Bucks Smoke Beavers
Things went pretty much the way I expected between Buckeyes and Oregon State. The offense moved the ball at will. The receivers were wide open against an injury-depleted Beaver secondary. The defensive line was dominant. Then came halftime and that’s when things got a little weird. First, there was the long delay for lightning. Then, once the second half finally began, the Buckeyes scored on their first play from scrimmage. The Beavers scored on two of their first three plays from scrimmage. Things settled down and the good guys won 77-31.
What I Liked
The accuracy of The Cannon. A lot of quarterbacks have big arms. They’re a dime a dozen. Not many have a big, ACCURATE arm like Dwayne Haskins. Time and again he wasn’t just on target with a throw, he put the ball where the receiver could make a play after the catch. You didn’t see receivers having to make catches of poorly thrown balls. When you have receivers with the speed of Ohio State’s, you want to see them have the opportunity to make something happen after the catch. The pass to Terry McLaurin, to start the second half, was perfectly thrown and McLaurin’s speed allowed a six-yard completion to turn into a 75-yard TD. Haskins’ arm has a sizeable impact on this offense. He finished 22 of 30 for 313 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. The 313 yards and five touchdowns are the most for a first-time starter in OSU history.
What I Didn’t Like
I came away not totally comfortable with the defense, who gave up touchdowns of 49, 78, and 80
yards. Far too many big plays, missed tackles, and poor pursuit angles. The safeties looked confused and struggled. They were without starting free safety Jordan Fuller, who missed the game with a hamstring injury and is expected to return next week. Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint looked either frozen in place or were chasing most plays. Fuller will make a difference when he returns, but either Pryor or Wint is going to have to play much better as the “field” safety. On many of those big plays, the speed of some of Oregon State’s skill players really bothered the Buckeyes. Twice, in the third quarter, Artavis Pierce got into the open field and the Buckeyes couldn’t catch him. On both of those long runs, neither Nick Bosa or Dre’mont Jones were in the game, but there were mostly starters on the field. Antuwan Jackson’s missed tackle, on the first of those long runs, allowed Pierce to get away. So, is this a speed issue for the Buckeyes or a problem of poor pursuit angles? I’m going with poor pursuit angles because the Buckeyes have speed everywhere. I don’t doubt Oregon State made a few adjustments at halftime and threw something at the Buckeyes which was not expected. But, we’re still talking about one of the worst offenses nationally in 2017, who was playing without their starting quarterback for most of the game, putting up all of those points. Co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch feels there are some easy fixes. Let’s hope so. The defensive line is exempt from my criticism. I thought they were outstanding overall. More on them in a bit.
Some Random Thoughts
The offensive line is enormous. Looking at their heights and weights listed on the depth chart lets you know that. But, it isn’t until you actually see them on the field that you get the full effect. As expected, against a defense that ranked near the very bottom of FBS last year, they blew open holes for the running backs and, for all but a few times in the second half, gave Haskins all day to throw. Malcolm Pridgeon is becoming the type of player they thought he would be coming out of junior college.
Luke Farrell either lined up or motioned into the fullback position and was the lead blocker on isolation plays that Mike Weber scored on. I really like this concept. Interim head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day is very good at running the same play out of multiple formations. This is a good illustration of that. Look for the Buckeyes to add play-action passes to this.
Weber and J.K. Dobbins alternated each series in the first half. Weber carried the ball 20 times for a career high 186 yards, while Dobbins contributed “only” 74 yards on 15 carries. Both like the way the carries were spread between them and feel it will help keep them fresh for late in the season. I said, in an earlier blog, don’t sleep on Mike Weber. He’s a 1,000-yard rusher, who spent much of last season recovering from a hamstring injury. Against the Beavers, he showed what a mature, seasoned running back he has become. But, make no mistake, the Buckeyes have two talented backs. After the game, Day said, “..both guys are talented. And some days one guy is going to be hot. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw based on the way that the guys block up front.” We did see a two-back look for the first time later in the second quarter, when Haskins “threw” a short TD pass to Weber. Look for Day to expand this package as the season progresses. Both true freshman, Brian Snead and Master Teague, scored TD’s. Teague’s was an impressive 33-yard run on a fourth down play, where he was initially stopped at the line of scrimmage.
Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones are everything we expected. Both had two sacks and Bosa was nearly unblockable. Jonathan Cooper started at defensive end opposite Bosa and got most of the early reps. It took some time for Chase Young to settle down and get into the flow of the game. He has called twice for offsides in the first quarter. But, he recovered nicely and spent a lot of time chasing Oregon State’s quarterback. Robert Landers rotated much more than I expected with Davon Hamilton at the other tackle spot. Tyreke Smith was the first of the true freshman to see playing time with the regulars. He entered the game early on Oregon State’s first possession. As expected, we saw true freshman Taron Vincent, Tommy Togiai, and Tyler Friday rotated in. Friday and Togiai were on the field for Bosa’s fumble recovery for a touchdown. While yes, Oregon State’s offensive line is awful, I think it is obvious this defensive line group for the Buckeyes is very talented and deep.
Pete Werner was one of the players Day singled out in front of the team after the game. The sophomore linebacker had five tackles and forced the fumble which led to Bosa’s TD. Baron Browning started at the MIKE position, but last year’s starter, Tuf Borland, entered the game in the second quarter. I did not expect to see him at all, but he played a good bit.
Tate Martell was not as big of a part of the offense as many of us expected. Most of his playing time came with the second team. It’s obvious he’s not on the same level as Haskins right now and I wonder just how much we’ll see him with the first team offense early in the season.
Terry McLaurin had just four catches, but they went for 121 yards and two touchdowns. K.J. Hill led all Buckeye receivers with six catches. Rashod Berry’s TD catch was his fourth on only seven career receptions.
The offense put up 77 points and 716 yards (second most all-time by a Buckeye team). The thing I’m excited about is the balance. 375 rushing yards and 346 passing. That is exactly what you want in an offense. Although there were a few read options, there were no designed runs for Haskins. That’s something I like. The offense looks to be tailored to his strengths just as Meyer said it would.
On offense the Buckeyes did exactly what they should to a defense like Oregon State. Defensively they struggled at times and gave up some big plays. But, the feeling among the coaches and a few veteran players is the mistakes made are correctable. When you look at the way a few other Big Ten teams struggled, let’s be happy the Buckeyes won comfortably. It’s only the first week of the season. Everyone take a deep breath and relax. There’s a long way to go. Rutgers is next.
Welcome Back To Reality
Just a few days ago, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan were all picked by one person or another to go to the College Football Playoff. Michigan State needed a late TD to beat Utah State. Penn State went to OT before defeating Appalachian State. Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines were set to take the nation by storm with new starting quarterback Shea Patterson before Notre Dame dumped them 24-17 last night.
Michigan has now lost four straight games dating back to last year and, correct me if I’m wrong, have not beaten a team with a winning record since October of 2016. Regardless of what the so-called experts try to tell you, this is not an elite football program. Their offensive line is still suspect and I’m not convinced Patterson is a good fit for that offense. A good defense only carries you so far. They have a difficult schedule, so you can count on more losses.
The Big Ten went 10-1 in non-conference games this week. Illinois struggled, but still managed a win over Kent State. Rutgers easily handled Texas State in a tune-up for the Buckeyes next week. Maryland beat Tom Herman’s Texas Longhorns for the second year in a row. I know Buckeye fans everywhere are smiling at Tipster Tom anguish. Couldn’t happen to a better guy.
I’ve been able to get this posted on Sunday and, while I’d like to be able to say I’ll do that each week, I know that won’t be the case. I do this as a hobby, so life and work may prevent me from posting a report the day after a game. Sometimes it may be Monday or even Tuesday. As always, thanks for reading.