got open. That's all on me as the leader of the team and the captain. It's my job to deliver the ball. They got open for me. They did their part.
"Now, it's my responsibility to just deliver it to them."
Oklahoma's offense came out humming in the opening minutes of the game, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal through its first four drives. Mayfield's decisiveness was a big reason, as he quickly delivered passes to the Sooners' top playmakers -- notably Joe Mixon.
"Just comparing the first and second half, the first half I got the ball out of my hands quick, eliminated the best part of Houston's defense, which we had game-planned," Mayfield said. "Then second half, obviously things changed. I didn't get the ball out as quick as I wanted."
In that second half, Oklahoma's offense dissembled into Mayfield scrambling around haplessly in the backfield trying to make a big play that wasn't there. As a result, the Sooners didn't score until a meaningless touchdown in the final two minutes when the outcome had already been decided.
"I only have one quarterback. I don't like to throw players [under the bus] or name names, but at times, Baker held on [to the ball] and instead of taking what was open and what was there in his first read, was waiting for something different," Stoops said. "Something that takes a little longer to progress, and that's not how the offense operates. We had guys in certain spot that would have been easier throws and would've helped us."
Mayfield's go-for-broke, second-half style resulted in several ugly numbers. He ended up with more rushing attempts (13) than Mixon and Samaje Perine combined (12), to go along with a negative rushing total. After completing all nine of his passing attempts in the first half, Mayfield had nine incompletions in the second. He also took five sacks that, as Stoops pointed out, were more on him than the receivers not getting open or the offensive line protecting.
"On a few occasions, he might have been more effective taking something sooner and that was available instead or waiting for that to come open -- I'm thinking of one particular case that sticks in my mind," said Stoops, who later alluded to another play where Mayfield kept the ball instead of pitching it on an option call. "If he pitches the ball, it's going to get [the running back] 50 [yards] or a touchdown, then he doesn't pitch the ball.
"I think [Mayfield was] probably pressing. Trying to make the big play instead of the simple play and the obvious play."
The Houston loss wasn't all due to Mayfield's pressing. Oklahoma executed disastrously on a pair of critical plays in the second half that had nothing to do with its quarterback.
After Oklahoma's first drive of the third quarter stalled out, Houston returned a 53-yard field goal attempt 109 yards for a game-swinging touchdown. Later in the fourth quarter, the Sooners called a beautifully designed double pass that seemed destined to be a touchdown. Receiver Dede Westbrook, however, overthrew a wide-open Dimitri Flowers. The next play, Mayfield was sacked and stripped, and the Cougars recovered the fumble.
"We were in a good balance, and then the third quarter happens, and now you're behind 16," Stoops said. "We fumbled two times and we had the long field goal that gets returned. Then all of a sudden you're in a hole and you lose your patience. ... it gets you out of your rhythm."
The Sooners have a prime opportunity to regain their rhythm this weekend against Louisiana-Monroe before Ohio State comes to town Sept. 17. With TCU and Texas to follow, Oklahoma can get back into the playoff mix, despite opening with a loss, if it can reel off three consecutive wins against such formidable opponents.
But the only way the Sooners will have any chance of accomplishing such a feat is if Stoops' most important player performs much better than he did in Week 1.
"I've just got to be better," Mayfield said. "I know what to expect of myself, and knowing how the team reacts to my play, it's even more important. Just getting the ball out and keeping everybody on a positive note and keeping the attitude good and on the bright side is important for me, and ultimately, that's getting the ball out of my hands, getting it into their hands and letting them make plays."