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Dogfight In Dallas

Down eight points early in the third quarter. Offense struggling to move the ball with any consistency. Their defensive leader and best overall player injured. Playing in the backyard of an opponent hellbent on showing they belong among college football’s elite. The Buckeyes were being pushed by TCU Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, so they decided to push back. Yes, adjustments were made on both sides of the ball that TCU did not have much of an answer for. But, the Buckeyes just began playing harder and it began to wear on the Horned Frogs. With their superior depth and talent, I had figured they would gradually pull away as the game wore on. I didn’t expect this, however. Give TCU credit, they’re well coached and played HARD. When you’re a great team, sometimes you have to prove why you’re great. Ohio State did that in a battle against a junkyard dog.


What I Liked


The grit and resolve, when pushed, I just spoke of. When teams, who have had an easy time of it with opponents, are hit in the mouth, I’m always interested to see how they react. You can learn a lot about their character and make-up. Ohio State showed they’re not going to back down when challenged. TCU’s defense was putting a lot of pressure on Dwayne Haskins. Adjustments were made along the offensive line and that group fought a trench war like few seen since World War I. Right tackle Isaiah Prince was getting off the ball lightning quick in order to keep Big XII Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Ben Banogu out of his quarterback’s face. Outside linebackers Malik Harrison and Pete Werner came back from, what I thought, was a pedestrian first half to begin to make plays after TCU scored to go up by eight points early in the second half. With Nick Bosa out, Dre’mont Jones stepped up and shined by making play after play. After four dropped passes and a holding penalty against him, Austin Mack came back to catch everything thrown his way. Resolve. Not every team has it. This one does and proved it Saturday night.


What I Didn’t Like


Too many big plays. The “field” safeties were a factor in both of TCU’s long touchdowns. Isaiah Pryor took an awful pursuit angle on Darius Anderson’s school record 93-yard run. We saw this same problem against Oregon State. Shawn Robinson’s 51-yard touchdown pass to KaVontae Turpin was not a well-thrown pass. It hung in the air forever and should have been intercepted. But, Jahsen Wint lost the ball, got turned around, and Turpin made the catch. I’m still not completely comfortable with those two rotating at the position and wonder if it is time to take a look at Shaun Wade back there.


The other thing I did not like was ABC’s broadcast. Far too many times, they missed the beginning of a play because of showing a coach or a fan. You never miss the start of a play. Nothing is more important than the game itself. Inexcusable for it to happen as often as it did Saturday night. Keep in mind I’ve spent nearly 31 years working in TV. Also, I’ve always been a fan of Chris Fowler, but his suggesting Davon Hamilton’s injury, in the fourth quarter, was done to slow down TCU’s tempo was completely uncalled for. Fowler is usually right down the middle on his call of games, but I came away with the impression he has some problems with the Buckeyes now.


Random Stuff From A Dogfight


I can’t say enough good things about the job Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins did carrying the football. For the most part, the offensive line gave them just enough room to allow them a chance to do something and they made the most of it. Time and again they either broke a tackle or made a defender miss in the hole and picked their way through traffic for gains. They ran physical and carried tacklers for extra yards. The vision both have was on full display. It takes outstanding vision to pick your way through all of that traffic. Dobbins finished with 18 carries for 121 yards, Weber had 18 for 64.


Dwayne Haskins continued to show that NFL-quality arm. He was 24-38 for 344 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly he did not throw an interception despite being under a lot of pressure, at times. Think of what his stats would be without those four drops. When offensive coordinator Ryan Day decided to attack TCU with short, quick passes, Haskins delivered on the money time and again. His best throw may have been one that was incomplete. In the first quarter, he put a ball over two defenders that Rashod Berry could not quite pull in. Haskins didn’t just put the ball into a tight window, he put into a place where there wasn’t a window and still gave his receiver a chance.


On his birthday, K.J. Hill had six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. He made a beautiful adjustment to the ball on the touchdown catch. Five of his catches went for first downs. He’s turned into the Buckeyes’ most reliable receiver.


On Parris Campbell’s 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown, Rashod Berry did an excellent job blocking on the outside. Malcolm Pridgeon got outside from his left guard spot to contribute a key block as well.


Center Michael Jordan struggled with low shotgun snaps all night. Give Haskins a ton of credit for fielding nearly all of them cleanly. This was only Jordan’s third start; expect this problem to be corrected before the Penn State game in two weeks.


I’m not surprised the Buckeyes went to play action passes early and had success, considering how TCU was selling out to stop the run. But, after that early success, I’m a little baffled as to why they didn’t go back to it very often. The few times they did use play action, it was successful. But, overall I love Ryan Day’s play selection. The best call of the game, in my opinion, came as a result something co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson noticed from the press box. Each time Haskins would handoff to one of the running backs, the defensive end would crash hard to the inside. These were all designed handoffs with no “read” for Haskins involved. With the ball at the TCU seven-yard line in the fourth quarter, Day and Wilson decided this was the time to have Haskins read the end and either handoff to Dobbins or keep. At the snap, Haskins “rode” Dobbins, the defensive end crashed to the inside, Haskins pulled the ball away from Dobbins, and had a fairly easy trip to the end zone. The perfect call at the perfect time.


The defense was opportunistic and scored fourteen points. Bosa’s strip sack that led to Davon Hamilton’s recovery for a touchdown shows how dangerous he is. Robinson took too long to get rid of the ball and Bosa made him pay for it. You can’t take that kind of time to release the ball near your own goal line when Bosa is on the field. Also, Pete Werner’s pressure caused Robinson to flip a shovel pass right to Dre’mont Jones, which he promptly returned for a touchdown and changed the game. Jones fought through the center’s block and was in the process of blowing up the play when Robinson’s gift came his way. I thought he was outstanding all night. Another player, who I thought had an outstanding game, is defensive end Jonathan Cooper. Very solid all night with three tackles and a sack.


Often times, one or two Buckeye linebackers were lining up in the gaps along the line of scrimmage. In passing situations, they would either blitz or drop into coverage. On run plays, they jammed up the line of scrimmage and created a mosh pit that allowed TCU’s backs little room to run in the second half. Although TCU rushed for 203 yards, 109 came on just two carries. The Buckeyes held the Horned Frogs to just 2.76 yards per carry outside of those two plays.


As stated earlier, I thought outside linebackers Malik Harrison and Pete Werner had a pedestrian first half. Harrison was given the job of being a “spy” on Robinson. In the first half, the plan seemed to be for him to sit back and not let Robinson make big plays with his legs. In the second half, the coaches had him much more aggressive. When Robinson began to scramble, Harrison quickly came up to make a tackle or force a bad throw. Harrison finished with six total tackles, a “quarterback hurry”, and an interception. Werner spent most of the game playing in “space” against a slot receiver. Not an easy assignment for a linebacker. He was very effective in blitz packages in the second half. He still doesn’t seem to shed blocks very well, but he was flying around and being a nuisance in the third and fourth quarters Saturday night.


We didn’t see a lot of the Rushmen package. Most of the time it was the 3-3-5 with the linebackers in gaps along the line of scrimmage as I mentioned. That means true freshman Tyreke Smith’s playing time was limited. The defensive line rotation overall was tightened a great deal. Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton rotated at one tackle, while Haskell Garrett subbed for Dre’mont Jones at the 3-technique tackle. I don’t recall seeing either Tyler Friday, Taron Vincent, or Tommy Togiai in the game. Both had seen their share of playing time in the first two games.


TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson threw some beautiful passes, but he was scatter-armed, at times, as he is prone to being. Pressure from the Buckeyes forced some of those errant throws. The Horned Frogs did a great job early in the game of using motion and formations to take advantage of OSU’s man-to-man coverage and create space for bubble screens and other short passes.


TCU’s receivers use their hands A LOT. On deep passes, they consistently had Buckeye cornerbacks by the jersey. The interference call on Damon Arnette, which led to TCU’s first TD, was awful. Both players had a handful of the other’s jersey and, if anything, the TCU receiver is the one who gained the most advantage. Speaking of awful calls, overturning the targeting penalty when Haskins was hit in the helmet, while almost completely on the turf was terrible.


Punter Drue Chrisman did an excellent job of pinning back TCU and not allowing KaVontae Turpin a chance at a return. Five of his six punts were inside the 20 yard line.


Dre’mont Jones has been named as the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Week. He was, also, the team’s Defensive Player of the Game. Dwayne Haskins was the Player of the Game for offensive and Johnnie Dixon for special teams.


Urban Meyer confirmed, during his press conference today, Nick Bosa will not play this week. His three-game suspension complete, Meyer returns to the sidelines this Saturday when his team takes on Tulane.


This was the Buckeyes fifth straight win over a top-15 team, the longest streak in the country. Dating back to last season, they have won eight straight games.


The Big Ten has announced Ohio State vs Penn State will kickoff at 7:30 on September 29th. The game will be carried by ABC.


Final Whistle


At times, it certainly wasn’t pretty, but in a game like this, the most important thing is to come out on top. The Buckeyes managed to do that and now have a large feather in their cap to show off to the College Football Playoff committee. They needed this, because, as I’ll detail in a minute, the Big Ten had an awful week and most certainly is only a shell of what it was last year. I really like the way the coaches and players just kept coming Saturday night. I’m sure a lot of TCU fans were celebrating and thought the game was decided when the Frogs went up 21-13 early in the third quarter. But, the coaches kept adjusting and the team kept playing hard. This was a brutally fought game on both sides of the ball. But, in college football, the team with the best talent usually wins. The Buckeyes had more talent across the board and it gradually showed more and more as the game progressed. Urban Meyer will be back on the sidelines this week, but let’s give a ton of credit to the job Ryan Day and that veteran staff did to guide the Buckeyes through a very difficult time. Some fans were actually complaining about day’s coaching during the game. Unreal.


TCU and its fans never bothered me until this week. But, because of their incessant chirping and trash talk leading up to the game from fans, I have no use for them any longer. I’ve, also, learned their radio announce team made a few snide remarks about the Great State of Ohio. That’s tacky and classless. You’d never hear OSU announcers Paul Keels and Jim Lachey doing something so amateurish. While their football team conducted themselves with class, I can’t say the same for others around the TCU program.


Big Flop


When the dust settled and we were able to pick through the carnage and rubble of the Big Ten’s disastrous results from Saturday, that 7-1 bowl, record from a year ago seems a loooooong way off. Big Ten teams lost to schools from the Big XII (twice), American Athletic (twice), Sun Belt, MAC, and BYU, who is an independent. For goodness sake, Rutgers lost to Kansas. KANSAS. They’ve been the worst program in any Power 5 conference over the past few seasons.


Outside of OSU’s win over TCU, the conference managed three wins over MAC teams, the American Athletic, and an FCS school. It becomes less impressive when you factor in the MAC being the worst conference in the country. Before anyone says anything, I went to a MAC school and love the conference, but the results over the last few years don’t lie; they haven’t been good. Right now, the Big Ten is not even in the discussion of college football’s best conference.


How about Joe Burrow leading LSU to a last second win over Auburn?! Burrow went 15-34 for 249 yards and a touchdown in leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 22-21 win.


Paid Bucks


Michael Thomas caught 12 passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints 21-18 win over the Browns. One of those TD’s came at the expense of fellow Buckeye Denzel Ward. Thomas now has 27 catches in two games. Ted Ginn had four catches for 55 yards for the Saints.


Zeke Elliot had 78 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries as the Cowboys beat the Giants 20-13. Tight end Jeff Heuerman had a couple of catches for the Broncos in their win over the Raiders. Also, Eagles’ punter Cam Johnston averaged 56.5 yards on 5 punts.



The Browns keep inventing more ways to lose. The Steelers have a tie and a loss, and their fans have to be wondering what’s going on. Did anyone expect the Bengals to be 2-0? Enjoy the week everyone. Time to catch our breath after a wild Saturday night. Tulane is next.

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