Each week, following the Ohio State football game, Land-Grant Holy Land will evaluate the Buckeyes’ performance on offense, defense, and special teams. We’ll use a standard investment rating system:
AA: Very Strong
BB: Faces Major Uncertainty
We will also rate individual performances for those players who stand out — one way or the other.
Blue Chips: Cream of the crop
Safe Stocks: Solid investment
Penny Stocks: dangerously speculative
Well, the Buckeyes won, though for awhile they gave us reason for doubt. Neither the offense nor the defense played particularly well in the first half, but then Ohio State put up 35 points in the second half, as talent and team speed prevailed.
Things got off to a good (and quick) start for Ohio State, as Miyan Williams scampered for 71 yards and a touchdown on the Bucks’ first possession. I saw a turning point, of sorts, however, on the second possession, when C.J. Stroud missed a wide-open Garrett Wilson on a second-down play. That was followed by a third-down pass for no gain and a field goal.
Ohio State was up 10-0, but no longer looked unstoppable. Moreover, they still had the ball on that second possession when the first quarter ended. The only other two possessions of the first half yielded an interception on a badly-thrown ball to Olave, and a three-and-out.
First half (four possessions): One touchdown. One field goal. Bucks down 14-10 at the half.
The second half was a differrent story altogether, as the Buckeye offense put up 28 points (the defense adding a TD of its own) on big, big plays. Stroud seemed more comfortable as he relied on his stars to excel. Olave, Wilson, and TreVeyon Henderson all looked very sharp and a long step ahead of the Gophers in terms of talent.
Second half (six possessions): Four TDs, a three-and-out, and one final drive to run out the clock. Ohio State wins 45-31.
We hoped that it would be better; It wasn’t.
I’m not surprised that Mohamed Ibrahim got his yards. After all, he’s one of the best running backs in the country. He racked up 163 yards on 30 carries for a 5.4 average and two TDs. The troubling stat here, for me, is not the number of yards or the average. It’s the number of carries.
Since Ibrahim was hurt before the third quarter ended, he carried the ball 30 times in three quarters! I know that many will argue that time of possession is an overrated statistic, but Minnesota had the ball for 38:41 to OSU’s 21:10. They accumulated 24 first downs and 408 total yards. Most importantly, they converted eight of 14 third-down attempts — and then there was the 56-yard conversion on fourth and one (a gutsy call, to be sure).
Simply put, the Buckeye defense couldn’t get the Gophers off the field. Ball control was Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck’s game plan, and it almost worked against the highly ranked Buckeyes.
The pass rush wasn’t what we expected either. A couple of sacks, but Morgan got his passes off quickly to generally open receivers. I know that Ohio State was missing a couple of projected starters, but, really? Maybe Minnesota is just better than we thought. We’ll find out soon enough because Oregon should test this defense even more.
Bright moments? The Bucks did get a strip fumble for a touchdown and recovered another fumble on a controversial call late in the game. They also would have had an interception, if not for a rouching the passer penalty. Overall, the defense disappointed.
I don’t remember a game when special teams played such an insignificant role in a college football game. There were no missed kicks, no blocked kicks, no substantial run backs. Ohio State returned one (for one yard) of only three Gopher punts and returned only one kickoff for 19 yards. I know that the fair catch rule and the fear of return-team penalties have taken the kickoff out of the game, but there’s really nothing to report on special teams.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson: I list them together becuase they’re so complementary. Great route runners. Great hands. Together, they caught nine passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Long touchdowns, too, making for exciting plays that we’ll see all season.
TreVeyon Henderson: All that he’s cracked up to be. Fast. Runs hard.
Miyan Williams: His speed surprises.
Josh Proctor played well on defense, as did Teradja Mitchell and Haskell Garrett.
The whole offensive line played well. No sacks. Little pressure on Stroud. Big holes on running plays.
C.J. Stroud made some mistakes: bad passes, bailing too soon. But he settled down and will continue to get better with more experience.
Ronnie Hickman made 11 tackles, and I also think that we’ll see him get better at reading plays and covering his man.
Zach Harrison had a nice strip, but we need to see more tackles for loss from him and the vaunted Buckeye front four.
I’m not putting anybody in this category based on one game in the rain. I have my eye on some folks, but everybody gets a second chance — just this once.