In his first game as acting head coach, Ryan Day led the Ohio State Buckeyes to a very convincing victory against the Oregon State Beavers, 77-31. Day, who was the co-offensive coordinator prior to being bumped up to interim HC, showed his offensive genius in Saturday’s Week 1 win. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins did quarterback things that haven’t been seen in out of a Buckeye QB in awhile; he passed for 313 and five touchdowns, both records for a first-time OSU starter. On the ground, running back Mike Weber had a career-high afternoon against the Beavs, rushing for 186 and 3 TDs.
On Monday, Day was back at the podium to brief the press on the win, as well as to look ahead to the upcoming matchup with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. This week’s presser wasn’t as long as last week’s, but there was substantial information addressed. Here are the five biggest takeaways from Day’s second weekly press conference of the season.
1. “Jordan [Fuller] was a game-time decision coming down to the field...We felt like it was better to hold him, so we made that decision, and he’s getting treatment today and obviously this weekend so looking forward to getting him in practice this week and going from there.”
Jordan Fuller was listed as a starting safety entering the Oregon State game, but he didn’t start due to what was announced as a hamstring injury.
Jordan Fuller at safety when he's healthy - out with hamstring today - will make a major difference. He's best player in secondary. But he's just one man.— Doug Lesmerises (@DougLesmerises) September 1, 2018
At times, the Buckeyes’ secondary looked lost. In one of the bigger plays of the game, Oregon State’s Trevon Bradford took a mid-range reception for a first down (about 10 yards) all the way to the house for a 49-yard touchdown. Lapses in the secondary can pass in the early games, but in big games like TCU and Penn State, that cannot be the case.
Having Fuller back there would help anchor down the coverage with experience. Some issues on Saturday involved guys taking the wrong angle on the ball—allowing a “chunk” play to take hold. If Fuller is ruled out again this week versus Rutgers, expect a similar result on pass defense.
This Saturday will be the second game in a row where the Buckeye DBs will be working against a comparatively inexperienced quarterback. Oregon State was doing work with a backup QB, since their starter, Jake Luton, was knocked out of the game after the first series. Freshman signal-caller Artur Sitkowski started last week for Rutgers, and threw for 205 yards on 20-of-30 passing against Texas State.
The Texas State Bobcats are a very different team compared to Ohio State, Sitkowski did get acclimated to how the college game operates. Will he throw for 200 yards against OSU? Not likely. But if Fuller is still out, Sitkowski may find some success against the Buckeye secondary.
2. “I think it will change as we go into each week and what we see with the defense. We want to kinda get [Tate Martell] in the game. How it plays out, can’t really predict how that’s going to work, but we definitely want to get him in the game and let him go play.”
With Ohio State in clear winning distance on Saturday, Tate Martell saw time on the field. That may not be the last of the Las Vegas product, as Day reaffirmed that he wants to try and get Martell more in-game snaps.
Against the Beavers, Martell went 3-of-4 passing for 33 yards, with a 15-yard pass being his long for the afternoon. On the ground, he had two carries for a total of four yards.
With the Meyer playbook, the QB was utilized more on the run. If that formula is still the case, there’s a good chance that both Haskins and Martell will operate with the same packages this week—assuming Martell sees the field. Though, if I were a betting man, I would count on Martell seeing snaps against the Scarlet Knights. In the last two meetings, Rutgers has been goose egged twice, while giving up at least 56 points in each meeting.
Day won’t bust open the playbook that much against Rutgers, as you’d want to break out the good stuff when you absolutely need to. If the QB run game were to be tested, this week’s game would be a good place to see what works/doesn’t, and see which QB has the better ability to make those plays.
3. “So yeah, ‘it’s kind of Coach [Urban Meyer] is back,’ and we’re going with Coach, and once we get to the game, the decisions are almost made before we get there.”
Monday was the first day back for head coach Urban Meyer, who can’t coach on game day for the next two contests, but is able to coach the team in practices. However, it appears that what Meyer and co. are working to be even more prepared going into Saturday than they normally would be; which is saying something.
Obviously, Day will have to be the one to the pressure-filled, in-game decisions against the Scarlet Knights, but Day made it seem like he would be sticking to a more Meyer-designed gameplan on Saturday.
Last week during his presser, Day said the in-game decisions were to be determined with help from Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson. While that will most certainly be the case this week as well, you have to wonder if having Meyer back at practice this week will change how the game-day assistants make decisions against Rutgers.
For example, Dwayne Haskins was primarily a throwing quarterback against Oregon State; having only two runs, both scrambles. Will we see more QB-designed reads this week with Meyer back? Hopefully not, but we’ll have to wait until 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday to find out.
4. “Great hand-eye coordination. So his work ethic, to go along with that has been excellent. And he’s got great guys in a room to follow..Proud of where he [Chris Olave] is, and you’ll see him at some point have an impact on the season.”
Wide receiver is a place that OSU might benefit from some longterm planning this season. The WR talent on this year’s team is phenominal. Between K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell, Austin Mack and Terry McLaurin, there are guys on this team that can haul in the ball.
But, after this season, graduation and the NFL will be calling—leaving a void. One person on the roster that hasn’t been mentioned heavily just yet, but could become an impact player later in the season, is Chris Olave.
Day said he liked the hand-eye coordination and the work ethic from the freshman. More importantly, though, he said that he’ll have an impact at some point this season. I take this to mean that Olave is going to see some real time on the field in meaningful games. It’s not entirely out of the question that he could become a deep-ball threat against TCU or Penn State, especially with Haskins keeping the passes short and sweet in Week 1.
5. “If you’re playing fast, and you’re playing in rhythm and the guys are taking the underneath stuff — we called some plays that in certain coverages would dictate throwing a post or seam or down the field but because the coverage was softer you saw us come underneath and get some completions.”
Speaking of passing, Haskins didn’t take that many deep shots against the Beavs.
Despite Dwayne Haskins' big arm, the Ohio State offense was fairly conservative against Oregon State. All but one of Haskins' attempts was within 20 yards of the LOS. Keeping some tricks up their sleeve, perhaps? pic.twitter.com/yLFoCxqVrO— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) September 3, 2018
CFB Film Room plotted Haskins’ throws, and found that only one of his passes was beyond 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. Day attributed that to Oregon State playing soft coverage, and leaving room underneath to complete the short yardage throws.
Day also said that when running tempo on offense, a deep incomplete pass can cause delays that gets a team out of rhythm. So, if a defense is more or less conceding the underneath routes, and you are trying to go fast, there’s no reason to force the ball deep.
Combine that with the Beavers being without their star safety due to injury, and the whole defense was being held together by a string. Haskins (and Ohio State) didn’t need to rely on the deep pass to win this game. But if the situation changes this week or next—against TCU— then expect to see Haskins become Cardale 2.0.
With defenses focusing on the short game, that leaves Haskins to launch (and hopefully complete) the big throws in the big games. He did it against Michigan, and I don’t doubt that he’ll do the same to the Horned Frogs, Nittany Lions, or even the Scarlet Knights.