Following last week’s bitter defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners, the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes were looking for a bit of a palate cleanser on Saturday against the Army Black Knights. While the game didn’t resolve all of OSU’s offensive issues, the Scarlet and Gray came out with their second win of the season, 38-7.
The old saying goes that the best offense is a good defense, well, on Saturday, the inverse was true for Army. After OSU put up two touchdowns in the first quarter, the Black Knight triple-option offense kept the Buckeye O on the sidelines for all but 3:13, and out of the endzone, in the second quarter. However, the third quarter saw the Buckeyes exert their will, despite possessing the ball only in small doses. J.T. Barrett and company never looked back from there.
Following a tumultuous week for the Buckeye signal-caller, Barrett finished the game 25-33 with 270 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also added a score on the ground. The Buckeyes finished with 586 yards of total offense, 270 coming on the ground and 316 through the air. Despite getting the brunt of the criticism following last week’s loss, the offense came out hot from the get-go.
After a handful of positive plays to start the first drive of the game, true-freshman running back J.K. Dobbins broke off a 36-yard run to get the offense into the red zone. Two plays later, quarterback Barrett kept the option and scampered into the endzone to give the Buckeyes their first touchdown in the first quarter of a game this season.
On Army’s first play from scrimmage, Sam Hubbard over-committed up the middle, and running back Darnell Woolfolk broke it outside for a 19-yard gain. After a seven-play drive that saw the Army offense advance the ball into OSU territory, Nick Schrage’s punt pinned the Buckeyes at their own six-yard line.
On the subsequent drive, the Buckeyes picked up the tempo as offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson began calling a succession of quick passes to H-back Parris Campbell and wide receivers K.J. Hill and Austin Mack. There was the inevitable overthrow of Campbell down field, but the drive’s other 11 plays all went for positive yardage, before being capped off by a pitch to Dobbins to extend the lead to 14-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, it appeared that Army returner Kell Walker had fumbled the ball after being popped by a wall of Buckeyes, but the replay official let the down by contact call stand. However, the Scarlet and Gray defense bore down on the Knights forcing the first three-and-out of the game.
Barrett marched the offense inside the Army 40, but the drive stalled after consecutive incompletions, and punter Drue Chrisman perfectly placed the ball on the one-yard line. After a 25-yard run from Walker, the first quarter came to an end with the Buckeyes up 14-0, and achieving head coach Urban Meyer’s desired offensive balance with 100 yards on the ground and 104 yards through the air.
Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw led the Knights into Buckeye territory and had what appeared to be an easy touchdown completion on the 11th play of the drive before OSU senior safety Erick Smith laid out to break it up.
However, seven plays later, Woolfolk took the ball into the endzone to complete a 99-yard, 18-play, nine minute and 37-second drive. With 6:26 left in the first half, OSU held a 14-7 lead.
Campbell caught the Army kickoff at the goal line and ran 39-yards, but an unsportsmalike conduct penalty against Zach Turnure negated 15 yards of the return. The television replay showed Turnure attempting to headbutt an Army special teamer.
*checks rulebook* Yeah, that's 15 yards. pic.twitter.com/tyGQgjKaOl— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 16, 2017
Nearly a half-an-hour after they were last on the field, the Buckeye offense began their drive from the 25-yard line. A few plays later, a 59-yard touchdown run for Campbell was called back after a Mack hold. However, that didn’t slow down the offense as they moved into the redzone, but after three Barrett incompletions, the drive resulted in a Sean Nuernberger 33-yard field goal that extended the OSU lead to 17-7.
After Army proved that they could score with the worst possible field position on the previous drive, Walker took the OSU kickoff out to the 38-yard line. With the ball on the 47 with 54 seconds left in the half, the Knights were successful on a fourth-and-one option play that allowed them to salt away the first half, trailing 17-7.
The first 30 minutes saw Barrett attempt 20 passes, completing 14 for 133 yards. On the ground, OSU had 18 official rushes for 140 yards. While the balance is in line with what the offensive coaches have preached, the Army offense gained 155 yards, all but nine on the ground.
The second half opened with OSU junior kicker Bryan Kristan kicking the ball out of bounds, allowing the Army offense to start at the 35-yard line. The positive field position propelled the Knights to a series of first downs as the OSU’s middle linebacker Chris Worley was off the field dealing with an undisclosed injury. Red-shirt freshman linebacker Tuf Borland filled in admirably in the middle of the Buckeye defense, recording 12 tackles, including nine solos, and one for a loss.
After a 10-play, 39-yard drive stalled at the OSU 26, Army kicker Jake Ellington missed a 43-yard field goal attempt to turn the ball over to the Buckeyes.
On the first play for Ohio State in the second half, J.K. Dobbins broke a number of tackles running up the middle for a 22-yard gain, and then on the subsequent play, the true freshman took it 52 yards for his second TD of the game, putting the Buckeyes up 24-7. The freshman RB finished the game with 172 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. That translates to a 13.2 yard average per carry.
After Walker took the kickoff for Army at the goal line, he eluded a number of would-be tacklers inside his own five, before breaking a 43-yard run, only for Erick Smith to save yet another touchdown, bringing him down.
The Buckeyes’ quick score on the last drive meant that the defense was back on the field, where it had been for the majority of the past quarter and a half of game time. However, on the sixth play of the drive, an errant QB-running back exchange resulted in a fumble recovered by OSU cornerback Kendall Sheffield.
Four plays later, Barrett connected with Terry McLaurin for a 20-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 31-7. After the TD, the Knights held a 26:33 to 12:08 time of possession advantage. On the day, OSU QBs completed passes to eight different receivers, with Hill leading the way with eight catches on nine targets for 74 yards.
After converting a fourth down on the next drive (its third in as many chances), Bradshaw’s pass on 4th-and-2 was incomplete, turning the ball back over to the Buckeyes on downs. Barrett and the offense took over on the Army 48.
With 8:30 left in the game, Barrett was sacked for the first time on the night, but on the next play Dobbins picked up 17 of the needed 18 yards setting up a 3rd-and-1. A few plays later, Barrett completed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Mack, to put the Buckeyes up 38-7.
The TD was significant for two reasons, as it was the first in Mack’s OSU career, but it also was Barrett’s 107th of his career, breaking the Big Ten conference record for touchdowns accounted for, previously held by Purdue’s Drew Brees.
With just over 4:30 left in the game, redshirt-freshman Dwayne Haskins saw his first collegiate action under center, and on his second play from scrimmage, completed his first pass to walk-on receiver C.J. Saunders for 14 yards.
The Army offense finished with 278 yards, and, unsurprisingly, 259 of those came from the rushing game. On the other side of the ball, running back Mike Weber, who led OSU in rushing last year, but has been injured in the early going this season, gained 13 yards on four carries against Army.
The Buckeyes will return to the field next Saturday at noon ET against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.