So far this season, the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes have looked pretty good. In Week 1 against Oregon State, the Scarlet and Gray tallied 77 points, but gave up 31. In Week 2 versus the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the Bucks appeared to fix the mistakes from last week.
The defensive secondary stifled the pass; the defensive line terrorized whomever was at quarterback, as well as running back Raheem Blackshear. Buckeye QB Dwayne Haskins, unsurprisingly, looked very good—again.
Here’s five things we learned from Ohio State’s latest victory.
Haskins for Heisman?
After a breakout game in Week 1, Haskins proved that he could keep the numbers up in Week 2. He didn’t even play the whole game, but put up some video game numbers. On the afternoon, Haskins went 20-of-23 for 233 yards and four (!) scores.
With Haskins at the helm, five completions went for “chunk” yardage, with the longest being a 44-yard TD to Johnnie Dixon. That wasn’t Dixon’s first haul of the afternoon; on Haskins’ third throw of the game, Dixon was the recipient of a 38-yard score.
Well, that was fun... Haskins to Dixon for six! pic.twitter.com/gLKdEbPw0k— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 8, 2018
Even though it was against the imposter-OSU Beavers and a lowly Rutgers team, the first two games of the Haskins era have people believing in his Heisman potential. On Tuesday, the Potomac, Md., native had the third best Heisman Trophy odds, according to Bovada. Will Grier and Tua Tagovailoa may have entered the week as the favs in front of Haskins, but surely, that has to change next week when the new odds come.
A byproduct of Haskins piling up the passing yards is that the receivers get experience. Last season—at least in the early going—the receiving corps looked rusty and inexperience at times. With a bonafide passer in Haskins, those receivers are consistently getting targeted for passes, which makes them better.
Six receivers had at least three receptions on Saturday, with Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill leading the unit at five apiece. In terms of yardage, Johnnie Dixon was the leader; he torched the Rutgers’ defense for a game-leading 89 yards.
When the passing game has defenses on the ropes, life gets easier all around on offense. In years past, the passing game has been an afterthought. Heck, Woody Hayes wasn’t a believer in the pass attack, but, if he saw what Haskins could do, he may be willing to over look the two bad things that can happen when you throw.
The Buckeye offense has been a runaway train so far this season. When they get going, you might as well pack it up and go home. Oregon State learned that last week; Rutgers learned it this week.
Of the eight OSU scoring drives against the Scarlet Knights, five of them ended in touchdowns being scored within three minutes. All five of those “three-minute drills” needed to go at least 45 yards for the score. Here’s the complete table of Buckeye TD scoring drives below.
TD drives vs. Rutgers
|Quarter||Time||Plays-Yards||Time of Posession|
|Quarter||Time||Plays-Yards||Time of Posession|
At one point, there were four straight drives for OSU that ended in touchdowns. That’s the thing of nightmares for an opposing defensive coordinator. How do you stop something that doesn’t show any signs of stopping? The passing attack is orchestrated on-field by Haskins, and he has a ton of able receivers; on the ground, the duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber look to be unstoppable when they need to get going. And then you have Tate Martell as a running/passing option (more on him in a bit).
In total, the Scarlet and Gray had 13 total drives. Only two of them ended in three-and-outs. No matter who was at QB (Haskins or Martell), the offense operated smoothly. In comparison: five of Rutgers six drives of the game were three-and-outs.
There’s an old adage: “Give an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” In this case, if you give this Buckeye offense an inch, they’ll take all the field that’s in front of them—and score as many points as humanly possible.
The true vaunted defense
During last week’s Notre Dame-Michigan game, there was numerous mentions to the Wolverines having a vaunted defense. That “vaunted” defense ended up giving up 24 points in a loss—and looked like swiss cheese most of the night.
Through two weeks of the season, it appears that the true vaunted defense is about a couple hundred miles south of Ann Arbor, and resides in Columbus.
While Rutgers is no Notre Dame, the Buckeyes frontline did what they were predicted to do in the preseason: shut down the opposing offense.
Nick Bosa and Chase Young terrorized quarterback Artur Sitkowski and running back Raheem Blackshear on a rainy, wet Saturday. Young had a pair of sacks, and nearly forced a fumble on one of them— well, he did force it, the refs just screwed up the review. Bosa added a sack of his own to end the half, which would cause Sitkowski, a true freshman, to not return in the second half. Those two combined for all of the sacks in the game, and caused all sorts of havoc to the RU offense. Of the 13 drives Rutgers had, six were three-and-outs, and the average starting distance was at the RU22.
Chase Young.. my goodness. 2H swipe, the footwork and hips turning the corner.. whew pic.twitter.com/oCrqWNTQ9x— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 8, 2018
With the OSU D consistently busting through the line, Sitkowski was forced to make screen plays and quick throws. Neither was very effective. Sitkowski completed 6-of-18 passes for a measly 38 yards. His backup, fifth-year senior Giovanni Rescigno, didn’t do any better. He went 5-of-12 for 27 yards, but did lead the Scarlet Knights on a field goal drive.
Blackshear led the rushing attack, going for 31 yards on nine carries. It should be noted, though, that 15 of those yards came on a single rush.
Only two receivers caught more than one pass. Blackshear had three for a whopping 12 yards; Bo Melton hauled in two receptions for an astounding seven yards. No receiver had over 15 yards of receiving. Think about that: Of the eight receivers who caught passes, none of them had a game-total of 15 receiving yards. Great defense or bad offense? I think it’s more defense than offense.
Both Rutgers QBs slung picks, with Kendall Sheffield and Shaun Wade tallying an interception apiece.
If the Buckeye offense was causing defensive coordinators to have nightmares of Haskins throwing at will, then the Buckeye defense has to have offensive coordinators twisting and turning in their sleep, with the image of Bosa and Young gobbling their QBs.
lol we have two QBs that can do it all
I said we’d talk about Tate Martell a little bit ago. Let’s talk about him now.
In relief work, he led the Buckeyes on the ground. Let me repeat that: the backup QB had more rushing yards than Dobbins and Weber. He had nine carries on the ground for 95 yards and a touchdown. That rushing TD from 47 yards out came three plays after he was walloped by Damon Haynes. (Martell was shaken up, and Haynes was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul).
Rushing aside, Martell had a perfect afternoon throwing the ball. He went 10-of-10 for 121 yards and a TD. That passing TD was no short-range connection either; he found Terry McLaurin for a 51-yard strike in the waxing minutes of the second quarter.
As a whole unit, the QBs went 30-of-33 for 354 yards and five passing TDs. If something were to happen to Haskins, then Martell could easily fill the role as starter.
This is giving me memories of 2014, when after J.T. Barrett got hurt, we all witnessed that backup quarterback Cardale Jones could lead that team. While we are nowhere near the College Football Playoff, knowing that your backup QB can be effective is always a good thing to learn. It enables you to breathe a sigh of relief, instead of what happened in 2014, where you finally knew what your backup could do in a conference title game.
Knowing what both QBs can do this early doesn’t give it movie script drama, but it does make the job of Ryan Day and Urban Meyer a little bit easier.
Hold me tight
One of the only downsides to the game was the punt returning. This always seems to be the bugaboo for Ohio State teams. No matter who is coaching or who is receiving, this century has brought us uncertainty at what to expect on the punt return.
Last week, I called for Demario McCall to be the punt man. He had one return for 26 yards against Pac-12 OSU, and didn’t fumble (and lose) a return like C.J. Saunders did. Against Rutgers, however, McCall had two bad handles on punts. He didn’t lose them, but he came close on the first one. On both returns, McCall racked up a total of six return yards.
Saunders returned three punts for a total of 29 yards, but even he had dramatic returns. On his first, a Rutgers defender bumped into him on a fair catch. While no fault of his own, we just assume that something will not go according to plan on OSU punts. On another return, however, he was one broken tackle away from his best Ted Ginn Jr. impersonation.
Folks, fielding punts is still a problem for OSU. Hopefully, that’ll get solved sometime soon.