After each Ohio State game during the 2022 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: 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).
With the lopsided series history between the Buckeyes and the Scarlet Knights, I didn’t expect this one to be close – and it wasn’t. Yet again, I didn’t expect Ohio State to begin each half with a major blunder, even though they dominated thoroughly the rest of the contest.
There were more mistakes than we’ve seen from Ohio State the past few weeks, as the Buckeyes committed a couple of turnovers, more penalties, and some bad judgment. Quarterback C.J. Stroud had his worst game of the season, and his receivers seemed to have trouble staying in bounds while running their routes.
Fortunately, the Bucks rushed for 252 yards, and the defense held the Scarlet Knights to 187 total yards, almost a total lockdown.
The Buckeyes are 5-0, right where we want them to be. And, with other top teams faltering a bit yesterday, OSU can make a legitimate claim for No. 1.
Overall rating: A Strong
I hesitated in my rating here, almost awarding the Buckeyes only an “adequate.” But they scored 49 points and covered the spread. “Strong” looks right. However. 413 total yards is the lowest I’ve seen from a Stroud-led team in some time. In fact, he passed for only 154 yards and two touchdowns – both numbers very low for him. He also completed only 59% of his passes and threw a bad interception, a pass that he never should have thrown, to start the second half. Throughout the game, Stroud had time to throw, but he either threw to the wrong receiver or missed an open one. Not a very good game for him. Luckily, a number of Scarlet Knight penalties, especially crucial interference calls, bailed him out.
And there was Miyan Williams, who propelled the Buckeye running attack into the stratosphere. Williams tied the program single-game rushing record with five touchdowns and electrified the stands with a 70-yard touchdown gallop.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Rutgers scored 10 points, with both the first quarter touchdown and the third quarter field goal coming on short fields, after Ohio State turnovers. In between and after – nada. The Knights had 80 yards passing and 107 rushing — many of the yards coming late in the game after the Buckeyes had pulled out their starters. Rutgers converted only one of 11 third-down situations and were zero for two on fourth down.
The Buckeye defense really stuffed the run all night, frequently stopping the ball carrier for no gain, or even a loss. They did a good job pressuring Knight QBs, although I would have liked more than two sacks. To be fair, though, the Buckeyes rarely blitzed. With a nice lead most of the way, they were content to rush four and sit back.
A number of Buck defenders played really good games. The linemen and linebackers were particularly good, and Ronnie Hickman played what I thought was his best game this season.
Overall rating: BB Adequate
“Adequate” may not quite cover it. To watch Emeka Egbuka turn his back and run towards his own goal line to try to catch a punt over his shoulder was heartbreaking. Doesn’t he know better? All year, the Buckeyes have had trouble finding someone who can field kickoffs and punts. Still looking, I guess.
Punter Jesse Mirco, in the fourth quarter and the game out of reach, ran to his right to punt the ball on the run, as he does. There was nobody there, so he ran it 22 yards for the first down. He was clobbered after going out of bounds. There was a penalty and an ejection. The two head coaches jawed, I guess about running the score up. Maybe Mirco, given the situation, should have kicked the ball anyway. But how could he?
Rutgers made bad special team plays during the entire game, but one really almost backfired. After the early Knight touchdown, they tried an onside kick. It was fielded on the fly by Buckeye wide receiver Jayden Ballard, who had clear sailing to the end zone – if he could only have stayed in bounds.
The Buckeyes made all extra-point kicks, didn’t kick any kickoffs out of bounds, and avoided penalties on special teams. Adequate.
Miyan Williams. In my mid-week column this week, I made the case for Williams as the Buckeyes’ No. 1 running back. He simply punctuated my argument. Williams ran 21 times for 189 net yards – a fantastic nine yards per carry average. He knocked guys down to score. He outran guys to score. Getting five touchdowns before the night was through. Only Buckeye legends Pete Johnson and Keith Byars had accomplished the same feat in OSU history. A hell of a game. I don’t know when TreVeyon Henderson will return, but his recovery is important to the Buckeyes. This one-two punch is the best tandem in the country.
Steele Chambers. This was his best game at linebacker. If anyone had doubted his speed or his hitting ability, they would have been disabused on Saturday. Chambers flew around the field, racking up 11 total tackles, two of them for losses. He also picked off a pass near the end of the third quarter. Interceptions are rare with this OSU defense, so it was particularly gratifying to see Chambers cap his night with one.
Zach Harrison. On a night when the Ohio State defense played so well, it’s not surprising that so many individual players played their best games. Zach Harrison was one. His key play was forcing a fumble in the first quarter when the Bucks were up only 14-7. Mike Hall, Jr. recovered, and the turnover gave the Buckeyes a short field at midfield. A 10-yard Williams run, a Rutgers penalty, and a pass to Julian Fleming put the Buckeyes ahead 21-7, and the game was over.
Ronnie Hickman. Hickman, too, played his best game of the season. Last year, we became accustomed to seeing him get double-digit tackles. The new scheme and the emergence of Tommy Eichenberg have changed that pattern, but last night Hickman had six and a dominant game.
Tommy Eichenberg. Nine tackles, great job stopping the run, solid in drop-back pass coverage, Eichenberg continues to get the job done at middle linebacker.
Julian Fleming. I thought that Fleming had another good game. He caught four passes for 51 yards and a TD. On a night when Egbuka and Marvin Harrison, Jr. didn’t seem to be at their best, it was a good thing that Fleming brought his A game to Ohio Stadium.
Denzel Burke. I didn’t recognize him at first. He tried to hide by changing his jersey number from #5 to #10. Then he got burned on Rutgers’ only touchdown. Ah, it’s Denzel Burke. He got turned around and lost his man a couple more times during the game. And those receivers and those quarterbacks aren’t going to enter any Hall of Fame. It’s interesting that opponents, who avoided Burke’s side of the field last year, are now throwing at him. I would be too. At least he didn’t have any interference calls.
J. T. Tuimoloau and Caden Curry. These guys are a couple of my favorite players, and they didn’t play badly last night. But they both committed, unnecessary, bonehead penalties. Obviously, they didn’t matter much. They didn’t affect the game’s outcome. But against Penn State? Or Michigan? Come on, guys. Get it together.
This season seems to be flying by. But 5-0 is the start that we all wanted – and, to be frank, all expected. I’m starting to worry a lot about the Buckeye injury list. Beating Rutgers without Henderson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Cam Brown, etc. is one thing. But not all of the opponents will be Rutgers. On to East Lansing for the first away game of the season. Looking for the sixth straight to take us into the bye week.