The Ohio State Buckeyes got back to their winning ways on Saturday, as they defeated the Army Black Knights inside Ohio Stadium, 38-7. History was also made inside The Horseshoe, as the 108,414 people in attendance saw Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett eclipse Drew Brees’ Big Ten conference mark of 106 touchdowns responsible for.
As the Buckeyes restart their winning streak after last week’s home loss to Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners, improvements were definitely seen against the Black Knights. Also, we learned a little more about this 2017 edition of OSU football.
Here are the five things we learned:
The Read-Option Pass is a sexy play to run
In its current state, Ohio State’s passing game isn’t exactly a deep-ball threat. Also in its current state, the Buckeye running attack focuses on the quarterback read-option. So here’s a question: what if you could sorta mash the best of both worlds in a play that would get some good yardage?
That play was executed by OSU early in the first quarter against the Black Knights.
The play starts off like a read-option, but as Barrett backs out of the play and looks as if he’s trying to find a running lane, he flicks the ball out into the flat to a waiting receiver. In this case, it was Austin Mack who caught the ball—and he ended up getting 18 yards on the play.
Barrett’s passing for the afternoon mostly revolved around screen plays. It made sense to run those, as the Buckeye receiving corps normally beat the Army defender to the sideline, thus picking up some yards. The big “chunk” pass plays came via busted coverage. Barrett was able to hit those receivers without any trouble, but that’s expected—as the guy is literally wide open to make the catch.
Army gonna do, what Army gonna do—but the Buckeyes gonna adapt
Pass defense is still one thing the Buckeyes have to work on after the loss last Saturday to the Sooners. Unfortunately, Army walked into this game with the Buckeyes carrying a whopping 17 yards worth of passing offense through two games.
What Army did bring was the tricky, triple-option offense. That kind of an offense takes time to prep against; in the first half against OSU, Army used their offense to march 99 yards on a drive to score their only points of the game. Additionally, that drive took off 9:37 off the clock in the second quarter.
At the half, it was a 17-7 game in favor of the Buckeyes; however, the Black Knights had 155 yards on the ground and were averaging five yards per rush attempt (and they were a risk-taking bunch, connecting on two 4th-down conversions).
Something we didn’t see last week was Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes making an adaptation to their plays in the second half. In the second 30 minutes with Army, the Scarlet and Gray clamped down on defense, and held the Knights to a 3.9 average per rush attempt. It also helped that the Buckeyes forced a fumble in the third quarter—while Army was on the move into OSU territory—and Barrett threw two touchdowns.
It’s not too crazy of an idea to think Meyer can get the Bucks back to the Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff. To get there though, Ohio State will have to continue in making the correct halftime adjustments, and sticking to what they do best. Do that, and they shouldn’t have too many problems from here on out.
Speaking of what this year’s edition of OSU does best...
Last week, the play calling seemed to take the mantra of: when in doubt, quarterback read-option it out. That strategy wasn’t very effective.
This time around, the play calling revolved around the playmakers; most notably, J.K. Dobbins was the guy making the plays for Ohio State. Against the fellas from West Point, N.Y., the freshman from La Grange, Texas was handed the football 13 times, and picked up 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Especially in the third quarter, Dobbins proved to be the X-factor that busted the game upon for the Buckeyes. Ohio State got the ball back on their own 26 following a missed field goal by Army. On the first play of the drive, Dobbins went up the middle for a gain of 22. On the second play, he went by the left tackle Jamarco Jones, and took off down the sideline—with the endzone being the destination. The best the Black Knight defense could do on the play was dive for Dobbins’ ankles, as there wasn’t anybody that could get in front of him.
Touchdown rushes like that are right up the alley of what Eddie George, Chris Wells and Ezekiel Elliott did back when they were in the backfield for the Scarlet and Gray.
We saw flashes of what Dobbins could do in his 181-yard performance against the Indiana Hoosiers in Week 1 of the season. Now, it appears less likely that he’s a flash of the pan, and is the tailback for Ohio State. The guy Dobbins took over for, Mike Weber, had just four carries for 13 yards against the Black Knights. Weber has been recovering from a hamstring injury of late—that’s how Dobbins got the starting job in the first place. However, at this point, it would be hard to justify keeping Dobbins out of the game; he finds the hole to run through, wears defenses down, and gives you a burst of momentum.
Harry Potter was deemed the “boy who lived,” it’s safe to say that Dobbins is the “boy who can run past defenses.”
An old football saying is that “you learn more from the losses than from the wins.” While that may be true, you also learn things in wins. But in this case, it’s things that should’ve been learned in practice or via common sense.
Penalties—especially those of the head-scratching variety—cropped up in the Buckeyes’ first home win of the season. While they didn’t commit as many as last week (9), holding calls brought back a few big plays. On special teams, though, one kickoff went out of bounds, and another kickoff saw this happen:
*checks rulebook* Yeah, that's 15 yards. pic.twitter.com/tyGQgjKaOl— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 16, 2017
Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (i.e. head-butting the opposition) are the kind of plays you don’t really expect to see, especially in a non-conference game against one of the service academies.
In this game, those foul calls didn’t really make a difference, but against Penn State, or Michigan, or really in any road game/big game, these penalties can play spoiler to getting the win. After the loss to OU, the Buckeyes have to likely run the table if they want a College Football Playoff appearance. Having bad penalties like the ones against Army are a good way to miss the cut for the CFP, as those things should be ironed out on the practice field.
We saw a little bit of what Dwayne Haskins can do
Leading up to the Army contest, the social media drama surrounding the Ohio State quarterback situation was reaching teen drama levels. The Twitter speculation of putting the ball into a new quarterback’s hands seemed like a good investment, even though the current guy (Barrett) was on the cusp of breaking the Big Ten record for most TDs responsible for. Then television personalities disseminated their opinion on recruits who were advocating for a QB change. Then the message boards went after Urban Meyer, and so on.
Literally, since the Sooners’ loss, the events surrounding OSU football’s QB position and play calling were treading on drama-filled, castle in the air ideas that would fit perfectly into the college football version of The Secret Life of the American Teenager (off topic: the first two seasons of that show were pretty good; the rest, meh, but I digress).
In Ohio State’s final drive of the game, redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins made his debut inside Ohio Stadium. He was on the field for the final 4:36 and made four passes.
He completed all four—and proved that he can hit receivers, while putting zip on the ball.
It’s a very, very, very small sample size, but Haskins didn’t disappoint in the 10 plays that he was a part of. Wide receiver Binjimen Victor caught Haskins’ last throw, which was also his longest, for 15 yards.
While Haskins went 100 percent in the completion department, Barrett will still be the guy for the Buckeyes. Even though at times the passes seemed to get away from the incumbent QB and three-time captain, he brings the leadership and experience to the field—something that Haskins doesn’t have yet.
But, the future looks bright with Haskins on the team.