If you thought Ohio State would “make some changes” and “get this thing fixed” in their bye week after a brutal loss to Purdue, I’ve got some bad news for you. Despite having two whole weeks to prepare for a 2-6 Nebraska team, Ohio State still looked lethargic today, stumbling out of the gates and surviving on talent en route to a 36-31 win.
This is the eighth win this season for the Buckeyes, and it also happens to be the eighth win that came entirely because the Buckeyes were just more talented than their opponent. Ohio State’s depth and talent showed up in the second half, and a depleted Nebraska roster just didn’t have enough to continue what was a dominant first half performance.
This is also the eighth win that came in spite of a coaching staff worth roughly 14.5 million dollars in salary. This is the ninth game this season, in which Ohio State was completely out coached by the opposing staff, and it nearly cost them yet again against a middling to bad Big Ten foe. To see this staff get out coached has become the norm, but it hasn’t become any less embarrassing. This is a football team filled with four and five star talent, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell from the way they play, because they aren’t coached, they aren’t developed, and they aren’t put into a position to succeed by the staff that makes a lot of money to win football games.
As you can imagine, none of the members of this staff will be making it onto the “blue-chip stocks” or “solid investments” part of this stock market report. However, they won’t be on the junk bonds either, because at this point, we know they’re bad. We know Billy Davis, Greg Schiano, Greg Studrawa, and Urban Meyer are hurting the team. That’s become the norm. Thankfully, Ohio State has the talent to usually overcome their incompetence.
- J.K. Dobbins, RB: Where in the hell was this rushing game all year? Sure, Nebraska’s defense is a trash fire that hasn’t stopped anyone all year, but for the first time this season, J.K. Dobbins looked like J.K. Dobbins. He ran for 163 yards and three scores on 23 carries. He busted several big runs, fought through tackles, and found holes in the defense that haven’t been there in months. He had an awesome game, and I’m more than happy to see him back to playing his game.
I will however, give some credit to his line too. The offensive line has been pretty dreadful in run blocking for most of the season, but they weren’t today. They weren’t great either, but they did enough to give these backs space to work, and that’s all they really need. I doubt this lasts, at least at this level, against Michigan State, but it was good to see again for at least one game.
- Brendon White, Shaun Wade, S: When Jordan Fuller left the game following a targeting violation, I, like many other Buckeye fans, was extremely concerned with what that would mean for the Buckeye defense moving forward. Ohio State’s safety play had been dreadful all season long, and with Pryor and Fuller now out, two backups would be tasked with holding the back of the defense down and preventing big plays.
Those backups, however, stepped up in a huge way. Shaun Wade, while he wasn’t perfect, was light years better than Pryor in the free safety spot. Even more surprisingly, his counterpart, Brendon White, was pretty easily the best player on the defense in filling in for Fuller. He locked down receivers whenever he was tasked with covering them, he made plays in space, and finished with a game high 13 tackles. I have no clue why he was on the bench for so long this season, but there’s no excuse for him to not suit up as a starter next weekend, be it in place of, or alongside Jordan Fuller.
- Keandre Jones, LB: Speaking of young players that should be starting, Keandre Jones may have saved this game for Ohio State with his first quarter punt block that resulted in a safety. It cut into Nebraska’s early momentum, and the Buckeyes took the lead on the following possession thanks in large part to the great field position that comes after a safety.
While watching White light it up in his first significant playing time of the season, it was hard to keep from thinking that Jones could make a similar move if given the chance in place of one of Ohio State’s linebackers, none of whom had a particularly good day (what’s new).
- Mike Weber, RB: While he did have some fumble trouble, Mike Weber was a big part of what helped Ohio State’s rushing attack finally get back on track today. He served as the big play threat while Dobbins focused on picking up decent yards consistently, which is exactly how everyone expected these talented backs to be used this season. Weber doesn’t need to see a ton of carries a game. Let Dobbins take the brunt of the carries, and let Mike break the defense open once every couple drives for a huge gain. They’re complimentary backs, and they were finally used like it today.
- Johnnie Dixon, WR: Dixon didn’t have a high volume day, only recording five catches for 96 yards and a score, but he was easily the best receiver on the field. His sure hands provided a steady target for a struggling Dwayne Haskins. While there were a few underneath throws out of reach, Dixon was open all game long, and converted on two long receptions, including a wide open 42-yard touchdown, thanks to some blocking from Terry McLaurin.
- Ohio State’s defense: Aside from a few players (like the safeties) and maybe Malik Harrison, it was a really bad day for this defense. Obviously Nebraska’s offense is improving, Adrian Martinez is crafty and tough to slow down, and they have two awesome receivers, but that’s still no excuse for Ohio State getting gashed like this. The line wasn’t able to get any push or pressure on Martinez, Pete Werner and Tuf Borland were still slow to the ball, and the cornerbacks were still unable to stop the underneath passes.
All of this, again, comes back to coaching. Ohio State’s players aren’t in a position to make plays. Putting a corner 10 yards off the ball on third-and-5 isn’t putting your players in a fair position. I understand that Ohio State’s defensive scheme revolves around man coverage, but at some point, Schiano has to realize that his stuff isn’t working. This isn’t the NFL. He already got kicked out of there. It’s pretty easy to see why right now.
- Sell: Jet sweeps. For what feels like the first time all season, a Parris Campbell jet sweep actually worked in the red zone, as he found the end zone from nine yards out. But for the rest of the game, it was more of the same. Ohio State’s line isn’t good enough to be running like that in power situations, and I wish the Buckeyes would knock it off with the sweeps, or at least throw in a play action wrinkle to keep defenses on their heels.
- Sell: Getting this dang thing fixed. Urban Meyer isn’t going to fix this team. We’re nine games into the season, and this is just what Ohio State is. A college team with a good quarterback, lots of talent on the field, and no cohesion at all. With two weeks to fix it, everything looked to same, with a slightly different shade of paint thrown on it in the form of a better running game. This isn’t a playoff team, and that’s not changing.