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Ohio State’s passing game got plenty of practice vs. UNLV

Both Barrett and Haskins spread the ball around efficiently, but things got a little sloppy

UNLV v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Despite a record-setting performance, we didn’t end up learning a ton about the Buckeyes. However, the backups — including Dwayne Haskins! — got plenty of work in. With meetings with Penn State, Iowa and Michigan left on the schedule, Ohio State has some tough defenses that they’ll have to face, so at least the backups were able to get in playing time while they could.

With backups playing so much it’s no surprise that Ohio State had a little bit of a sloppy game, but some of the biggest mistakes were actually by starters, including Kendall Sheffield’s penalties and coverage, Campbell’s fumble, and the offensive line allowing a few sacks. But really we’re just nitpicking — the Buckeyes mostly took care of business while the game was competitive.

OSU vs. UNLV

Metric OSU UNLV
Metric OSU UNLV
Rushing SR 50% 44%
Rushing opp rate 50% 33%
Rushing exp plays 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Rushing stuffed rate 0% 33%
Passing SR 67% 33%
Passing exp plays 7 (44%) 0 (0%)
Overall SR 62% 38%
Overall exp rate 33% 0%
3rd down % 0% 20%
Red zone TDs 80% 0%
Scoring opps efficiency 6 0
Drive efficiency 100% 20%
Three-and-out drives 0% 0%
Pts off turnovers 14 0
Havoc rate allowed 5% 24%

In the table above, scoring opportunity efficiency looks at the average points scored per scoring opportunity -- drives with a first down past the opponents' 40-yard line. Drive efficiency looks at the percentage of drives that were scoring opportunities. Rushing opportunity rate is the % of runs that gained five or more yards. Rushing stuff rate is the % of runs that were for no gain or a loss. Explosive plays are 12+ yard runs and 20+ yard passes here. This table only includes non-garbage time numbers — here, garbage time kicked in with 12:39 left in the second quarter when Ohio State went up 30-0. At that point both teams had run only 21 plays — so we’re dealing with very small sample sizes in the above advanced stats (not that you should take too much from them anyway)!

Offense: Work in the passing game

Key stats:

  • 67% passing success rate
  • 44% passing explosive rate
  • 100% drive efficiency

It was pretty clear that UNLV simply offered some extended passing practice for Ohio State’s offense. With five different receivers catching a touchdown in the first half and the team setting a school record for passing offense in a game, it was nothing more or less than passing practice. But for additional context, the offense’s 62 percent success rate was their third highest since 2014 — last week’s game against Army and the 2016 season opener vs. Bowling Green were higher.

Here are Ohio State’s success rates and explosive rates by down:

Ohio State Offense by Down

Down Success Rate Explosive Rate
Down Success Rate Explosive Rate
1st Down 45% 27%
2nd Down 71% 43%
3rd Down 0% 0%

The third down success rate is a little deceptive because the offense only had two third down attempts in their five drives and 21 overall plays before garbage time took over.

That was because Ohio State dominated first and second down — and especially second down, where almost half of their plays went for 15 or more yards.

About all you can say about the offense’s performance here was that at least they took care of business against an inferior opponent — which isn’t guaranteed. Unfortunately I don’t have game-by-game passing success rate numbers, but J.T.’s 12.3 yards per attempt was his third-highest as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

With a third of their plays going for 15+ yards in their first five drives, it’s no wonder that the offense was able to turn every single possession into a scoring opportunity (a first down inside the opponent’s 40 yard line). We saw a similar offensive gameplan as we did against Army — lots of perimeter passing and RPOs, with maybe a little more intermediate work.

And just for the curious: Haskins’ success rate = 52 percent (J.T. = 67 percent), Haskins’ explosiveness rate = 22 percent (J.T. = 44%). These aren’t really fair comparisons though, since Haskins was playing with second- and third-string offenses, and it’s unclear what personnel UNLV had on the field. Either way, Haskins sure does have a cannon though — he might have even had more zip on his passes than Cardale.

Defense: Disruptive, but sloppy

Key stats:

  • 44% rushing success rate
  • 33% rushing stuffed rate
  • 24% havoc rate allowed
  • 20% drive efficiency

In the preview I wrote that UNLV actually has a pretty decent offense, all things considered. And as Ohio State began to rotate in backups, we saw glimpses of that offense. Freshman quarterback Armani Reeves Rogers played well, all things considering. But pressure from the defensive line ultimately was too much to keep things close for more than a quarter.

Before the game entered garbage time, UNLV faced six third downs. They converted one of those through a 12-yard pass on third-and-5. One other was a complete pass, but short of the first down. Two were sacks (Jerome Baker for one, and Tyquan Lewis and Malik Harrison for the other). But the last two were first downs from penalties — both from Kendall Sheffield (holding and pass interference). Those penalties were the sole reasons that UNLV was able to create a scoring opportunity at all while Ohio State’s first team defense was on the field. Sheffield often had a tough assignment by having to cover Devonte Boyd, but it wasn’t a great look for the secondary nonetheless.

Besides the penalties and still shaky coverage, the defensive line continues to be dominant. They forced an interception, sack, or other tackle for loss on about a quarter of UNLV’s plays before rotating to a freshman-heavy unit. Overall about 19 percent of tackles were for a loss in the game, with Nick Bosa pitching in a team-high of three.