Takin' Care Of Business
Saturday in the Shoe against Tulane, the Buckeyes were certainly “taking care of business (every way),” in Urban Meyer’s return to the sideline. “Every way” are probably the key words here because our favorite college football team thoroughly dominated the over-matched Green Wave. But, unlike the part of the 1973 Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO to those of us who remember listening to them on AM radio) song, the Buckeyes were not “working overtime” to establish their dominance. They did their damage in a first half that saw the them score touchdowns on all six possessions and outgain their opponent 425-121 as they built up a 42-6 lead. Tulane head coach Willie Fritz, who has over 200 career wins, was impressed, "I've played a lot of good teams over the years. That's the best that I played. They're big, long, physical, play the game the right way." After that first half blitzkrieg by the Buckeyes, the backups took over in the second half as Ohio State cruised to a 49-6 win to move to 4-0 on the season.
What I Liked
Focus. The Buckeyes came out and immediately went to work putting away an inferior opponent. No looking ahead to Penn State. Just focus on carving up Tulane. A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff and team leaders for not having a letdown after such a hard fought, emotional game the previous week.
What I Didn’t Like
Too many penalties. Specifically I’m talking about penalties on special teams. Two on true freshman Dallas Gant for holding on kickoff returns. Two on Rashod Berry for holding on extra points. One each for unsportsmanlike conduct on Jake Hausmann, who was seeing his first action of the season after missing time with an injury, and Justin Hilliard. Let’s not forget Shaun Wade was called for holding on the opening kickoff, along with Gant. In all, OSU was flagged for 10 penalties for 89 yards. Since special teams is Meyer’s baby, you can bet this will be addressed as the team prepares for Penn State. You don’t want your offense starting a drive in the shadow of their own goal line as many times as we saw on Saturday against a good team.
Random Stuff From A Blowout
Dwayne Haskins was dominant once again in just a half of football and has been named the Big Ten’s Co-Offensive Player of the Week for the second time. As I expected, with the offensive line providing excellent protection, it was pitch and catch to the tune of 21-24 for 305 yards and five touchdowns for the sophomore quarterback. With Tulane concentrating on stopping the run and giving single coverage to his receivers, Haskins picked them apart and made it look easy. That is the difference between this offense and what we’ve seen the last few years. If a defense takes the run away from the Buckeyes, they now have the ability to make that defense pay by going to the air. Haskins is simply shredding defenses. "Watching the tape he looks like a third-year starter," Fritz said. "He handles himself really well out there. He's got a big arm, good touch."
Here is the best stat of the weekend from the people at the Under Armour All-American Game. When Troy Smith won the Heisman in 2006, he had 888 total yards and 8 touchdowns through his first four games. Haskins has 1,222 and 17 touchdowns in his first four games. I don’t pay much attention to Heisman talk in September, but it is completely ridiculous for Haskins, who is connecting on nearly 76% of his passes, to be left off any of the lists you see making the rounds right now.
J.K. Dobbins rushed for “only” 55 yards on 11 carries. I say “only” because he did not play in the second half. Mike Weber carried just 6 times for 18 yards before leaving the game with an injury halfway through the second quarter. Meyer described the injury as “a little strain on his foot” and said today he will be ready for Penn State. When Weber left the game, Demario McCall saw his first real playing time with the first team offense. He rushed for 26 yards on 4 carries and caught 2 passes for 36 yards. He is very quick, elusive, and showed off his strength by flattening a would-be-tackler with a stiff-arm on one of his runs. He even put a Tulane player on the turf with a block on a kick return. I’d love to see him used more because he has a little different skill set than Dobbins or Weber, but there are only so many reps to go around.
True freshman running back Brian Snead did not dress for the game. This comes after he did not make the trip to Dallas for the TCU game. Snead had been the number three running back before being disciplined for what Meyer describes as a violation of team rules. He had rushed for 37 yards on eleven carries and a touchdown in the first two games.
Are teams figuring out how to handle the Buckeyes’ mammoth offensive line in the run game? For the second week in a row, an opposing defense made life difficult for OSU’s running backs, who have not had much room to operate the last two games. Are we just spoiled by the gaping holes we saw the first two weeks? TCU had very active linebackers and seemed to constantly have a safety from their 4-2-5 defense, near the line of scrimmage. Tulane’s linebackers were very active also, and spent a lot of time, along with their safeties, effectively filling gaps to turn the line of scrimmage into a mosh pit. At his weekly press conference this morning, Meyer said the offensive line played well.
The Buckeyes ran a lot of bubble screens against the Green Wave. To run this play effectively, you need receivers who can block. The quintet of Johnnie Dixon, Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor, Terry McLaurin, and C.J. Saunders did a GREAT job blocking Tulane’s defensive backs and allowing Parris Campbell to get away for big gains. McLaurin, who Meyer has said is turning into this team’s Evan Spencer, managed to put a Green Wave player on the turf with a block. It isn’t easy blocking in the open field like that, so give those guys a ton of credit.
Speaking of bubble screens, we saw another great example of offensive coordinator Ryan Day’s penchant for sequencing plays. Having already run the play effectively a few times, Day went to it again with the ball at the Tulane 44-yard line. Thanks to excellent blocking by Dixon and Victor, Campbell turned the short pass into a thirteen-yard gain. For the next play, the Buckeyes lined-up in the same basic three-receiver or “trips” formation to the same side of the field. At the snap, Campbell started to drift behind his two partners as he had been doing, Dixon crossed in front of Victor to block the cornerback, while Victor immediately released to go down field. The Tulane defensive backs collided with each other and were so eager to jump the bubble screen after a Haskins pump fake, they didn’t even look at Victor. The result was an easy and perfectly thrown 31-yard touchdown pass by Haskins to Victor, his first of the season. I can’t say enough times how much I love Ryan Day’s play calling.
Parris Campbell had a career high 8 catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Austin Mack rebounded from last week’s four drops to have a strong game. He had three catches for 32 yards, including a beautiful adjustment on a back shoulder throw from Haskins to pull in a touchdown pass. One other thing I’m very happy with is the improved hands Binjimen Victor is showing this season. In all, fourteen different receivers caught passes yesterday.
A beautifully thrown 38-yard pass from Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks to Terren Encalade was the only play of more than 20 yards given up by the defense. Ohio State’s first team defense was in complete control in the first half and severely limited the Green Wave. For the game, the Buckeyes finished with four sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. Field safety Isaiah Pryor did not rotate with Jahsen Wint and appears to have won the position. Pryor looked much more confident and sure of himself this week.
Middle linebacker Baron Browning is another who looked more confident and sure. He seemed to be everywhere and finished with a sack and 1 ½ tackles for a loss. The other regulars at linebacker, Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, and Malik Harrison were always around the ball, but none were credited with a tackle. Dante Booker, a starter in 2017 until he was injured, had a sack and three tackles for a loss in the second half. I really wouldn’t mind seeing him get a few reps with the first team in place of Werner.
Davon Hamilton made his first career start at nose tackle as Robert Landers sat out with an injury. Hamilton finished with two tackles and a tackle for a loss. Meyer confirmed Landers will return against Penn State. True freshman Tommy Togiai got plenty of reps as Hamilton’s back-up, and finished with two tackles. Some other “firsts” are sophomore linebacker Keandre Jones and true freshman defensive end Tyler Friday each getting their first career sacks. Walk-on receiver Garyn Prater made his first career catch.
Tate Martell made one appearance with the first team offense and led them down the field to a touchdown. Things were more difficult for him with the second unit offense as they struggled through the third quarter. He was able to lead them to a score late in the fourth quarter and finished 10-15 for 114 yards passing to go with 22 yards rushing and a touchdown. The back-up offensive line struggled to protect Martell for much of the second half, and he looked to be trying to do too much at times. But, I think it is indisputable to say he’s improved immensely as a passer. He’s now 23-28 for 269 yards and a touchdown for the season.
Parris Campbell was named the Buckeyes’ Offensive Player of the Game. Dante Booker was named for defense and punter Drue Chrisman for special teams. On another special teams note, K.J. Hill has taken over the punt return duties.
There are reports Ohio State is working on ways to keep Ryan Day on the staff beyond this year. He’s quite possibly the hottest coaching commodity in college football and should have his pick of head coaching jobs in the coming months. More on this later in the week as it develops more.
There’s no real sense in picking apart and dissecting things. The Buckeyes did what they should have done to a team like Tulane. If I say there were some missed tackles by the first team defense or the offense needs to do a better job at blitz pick-up (Dobbins whiffed on a blitzing linebacker and Haskins failed to recognize a safety blitz when the guy made it so obvious, he did everything but say “Here I come”), I’d be nitpicking. I do wish the second team offense performed better, but that entire half they played will be invaluable to them. In the end, Urban Meyer’s team got some work in a game situation and looked sharp. They escaped with no major injuries. All in all a good Saturday at the Shoe.
Used To Be’s
Former Buckeye running back Antonio Williams ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns, including one for 37 yards, in North Carolina’s 38-35 win over Pitt on Saturday. It was their first win of the season. He leads the Tar Heels with 257 yards on the season and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
Joe Burrow was 16-28 for 191 yards as LSU held off Louisiana Tech 38-21. Burrow has led the Tigers to a 4-0 record. They play Mississippi on Saturday night.
Linebacker Jerome Baker had nine total tackles in the Dolphins win over the Raiders. He’s currently third on the team with 17. In the Colts’ loss to the Eagles, Malik Hooker had six tackles.
Michael Thomas had double digit receptions again for the Saints. Thomas caught 10 passes for 129 yards. Ted Ginn, Jr. had three catches for just 12 yards, but one was for a touchdown. Defensive back Vonn Bell had five tackles in the Saints OT win against Atlanta.
Zeke Elliot rushed for 127 yards for Dallas and his 2014 national championship teammate Nick Vannett caught four passes for 27 yards for Seattle, in their matchup yesterday. Vannett’s Seahawks came away with a 24-13 win.
The Browns have named Baker Mayfield their starting quarterback. It’s officially Penn State week. Let the hype begin…in both cases.