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Ohio State football: Breaking down the offense vs. Illinois

J.T. Barrett shook off some early rust and finished the first half with the confidence he needed, heading into the showdown with Michigan State.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

J.T. Barrett

Designed runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions TD pass Scrambles Overthrow Underthrow Throwaway
2 28 15 9 2 4 5 0 0
Pressured Hit during throw Sacked Pass break up Batted at LOS Drops Intercepted TD Run DPI
2 2 0 2 0 1 0 0 0
  • Barrett's accuracy was off the mark early, overthrowing a wide-open Jeff Heuerman on the first drive who would have walked into the end zone. It looked like he shot putted the throw instead of stepping into it, I think Barrett's confidence in his injured knee limited him early, causing poor throws. He struggled transferring weight to his injured left knee early on.
  • Barrett seemed to forget about his injured knee at the 9:14 minute mark of the first quarter. He sat in the pocket, surveyed the field and escaped pressure before finding Michael Thomas for the first down. He held the ball for a whopping 8.33 seconds before throwing the ball to Thomas.
  • After that play, Barrett settled into the game and played much better.
  • What an excellent throw by Barrett to Devin Smith for the 32-yard touchdown pass. It may be his best deep ball of the season as he threw it with great touch and floated it perfectly to Smith's outside shoulder, away from the safety, for the touchdown.
  • The empty formation needs to stop being used on short yardage situations, it is not fooling anyone.
  • This was the perfect scenario for Barrett after the MCL sprain, as he started the game tentative, shook some rust off and will be confident heading into the Michigan State game.

Running backs

  • Initially, it was a surprise to see Curtis Samuel get the starting nod over Ezekiel Elliott but even though the staff claimed that Samuel earned the start during the practice week, I think that it was to get Samuel time in a competitive situation. With Rod Smith dismissed from the team, Samuel is now the clear number two back and if Elliott were to go down with an injury or if they wanted to get Samuel 10+ carries vs. Michigan State, he needed some experience heading into the showdown in East Lansing. It was also a good chance to give Elliott some rest and limit the pounding on his body for a week.
  • Samuel's first touchdown run was blocked to perfection. It started with Noah Brown coming in short motion and delivering a monstrous crack-back block on an Illini linebacker. Then Doug Baldwin pulled and pinned the safety, escorting Samuel to pay dirt.
  • I really like how Samuel runs the ball; he runs hard and keeps his legs moving after contact.
  • Elliott's body and legs will now be fresh heading into the Michigan State game, along with some added experience for Samuel.

Wide Receivers

  • I thought they used the Wildcat better this week and they did not overthink it as much as they did vs. Penn State. We all knew that a throw from Jalin Marshall would be coming out of it soon and it gave Michigan State one more thing to spend time on in the film room this week.
  • With Smith gone, expect Coach Herman to show more looks with Marshall and Dontre Wilson on the field together. This was the first game all season (I could be wrong) that the two were on the field together at the same time.
  • The receivers made the plays they should have and caught some balls they should not have. The drops have gone down significantly since the beginning of the season which has been a testament to their improvement and Barrett's improvement.
  • Smith showed great body control and hands when he snatched Barrett's pass on 1st-and-10 with 2:37 remaining in the second quarter. Smith is still somewhat inconsistent, but he has been expanding his route tree and he has really improved this season, making himself into a more complete wide receiver.

Tight Ends

  • Heuerman missed a key block on 4th-and-2 that blew up the play before it had a chance to develop. This time it was a mental error rather than a physical error, something that is fixable.
  • It is clear that Barrett is very confident in his tight ends in the passing game, targeting both early on.
  • I saw more double tight end sets, which may be seen against Michigan State if the offensive line has trouble early in the game.

Offensive Line

  • The short yardages woes continued this week and it could be the difference between beating the Spartans or losing to the Spartans. These woes actually began last season in the B1G Championship Game vs. Michigan State and they have haunted them ever since.
  • The offensive line dominated the first half, only allowing two pressures and zero sacks.

Defensive Tidbits

  • The defense is improving every single week, whether they are in coverage, rushing the passer or against the run.
  • Raekwon McMillan has been playing middle linebacker in the base 4-3 defense but played outside linebacker when they are aligned in the 3-3-5.
  • The defense forced four more turnovers against Illinois. They are plus-eight in the turnover margin this season.
  • The defense had a great three-and-out on the Illini's final possession of the first half after the offense failed to convert on fourth down. This gave the offense the opportunity to get the ball back and redeem themselves before halftime.