No matter who is on the sidelines, the Ohio State Buckeyes keep doing their thing: winning. On Saturday, the modus operandi to OSU’s winning ways continued to be the arm of quarterback Dwayne Haskins. In the first half, Haskins had five scores and over 300 yards through the air. That was more than enough for the Bucks to tame the Tulane Green Wave, 49-6.
This, for all practical purposes, was a tune-up game for next week’s showdown against Penn State. The Buckeyes-Nittany Lions meeting in primetime could very well be for who’ll take home the Big Ten East crown at season’s end. So, with Tulane being the last hurdle before Penn State, let’s take a look at what we learned in the Buckeyes’ latest victory.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Haskins may very well be the best passer in Ohio State history. With Urban Meyer coming back to the sideline, there was maybe a slim possibility that the head coach would nudge Haskins to be a more balanced QB, rather than being a gunslinger. Against Tulane, it appears that Meyer is letting the redshirt sophomore do what he does best.
In the first half, Haskins hit 87.5 percent of his passes en route to another 300-yard afternoon in The Horseshoe. On top of that, five touchdowns were lobbed by the Maryland native. The passing game was one one of the very (very) bright spots from the OSU team when Ryan Day was the interim head coach. Now back full-time, Meyer appears to be picking up right where Day left off.
No matter who he was throwing to, there was beauty in Haskins’ passes. Whether he was throwing down the sideline to Austin Mack or Parris Campbell, everyone was making the most of their opportunities. Campbell hauled in eight reception off of nine targets; Mack had a much better game against Tulane than he did against TCU, as he hauled in three passes on four targets.
Already through the first four games, Haskins has 16 TDs—the second most ever in Big Ten history through the first four games of a season—and 1,194 passing yards. If Haskins can keep this up, he’ll have no trouble passing Joe Germaine’s 1998 single-season passing mark of 3,330 yards.
Next man up
Earlier in the week, it was announced that defensive end Nick Bosa would be out for an undisclosed amount of time after undergoing surgery for a core muscle injury. While he may not have a timetable for a return yet, Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell had core muscle surgery awhile back, and was projected to be out six weeks. So, expect Bosa to be out for some period of time, which will more thank likely include next week against PSU. Additionally, defensive tackle Robert Landers sat out the game slightly hobbled.
On the bright side, the “next man up” mentality is once again in effect for the Buckeye defense. Against Tulane, four sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss were recorded. Chase Young gobbled up Green Wave QB Jonathan Banks on an option keeper for a 5-yard loss. Baron Browning and Tyler Friday both had sacks against Banks throughout the game, and when Banks was out, Keandre Jones and Dante Booker picked up sacks against Justin McMillan.
Even with Tulane running an option style offense—and with Penn State on the horizon—the Buckeye defense showed up and put a kibosh to most of the plays. Tulane only posted 156 yards of passing and a Benjamin Franklin (100 yards even) on the ground. All in all, it was a good trial run for the defense without Bosa.
Next week, things will be much more difficult when OSU travels to State College, Penn. for a game against their “rival.” But, a tune-up game to see what does and doesn’t work for a reorganized D-line was certainly beneficial in preparation with the Nittany Lions.
Big plays aren’t just for the Green Wave
While the OSU defense held Tulane to under 300 yards of total offense, giving up big plays still proved to be a problem for the Scarlet and Gray.
There's gonna be a loooooooooooot of points scored next week. pic.twitter.com/60R3vhAF4x— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 22, 2018
On a good note: OSU didn’t give up any 40-plus yard plays against the Green Wave. On a bad note: they gave up three plays that went for either 38 or 39 yards. Banks had two passes that accounted for 38 and 39, and Corey Dauphine had a 38-yard rush with about six minutes left in the game. I’m willing to let the Dauphine run slide because the game was basically over at that point; I’m also willing to let the 39-yard pass to Darnell Mooney slide as well because it was midway through the third quarter, and again, the game was practically over—and starters were already long out of the game. But at the tail end of the first quarter, Banks had his 38-yard pass that enabled Tulane’s lone score of the game.
The Buckeyes graduated from this issue being an anomaly to it now being a legitimate cause for concern. At this point, if anything gets passed the OSU defensive line, there’s a 50/50 chance of it being a huge play or being just stopped for a medium gain. The Green Wave had five of their 42 rushes go for 10 yards or more, with three of them coming in the first half.
In the air, four passes out of 16 attempts were completed for 15 yards or more. Tulane does run a variation of the option, and it can be a beast to defend. In years passed, Ohio State has had issues with Army, Navy or any other option-based program, and gave up the occasional big play—and it wasn’t a cause for concern. But this time around, it’s happened not only against the option team, but in all of OSU’s games. Oregon State had a few big plays go for touchdowns, and TCU had a school-record TD rush last week against the Buckeyes.
By almost every measure, Penn State is a better team than TCU. If things don’t tighten up for the Buckeye defense, then there is a high probability that even more big plays will happen next week when OSU travels into a hostile, “white out” environment. That could be enough to change the momentum of the game. Expect next week to be a high scoring affair.
Return of the Mack
Last week was a tough weekend for normally sured-handed wide receiver Austin Mack. It seemed like he was dropping all sorts of passes, and Buckeye drives stalled out because of it. Even though he did have four catches for 84 yards, he had nine targets—the most out of any OSU receiver that night in Arlington, Texas.
Fortunately, that game is in the rear-view mirror, and his efforts against Tulane had a much better outcome.
FYI: Austin Mack has incredible hands pic.twitter.com/BROTERLxX7— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 22, 2018
Now, he didn’t have the same yardage output as last week, but when the ball was in the vicinity, Mack hauled it in. His touchdown grab showed that he’s shaken off the sting of the drops against the Horned Frogs, and he is back to being Austin Mack, big-play receiver.
Three catches for 32 yards on four targets with a TD was a good comeback effort for Mack. Next week, Penn State will probably clamp down on Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin, so someone will need to step up down the stretch to make some plays.
Holding the thunder and lightning
After the Week 1 win against Oregon State, things were looking great for the running duo of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins. Weber had a career-high 186 yards on the ground against the Beavers, and added three scores to boot.
Since then, the effectiveness of the RBs has decreased. Last week, both rushers had 18 carries, with Dobbins having a 121-yard effort against the Horned Frogs. But it seems like the opposing defenses are finding ways to stop the alternating attack of Dobbins and Weber. Things may become even less effective for the OSU running game as Weber left the action against Tulane in the second quarter. It appeared that he limped off the field, so if there’s any nagging injuries, that could cause Weber to not get as many reps throughout the week—or even in the next game.
On Saturday, Tate Martell showed his ability to take off and get yards, and Demario McCall showed glimpses of what he could if given the ball as a rusher. The RB room is stacked full of talent, but if line protection doesn’t give them a chance to take off, the thunder and lightning of the Buckeye rushing attack will be quelled.