Virginia Tech controlled the first half of one of the most anticipated games of the young college football season, but a few turning point plays helped the Buckeyes level things at 21. The Hokies subsequently answered the bell, taking advantage of a short field and converting a quick score to give them the lead once again.
The Buckeyes' had a shot late, but a third J.T. Barrett interception iced things for the Hokies. Ohio State's redshirt freshman quarterback looked the part in his first ever home start, with several startlingly freshman moments changing the entire complexion of the contest.
The Hokies' defense was even better than advertised, and if they can manage to stay healthy through conference play, give VT a real chance in the ACC's wide open Coastal division. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, still in many ways have more questions than answers. They have all the talent in the world, and with Michigan State outed as a bit shy of their 2013 predecessors earlier in the day, a puncher's chance in the Big Ten East. But the Buckeyes overall are still a work in progress in too many areas of consequence to feel any real sense of optimism.
Three things we learned
1. Ohio State's offensive line is far rawer than even first feared. Ohio State partisans knew the offensive line, particularly coming off having to replace four starters, would be a work in progress. But virtually no one foresaw the level of early struggles we've now seen in consecutive weeks, first against the Naval Academy and now Virginia Tech.
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were so unconfident in the line that during the first half, Meyer only gave four carries to runners other than quarterback J.T. Barrett amassing a grand total of four yards.
Much like last week against Navy, the offensive line rallied somewhat in the second half, showing more signs of life early in the third. Bad snaps, poorly executed blocks, and sacks in high supply came back in waves late in the game, however, and the Buckeyes can't afford a mostly young/inexperienced line to continue taking baby steps at the pace they have. If by the time the Buckeyes face Michigan State this isn't a cohesive, high level Power 5 capable starting line, the Buckeyes will almost assuredly leave Spartan Stadium looking up in the standings in the Big Ten East.
2. The devil is in the details. For seemingly every big play the Buckeyes had, there'd be some kind of damning error.
Touchdown? Kick out of bounds. Third down stop? Big run allowed the next drive. Key first down? Even bigger drop on what could've been a game changing play shortly thereafter.
Ohio State was nothing if not consistently inconsistent, and while Buckeye aficionados knew the defense wouldn't be fixed in just two games by new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, the problems were apparent on both sides of the ball throughout much of the evening. J.T. Barrett is going to be a quarterback when everything's said and done, but the growing pains will feel particularly tough to swallow if they continue so unevenly.
3. The Buckeyes' kicking game just might prove an adventure. After a huge momentum shifting touchdown tied the game at 21, Kyle Clinton booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving Virginia Tech solid field position at the 35. If that wasn't enough, that marked the second straight week Clinton was guilty of such an infraction.
Adding insult to insult, true freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger missed two gimme field goals in the first half in part leading to the Buckeyes looking up at the Hokies by a two-score deficit.
Urban Meyer seemed confident in the frosh at halftime when asked if the team would consider making a change at field goal kicker, but if the problem lingers, even Cam Johnston's continued outstanding play at punter might be offset by the instability in placekicking.