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).
The Buckeyes didn’t play particularly well, they didn’t cover the spread, the final outcome was iffy until well into the fourth quarter, and there are still plenty of questions to answer.
But, Ohio State won the game. It’s the third game in a row that I (and everybody else) have said that the Bucks didn’t play a strong game. Time will tell whether the 2021 version of Ohio State is a good team not playing up to par (for various reasons) or, say, an 8-4 team playing like a team about to go 8-4. Akron next week will give an opportunity, I hope, to try out some new things and some new players. That seems also to have been the case yesterday.
What a difference a week makes. Against Oregon, I said that OSU’s passing game is going great, but that they needed to find a complementary running game to achieve balance, unpredictability, and better efficiency in the red zone.
Flip it this week and C.J. Stroud played his worst game of the young season. He completed 60% of his passes (15/25) for 185 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Stroud looked tentative, unsure of himself — and of his receivers. He threw high again. He held the ball too long, leading to a sack and fumble.
Stroud’s best pass, a long shot to Chris Olave, was unfortunately called back on a hands-to-the-face penalty against offensive lineman Paris Johnson. Olave, who dropped another ball, had no receptions for the game. One would think that the young quarterback would look to the veteran star. The longest pass play in the game was only 20 yards. What happened to the big plays, like the ones against Minnesota?
On the other hand, there was a running game. Wow, was there a running game, and it’s name is TreVeyon Henderson. Henderson’s 277 yards rushing broke Archie Griffin’s freshman rushing record and was the third most rushing yards of any Buckeye runner — ever!
Henderson had runs of 48, 54, and 52 yards and nearly broke a couple of others, including the game’s first play. With 24 carries, Henderson averaged a whopping 11.5 yards per rush attempt and scored three touchdowns. With his vision, his quick cuts, and his outright speed, Henderson is that elite back that comes along (at least to places like OSU and Alabama) every so often. They need to keep him healthy, give him the ball, and get out of the way.
Master Teague also played well, I thought. We didn’t see him in the Oregon game, but, against Tulsa, Teague carried the ball 14 times for 62 yards (4.4 average); he ran hard and looked determined to play well. He lacks Henderson’s finesse and speed, but is a tough runner. The Buckeyes gained 323 yards on the ground in their best rushing effort to date.
The Bucks still need to put both phases of the offense on display in a single game. They obviously have the talent for it. But does Stroud now have a confidence issue, or is it all a product of his semi-injured shoulder?
I think that he should get some designed running plays and be given some easy throws early on. I kept waiting for him to catch fire in this game, and he didn’t. The offense (yes, Stroud) had two turnovers, and there were some drive-killing penalties. Not counting the knee to end the first half, the Buckeyes had 11 possessions: two field goals, a touchdown, a punt, and an interception in the first half.
And in the second half, they had three touchdowns, two punts, and a sack/fumble. Though Ohio State converted on six of 11 third down situations, the offense didn’t look as efficient as we’re accustomed to. And the competition wasn’t exactly playoff caliber.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate
Against Minnesota and Oregon, I gave the Buckeye defense the lowest rating that I could. I saw some improvement this week and am nudging the rating up one slot — to “adequate.”
I think that, if the OSU defense holds the opponent to 20 (or fewer) points, Ohio State will win the game. Adequate. That said, the Buckeye defense yielded 428 yards through the air and 501 total yards. Way too many. And the defense allowed Tulsa to convert on nine of 17 third-down situations. Again, there was serious trouble stopping opponents’ drives.
Watching quarterback Davis Brin hit open receivers with on-the-money throws made me think that the Tulsa quarterback had to be a Heisman candidate. But there was just really bad coverage on the part of the secondary. They had particular difficulty when Tulsa bunched three receivers to one side. The Buck defenders either allowed themselves to be picked off the play or two of the defensive backs took the same receiver, leaving at least one free. As I look through my notes from the game, the phrase “wide-open receiver” appears nearly a dozen times. A real problem.
The run defense, however, was considerably improved. The Bucks really took away the run early in the game, holding Tulsa to only 13 rushing yards in the first half and 73 for the game (2.6 yards per rushing attempt). The were several stops for losses, and it’s the defensive line that needs to be credited here.
On passing plays, the line, supported by more blitzing (especially in the second half), did better at pressuring Brin, but I would have expected, given the competition, more sacks, more hurries, more knockdowns. Again — the pass rush needs to improve, especially if the coverage remains so poor.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate
A solid effort here by the Buckeyes. Noah Ruggles made all of his kicks: five extra points and two field goals. Jesse Mirco averaged 44.3 yards for his three punts. The Buckeye coverage on both punts and kickoffs was strong. The kick returns were promising, as Wilson ran back a punt for 20 yards, and Egbuka seems to be a threat to break a kickoff return some time soon.
Although there were no really long returns, blocked punts for TDs, or anything electrifying like that, the special teams did well.
Overall rating: A Strong
Blue Chip Stocks
TreVeyon Henderson: Obviously! Henderson, as I noted above, had a record-setting game. Perhaps more importantly, he provided Buckeye fans something very positive to take away from what was, admittedly, another disappointing game. Henderson gives OSU a bright future and excitement every time the ball gets in his hands.
Tyleik Williams: Maybe a surprise here, as Williams is another freshman and one that we don’t hear much about. Only once in my Tulsa notes do I have “really big play here.” Here’s the situation. Tulsa had the ball deep into the fourth quarter after an OSU punt. The score was only 27-20, the outcome still undecided.
Tulsa had been rushing the ball successfully of late, to go with their strong passing attack. A 24-yard run set up a first down. An incomplete pass and a short rush made it 3rd and 7.
Quite frankly, I expected Tulsa to convert, like they had all game. But, big play time. Williams smashes through his blocker and sacks Brin for a big loss. Wilson then returns the punt for 20, setting the stage for some nice running by Teague and Stroud’s only TD pass (to Garrett Wilson), making it 34-20.
Williams was in the Tulsa backfield often when he was in the game. We’ll see more of him, I bet.
Cameron Martinez: Yeah, I know that Martinez was part of the coverage problems, but his pick-six in the fourth quarter put the game away. We need to see more big plays on defense.
Haskell Garrett: Again, I thought that the defensive line was better, especially against the run, and Garrett was a big part of it.
Master Teague: See above. Teague was running with a purpose. He doesn’t like sitting on the bench. Given Henderson’s performance, though, Teague’s not going to be the premier running back. But we’ll see him every third or fourth series, perhaps, and on short-yardage situations.
Ronnie Hickman: I know that he’s often criticized and is, in fact, often out of position. But he’s all over the field. He shows effort and energy. He leads in tackles, and he made an interception at the end of the first half to stop a promising Tulsa drive.
Bryson Shaw (and other defensive backs): What’s going on back there? I know that there have been some key injuries and that players are still feeling their way in new positions, but their performance makes me want to play quarterback.