The Ohio State Buckeyes picked up where they left off. They capped last season with a dominant Cotton Bowl win against Pac-12 institution USC. This season, they opened it with another impressive win against a member of the Pac-12, the Oregon State Beavers.
For the West Coast version of OSU, it was a long day inside The Horseshoe. On top of playing three time zones away from what they are used to, they faced an Ohio State squad that was absolutely loaded for bear. As a matter of fact: The Bucks’ defensive line may have very well been bears, as they applied pressure to Beaver quarterbacks Jake Luton and Conor Blount often.
First games are always a little tricky; everyone is excited to be on the field, and miscues are going to happen. But for the most part, this Ohio State team looked really good against Oregon State. Granted, the Beavers’ secondary is basically being held together by Scotch tape and Band-aids, the Buckeyes showed glimpses of what is to come this season.
Past seasons of Ohio State football have been heavily built around the read-option. Whether it was Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett, the QB-read was always the go-to play. With Cardale Jones, we saw what was possible if the Buckeyes’ QB had a rocket for an arm. Sure, Barrett could pass, too, but his strengths stayed a bit closer to the ground.
With Dwayne Haskins, he is the antithesis of what we’ve come to know in the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State: he has a rocket for an arm, and passing appears to be his first thought, rather than tucking the ball for a run.
In the first half against Oregon State, Haskins was on a roll. At one point, he was 10-of-11 for two touchdowns. By the time halftime arrived, he compiled 164 yards and three scores, going 14-for-18 in the process. Guess how many first half carries Haskins had? Zero.
Amazing what happens when you let your QB pass.
The Dwayne Haskins era has started off well. Quick release, great placement on two throws to start the game. pic.twitter.com/Tf8sMgY8mG— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 1, 2018
On the receiving end, everyone was getting in on the show. Before going to the halftime break, K.J. Hill had four receptions and 61 yards on four targeted passes. Terry McLaurin had a trio of catches (off three targets) for 46 yards and a score. Austin Mack and Parris Campbell both hauled in a pair of catches of their own.
The McLaurin-Haskins connection wasn’t done after the first half. On the very first play after the interminable weather-delayed halftime, Haskins hit McLaurin with a nice, easy little 10-yard completion. However, after McLaurin caught the ball, he found space down the near sideline and turned it into a touchdown—collecting 75 yards of real estate in the process.
When the game finally ended (that weather delay extended halftime by 73 minutes), Haskins had 313 passing yards on 22-of-30 throwing. He netted five TDs and had one interception. Overall, a very good opening day for the first time Buckeye starter.
One of the issues that OSU had last year was its tendency to get very one-dimensional in games. In the loss to Iowa, Barrett seemed like the only guy that was allowed to make plays, whether that be on the ground or in the air. That plan works well, up until it doesn’t. (And against Iowa, it didn’t work well—at all.)
Now, or at least in the Ryan Day era, there seems to be a recognition of what’s around. Basically, it’s the football equivalent of shedding object permanence. For those that don’t know what object permanence is, it’s when objects still exist, even though they can’t be seen/perceived. An example would be when you play peekaboo with a baby, and the baby seems shocked to see your face after you stop covering your face. That’s what object permanence is.
Even though Haskins can run, there is a recognition that, yes, there are very capable running backs on the team who can do it better. Let Haskins throw the ball, and the rushers rush the ball, and things will be golden.
Literally, if Ohio State keeps this up, they will be a contender to not only win the Big Ten Championship, but will have a legitimate shot to hold that golden national championship trophy in Santa Clara, Calif. when the season is over.
The alternating attack on the ground
With Haskins doing work in the air, the job of getting a steady running game going got a little easier. When you keep alternating fresh running backs, the job gets a lot easier.
Yes, Oregon State’s defense is not a world-beating unit by any stretch of the imagination, but J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber more than proved what they are capable of doing.
Weber led the ground game in the first half; he had eight carries for 92 yards and two scores. One of those TDs went through the Beavs’ defense for 49 yards. Dobbins picked up 51 yards on 10 carries before halftime, bringing the main duo’s first half rushing totals to 143 yards and two TDs.
We also saw a little bit of freshman rusher Brian Snead, who came to OSU as the No. 3 RB in the 2018 recruiting class, and redshirt quarterback Tate Martell. Whether or not Snead will ultimately get the redshirt remains to be seen, but Ohio State has more than enough talent in the backfield to complement what Haskins can do in the air. Especially if they somehow utilize Martell in a wildcat package, that’s just another weapon this offense has at its disposal.
Oh yeah, and Master Teague had six rushes for 56 yards and a TD. The rushing options in Columbus are insane. There is no reason why they can’t continuously run up a tab of 200 yards on the ground each game.
It doesn’t take long to score
If we’re being honest: garbage time began when the second half began. Even with that notion, Ohio State still didn’t waste time moving down the field. Putting points on the board was the goal in Week 1, and boy, did the Bucks deliver.
In fact, they delivered fast. These were the drive distances for the Buckeyes’ first eight(!) touchdowns against the Beavers.
Ohio State TD Drive Times
|Quarter||Time||Plays-Yards||Time of Possesion|
|Quarter||Time||Plays-Yards||Time of Possesion|
Three of these TDs came off what could be considered “chunk plays.” A chunk play is any play that goes for over 10 yards on the ground, or 15 in the air. The McLaurin TD catch in the third quarter was the only chunk passing TD; but both of Weber’s scores came from chunk distances.
But a big reason for why the Bucks moved down the field was that they had chunk plays all around. Leading up to that 75-yard strike with McLaurin, Haskins had five other chunk pass completions. Those passes included receptions by Mack and Hill, in addition to McLaurin.
With the added ability of Dobbins or Weber to break off a big run seemingly at will, stopping explosive plays will be one of the keys every opposing defense will stress when preparing for Ohio State. Allow the Buckeye offense to gain confidence, and you’ll have a long day (or night) ahead of you.
Oregon State found that out on Saturday, and I feel like they won’t be the only team this season to experience the wrath of the Scarlet and Gray offense.
Oregon State posted 31 points against the Buckeyes. Coming into the game, you had to assume that they would score some points, but the way— and the frequency with which— they scored them is a cause for concern.
Their first TD was a 49-yard reception early in the first quarter. Trevon Bradford hauled in the ball over the middle and caught OSU’s surprise starting corner Jahsen Wint changing direction. Combine the two and that’s the formula for a runaway receiver.
In the second half, Artavis Pierce broke off two TDs in almost back-to-back fashion. The problem there was that the starting position for both rushes were, practically, in Corvallis, Ore. Pierce scored from 78 yards almost untouched, and then took one from 80 yards out in near identical fashion. On just 11 carries, Pierce had 168 yards on the day. That’s almost 100 yards more (and four carries less) than what Dobbins’ output was on Saturday. Compared to Weber, Pierce was only off by 18 yards.
Transitioning a little bit: Starting quarterback Jake Luton got injured on the first series, and Connor Blount came in and proceeded to throw 169 yards and two scores. Even in the passing game, the Beavs saw glimmers of success against a defense that has been known to be stingy. The further away Oregon State got from Ohio State’s defensive line, the better their outcome was going to be.
I’d like to believe that this is just Game One jitters from the defense. The cobwebs have to be shaken off at some point, and instead of getting a Group of Five program to play against, the Bucks were faced with an Oregon State team that desperately wanted to erase the 1-11 memory of a year ago. I think playing a Power 5 team in Week 1 attributed at least in part to the mistakes being exposed more so, than if Tulane or Tulsa would’ve been the opening opponent for Ohio State.
But, with those mistakes now known, how will they get resolved?
If punts make you nervous, then I have some very bad news for you. With C.J. Saunders back fielding the punts, I have these sharp, vivid flashbacks to every punt that has gone awry in the past 10 seasons.
Against Oregon State, a catch interference was a false alarm. However, when Saunders’ muffed (and lost) the next punt, all of these negative memories came flooding back in one gigantic wave.
Saunders lost the handle after Damon Arnette got in front of him, and appeared to interfere with Saunders’ ability to field the punt clean. While it was an inconsequential turnover with the game already on pace to be out of reach (it was 21-7 at the time), special teams miscues have cost Ohio State in the past. Notably, the team who makes the special team mistakes in the Ohio State-Penn State showdown tends to lose the game in some looney, heartbreaking fashion.
Demario McCall was slated as the guy to be back their on punt returns. He did get his chance later against Oregon State, and looks to be the guy that should be back there from here on out. McCall’s one return went 26 yards, and showed his promise at making the highlight reel play.