After each Ohio State game during the 2021 football season, LGHL will offer its market analysis of the Buckeyes’ performance. Using a standard bond rating system, we’ll evaluate the offense, the defense, and the special teams, according to this formula:
AA (yeah, I may also use + and -): Very Strong
BB: Facing Major Uncertainty
Then, we’ll take a look at any individual players whose performance stood out (in one way or another!) and assign them a stock rating: Blue Chip, Solid Performance, Penny Stock (akin to a junk bond, dangerously high risk).
I guess that having Garrett Wilson back on the field for the Buckeyes really does matter. He scored half of Ohio State’s eight touchdowns and was the receiver that quarterback C.J. Stroud turned to time and again.
Yes, the efficient, unstoppable Buckeye offense was back against the Boilermakers, who never showed any danger of really spoiling anything, as the Bucks scored first and then put up 28 unanswered points after Purdue tied the game at 7-7. The halftime score saw Ohio State up 45-17, and the game was essentially over.
It wasn’t just the Buckeye offense, however, that accounted for that early, lopsided score. Purdue self-destructed, with two first-half fumbles recovered by Ohio State and a shanked punt on their first possession that gave Stroud and company the ball on the Boilermakers’ 39. Why Purdue inserted former starting quarterback Jake Plummer into the game when Aidan O’Connell was moving his team down the field on its third possession, we’ll never know. But Plummer botched a handoff on his only play, resulting in a fumble, recovered by Jerron Cage at midfield. TreVeyon Henderson scampered 57 yards for a Buckeye touchdown on the next play, and the score was quickly 21-7.
With OSU’s offense playing so well, Purdue simply couldn’t recover from those costly mistakes. They were overwhelmed by the Buckeyes in the air and on the ground. Had the Boilermakers played cleanly, their offense, pretty potent all afternoon, might have made the game interesting. But when you’re forced to score a touchdown on nearly every drive in order to stay in the game, you’re in deep trouble.
The Buckeye offense had 386 yards at halftime (!) and finished with 624. The attack was much more balanced than we’ve seen of late. Stroud threw for 361 yards and five touchdowns; the rushing game generated another 263 yards (8.5 per rush) and three touchdowns.
The Ohio State running game was more imaginative, as Garrett Wilson scored on a 51-yard end around play, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba gained 49 yards on another one that was technically a forward pass. Miyan Williams actually carried the ball once more than did Henderson and gained 117 yards for the game, on a whopping 8.4 yards per carry average. Aside from his 57-yard touchdown, Henderson was sort of held in check by the Boilermaker defense, as he gained 41 yards on his other 12 carries (3.4 yards per run).
Stroud was magnificent. Last week, despite the yardage that he collected, Stroud was off his game. He made some poor decisions and didn’t read the plays as well as usual. This week was an entirely different story. He completed 82% of his passes and could do whatever he wanted. Wilson, Smith-Njigba, and Chris Olave all played games that demonstrated, once again, that Ohio State has the best group of receivers in college football.
And the offensive line? Many of us have questioned this line during the past few weeks. But they came through against Purdue. Not only was the running game reborn, but the pass blocking was superb. I don’t recall Stroud having any pressure on him at all. A very strong game for the big boys up front. No opponent had scored more than 30 against Purdue. Ohio State doubled it.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
It would be great to have a game, against a strong opponent, when both the offense and defense had stellar performances. Maybe next week, because it didn’t happen against the Boilermakers. While the offense was great, the defense struggled to slow down O’Connell’s passing attack.
For the game, Purdue amassed 28 first downs and 481 yards, 390 (29 more than OSU’s offense) through the air. They ran 71 plays to the Buckeyes’ 69 and nearly equaled their time of possession. They punted only twice and scored more points than any Ohio State opponent except Oregon.
Maybe Purdue’s offense, especially the passing offense with star David Bell, is just that good. Then again, there appeared to be several problems with the Buckeye defense. The defensive line, which has played so well the last several games, couldn’t put any pressure on Aidan O’Connell. None. No sacks. Not even many (any?) hurries. And the Bucks, apparently content to sit back in coverage, didn’t blitz. The result was that O’Connell’s day was nearly as good as Stroud’s. The Purdue quarterback completed 77% of his passes (40/52) for 390 yards and four touchdowns. If there hadn’t been those early miscues and if OSU’s offensive machine hadn’t been in high gear, this passing attack could have been disastrous for the Bucks.
David Bell? Well, he was targeted a lot and caught 11 passes for 103 yards and no touchdowns. Cornerback Denzel Burke had him one-on-one for most of the game and did a good job in controlling the damage.
The other defensive backs, though, played way too soft, allowing easy completions in front of them (and sometimes behind them). Perhaps, with the big lead, this was the strategy. But Marcus Williamson, Sevyn Banks, and Bryson Shaw all got burned.
Against Michigan State and Michigan, the defense must play better, especially with the pass rush.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate
Same old. Same old. Noah Ruggles made all of his kicks – eight extra points and a 30-yard field goal. Emeka Egbuka ran well on kick-off returns but couldn’t break one. Jesse Mirco punted only once for 40 yards. (Did he even need to shower after the game? Or just go straight to a frat party?)
Something new: wide receiver Chris Booker, on kick-off coverage, recovered a fumble at the Purdue 12 that led to another Buckeye touchdown two plays later, making the score 35-7.
No mistakes and a big play.
Overall rating: A Strong
Garrett Wilson. Wow! What a game Wilson played. He really was a difference-maker and set the offensive tone early by catching a 21-yard TD pass on Ohio State’s first possession. He went on to pull in nine more passes for 117 total receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. And it was so good to see him carry the ball on his 51-yard run. Speedy and deceptive, he’s a thrill to watch.
C.J. Stroud. Stroud sure looked cool in this game. It seemed that, with plenty of time to throw and receivers breaking open consistently, he could put the ball wherever he wanted. With Stroud and his receivers, the Buckeyes probably enjoy the college game’s most dangerous passing attack.
Miyan Williams. So good to see Williams back in the game and with the ball in his hands. At 225 pounds (230, 235?), Williams is a good complement to swift-footed Henderson. Against Purdue, Williams came into the game at the end of the first quarter, on OSU’s fourth drive. Immediately he began to run for good gains. Williams runs so hard, and he’s so strong. In the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes took over on downs at their own 24-yard line, with 7:50 left in the game. With Williams bearing the brunt of the load, they marched down the field, eating the clock, Stroud finally taking a knee at the Purdue 6 (then again at the 8 to end the game). They controlled the ball – mainly on the ground – for half of a quarter. For most of the season, Ohio State hasn’t been able to do that.
The offensive line. They played much, much better. Without their effort, the Buckeye offense, in all of its dimensions, wouldn’t have clicked as it did.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba. While we’re still shaking our heads over Wilson’s performance, we should note that Smith-Njigba was actually Ohio State’s leading receiver for the game. He caught nine passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. When Wilson, Olave, and Smith-Njigba line up in trips to one side, the defense seems helpless. Smith-Njigba’s second quarter touchdown was on just such a play.
Chris Olave. Again, Olave provided steady, if not spectacular, play and provided yet another target for Stroud. Although his longest play was only 13 yards, Olave gained 85 yards on nine receptions. And he scored a touchdown, as he continues to inch closer to the Buckeye record for career receiving touchdowns.
Denzel Burke. I wondered for quite awhile about where to put Burke for his handling of David Bell. Yeah, Bell caught 11 passes, and Burke got called once on an interference, but, all in all, I thought that he did a decent job on one of the country’s best wideouts. Who would have thought, when the season began, that this freshman would be the guy to get man coverage on the opponent’s top receiver?
The interior defensive line. While the defense held the Boilermakers to 91 net yards rushing (a 4.8 average), they were simply unable to do anything against the Purdue offensive line that would affect O’Connell’s passing. Without an effective pass rush, the Ohio State secondary (suspect to begin with) had a lot of trouble in coverage.
Things don’t get any easier the next two weeks, but this one was a good win for Ohio State, as they stay on track to accomplish their season goals.