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).
Before this game began, I was wondering if Ohio State would resolve the offensive issues that emerged last week against Iowa: the absence of red zone touchdowns and the absence of a running game generally. Unfortunately, both problems persisted.
Although the Buckeyes enjoyed a 20-point lead until there was only a minute left in the game, they hardly dominated. The Nittany Lions had more first downs, more passing yards, more rushing yards, and a wide margin in time of possession. But they also had four turnovers (to OSU’s none) and, most importantly, fewer points.
We shouldn’t forget that Penn State is a good team and that Happy Valley isn’t a happy place for most opponents. The Nits stopped the Buckeye run game and made some big, explosive plays on their own – through the air – exploiting an OSU weakness.
And Ryan Day helped them. I thought that there was some very suspect offensive playcalling. But Tuimoloau (and others) on defense, along with Marvin Harrison, Jr., on offense, saved the day. It’s said that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The Bucks survived. We’ll see if they’re stronger as the season winds down and heads to the Thanksgiving week showdown.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate (i.e., good enough to win)
In many ways, Ohio State’s offense was better against Penn State than against the Hawkeyes last week. Quarterback C.J. Stroud was sharper and made better decisions on his throws. The Bucks gained more yards, and TreVeyon Henderson had a 41-yard breakaway touchdown. But the running game was again unreliable (less than 100 yards total) and seemed to collapse when Miyan Williams was hurt at the end of the first quarter with the Buckeyes leading 10-0.
With Harrison seemingly always open and the middle of the field available, the Bucks were determined to try wide-receiver screens. Five of them? All failures. Cade Stover, who otherwise had a strong game, couldn’t get his blocks on these plays. The line generally protected Stroud pretty well, giving up two sacks in the first half, and none in the decisive second. Stroud’s not very mobile, so it’s important that he have a good passing pocket.
Henderson had a couple of nice runs and scored two TDs, but his initial impulse, when given the ball, is, annoyingly, to hesitate and look around. He takes a lot of losses and goes down pretty easily. Seeing Williams in an arm sling was troubling. Stroud threw “only” one touchdown pass (to Stover) but had no interceptions (the first time in a while) and completed nearly 80% of his passes for over 350 yards. Harrison and Stover were great on the receiving end. Emeka Egbuka, on the other hand, was the recipient of those ill-advised screens and dropped a fourth-quarter pass. He did, though, have a 42-yard reception and finished with six catches for 53 yards.
All in all, the offense moved the ball and scored points but certainly wasn’t unstoppable. Once again, they got a lot of help from the defense’s takeaways. And Penn State is pretty good.
Overall rating: A Strong
The Buckeye defense gave up 31 points and nearly 500 yards of total offense. Yet – I give them a rating of “strong.” Why? Well, the takeaways, first of all. Three interceptions and a fumble recovery go a long way to helping out your offense, especially when it’s struggling (again). Oh, and there was a pick-six for the second week in a row.
Secondly, the defense stopped Penn State’s running game, normally its strength. Super-frosh Nick Singleton rushed 14 times for only 45 yards; his longest run was six yards. His freshman teammate Kaytron Allen did better, breaking a 27-yarder but still was largely held in check. Forcing Sean Clifford to take to the air should lead to success.
There were plenty of Buckeye heroes, led, of course, by Tuimoloau. And there were a couple of guys who were weaknesses. I must say, though, that Penn State’s final drive – 75 yards in about a minute and a half – bothered me. Yeah, the game was out of reach, but OSU still had first-line players in the game, and the Nits just moved right down the field. I’m glad that I didn’t have money on the game; that drive flipped bets on the spread.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate
There were some problems here. I’m saying “adequate” because there weren’t any disastrous screw-ups and because the Buckeyes won. Noah Ruggles missed a field goal. It was a long one (53 yards), but his missing is a rarity.
Then there were the special teams’ penalties. Twice OSU lined up to try for two-point conversions after TDs. Twice they were called for false starts and resorted to one-point kicks. Both times PSU linemen jumped into the neutral zone and back, causing Buckeye players to move. Intentionally on the Nits’ part? Maybe – but the Buckeyes need some discipline in these situations, some coaching perhaps. The extra couple of points didn’t matter yesterday. But someday?
In the fourth quarter, Penn State missed field goal attempts back-to-back. There were penalties, however, on both plays. A pre-snap call against the Nittany Lions that gave them the second shot and one against the Buckeyes (lining up over the center on a kick attempt) that gave the Nits a fourth-and-one situation. Given the unreliability of the kicker, PSU opted to go for the first down. Eventually, they scored a touchdown to regain the lead 21-16 at the 9:26 mark. Another matter of discipline – or of coaching.
J.T. Tuimoloau. Got to start here. What a game! The Buckeyes had four takeaways. Credit Tuimoloau with all of them. Two interceptions – one returned for a Buckeye TD. A strip of QB Sean Clifford and a recovery of that fumble. And a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage that went to teammate Zach Harrison for another interception. Tuimoloau recorded six total tackles for the game, two of them sacks. Ever since the Buckeyes began recruiting him in high school, he was pegged for greatness. He attained it yesterday.
Marvin Harrison, Jr. Harrison was the other true Buckeye hero of the game. With Egbuka struggling a bit, Harrison Jr. stepped up and cemented his claim to being the top OSU receiver. For the day, Harrison Jr. snagged 10 passes for 185 yards, including a long play of 37 yards. He was clearly the go-to guy. Penn State has an outstanding secondary, but they couldn’t handle Harrison Jr. Maybe nobody can.
The Ohio State defensive line. Have you seen a game where a team got three interceptions and they were all made by linemen? Additionally, the line got to Clifford for three sacks and pressured him into a number of bad throws. And they stopped the run game. Zach Harrison, Tyleik Williams, Tarron Vincent, Mike Hall Jr., Jack Swayer – hats off!
C.J. Stroud. Not a game that made folks around the country do a double-take at the stats, but a really solid game. He was accurate from the get-go and didn’t make stupid throws on the run. Stroud’s decision-making was solid. As for touchdowns? Look to the play-calling.
Tyleik Williams. Well, hello, Tyleik, my old friend! Williams was a monster on the D-line last year, but he’s been relatively quiet this year. Until Penn State’s first drive of the second half. The Nits had a long drive going, one that ate up over five minutes. But Williams got a sack on a second-and-eight play. Then he stuffed the runner on a crucial fourth and two, forcing PSU to turn the ball over on downs.
Lathan Ransom. Defending the run. Defending against the pass. Ransom was there. With Ronnie Hickman, Ransom was the most active of Buckeye defensive backs with seven tackles.
Tommy Eichenberg. We’ve become accustomed to Eichenberg’s outstanding play. But fifteen total tackles deserve mention. With the game close throughout, Eichenberg didn’t get a breather, and he was always there.
J.K. Johnson. The cornerback position is a problem for Ohio State. Suffice it to say that it’s not being solved by J.K. Johnson. Parker Washington is a good receiver, and Clifford’s a decent quarterback. Together, they ate Johnson up. PSU’s first touchdown occurred when the Bucks were caught in a blitz that didn’t get to Clifford. The pass was complete for a first down and should have been stopped there. But Johnson (with an assist by Tanner McCalister) whiffed on the tackle, resulting in a long TD. An interference call, blown coverages, and more missed tackles rounded out Johnson’s day. Time for a change.
Offensive play-calling. I’ll start with the most obvious. Trailing 14-13, Ohio State had the ball at the Nittany Lions’ eight, with six seconds left in the first half. A chip-shot field goal would give the Bucks the halftime lead – and, more importantly – a bit of momentum. No timeouts left, but Day has his team attempt a pass. Stroud was sacked. End of half. Take the points, Ryan.
In the second quarter, Henderson started a drive with a seven-yard run. Second and three. Everyone knew that the Buckeyes would run again. Certainly, Penn State did, as they put nine in the box. Stroud should have checked off (if he has the green light to do so), but he didn’t. Henderson lost two. A failed screen to Egbuka. A punt.
At the beginning of both halves, Day, as he’s prone to do, decides to “establish the run game.” He can’t. He (if anyone) should know that a running attack can come from a successful passing game, as well as the other way around. The Bucks are simply a better passing team, and their offense should start there. Those screen passes?
The Buckeyes, sitting now at 8-0, are headed on a collision course with Michigan. Will they be ready? We have to hope so. On to Evanston next week.
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