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).
All season it’s been stated and restated that the Buckeyes have trouble with physical teams – trouble running the ball, trouble stopping the run. Wisconsin? Iowa? Penn State? Ohio State handled those physical teams, not necessarily with ease but decisively. No, I was worried about the Buckeyes’ primary vulnerability – the defensive secondary, particularly the cornerbacks – against a good passing quarterback and a strong passing attack. Like Maryland’s. We found out yesterday that the Buckeyes struggled with it.
No doubt, the Terps’ Taulia Tagovailoa outplayed C.J. Stroud. More yards, more touchdown passes, more yards per attempt, higher completion percentage, higher QB rating. Yet, OSU won because of several important factors.
The Bucks, in the second half, had a far superior running game, one that consumed the clock and took some of the fight out of Maryland. Secondly, the Ohio State defense succeeded in pressuring Tagovailoa near the end of the game, when the outcome was still in question, collecting a total of five sacks. Finally, the Terps killed themselves with costly penalties. Sure, the Bucks had their share too in this sloppy game but were often rescued by some Maryland miscue, usually holding or interference.
It was the closest game that the Buckeyes have had this year, one that wasn’t really decided until the strip fumble by Zach Harrison and the recovery for a touchdown by Steele Chambers with nine seconds left in the game. One wonders if this close game, having to perform in crunch time, will be good for the Bucks as they host TTUN or whether it will shake their confidence. Of course, the Wolverines didn’t have an easy time at home against the Illini. Clearly, a lot will depend on which injured players return to the field – for both teams.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate
Behind at intermission, 13-10, the Buckeye offense was woeful in the first half. An excellent drive on the first possession led to a quick 7-0 lead. But it was followed by two punts (both three and out drives), a field goal (after some bad red zone plays), and another punt. Stroud had completed only half of his attempts, TreVeyan Henderson had a net of 19 yards on 11 carries, and the Bucks had 28 rushing yards for the half.
The second half witnessed a different Buckeye team, one that scored on four of its five possessions, one that dominated the time of possession, one that produced 132 rushing yards. Certainly, part of the difference was the running of freshman Dallan Hayden. Henderson didn’t play much in the second half, and we saw him on the sidelines wearing a boot on his foot, so maybe he was hurting throughout the game. (He didn’t look hurt, though, on the 31-yard pass reception for the Bucks’ first touchdown.)
Whatever the case, Henderson couldn’t move the ball on the ground. After losing a total of eight yards, he netted only 19 for a 1.7-yards-per-carry average. Hayden, on the other hand, ran 27 times for 146 yards (5.4 yards per carry). He didn’t lose a yard. Bottom line: the Bucks run better with Miyan Williams, who was out for the Maryland game, or with Hayden than they do with Henderson as the featured back.
Once again, C.J. Stroud wasn’t at his best. His passing wasn’t as accurate as usual, especially when he was throwing on the run. And there wasn’t really a pattern; some throws were high, some were low. For the game, Stroud completed 60% of his throws (not bad, but not typical Stroud) for 241 yards and a TD.
The Buckeye offense certainly wasn’t unstoppable and gained just over 400 yards for the day. They converted a respectable eight out of 15 third down attempts and gave up no sacks or turnovers. The playcalling was pretty conservative, however. Holding back for next week? I wouldn’t think so. This game was a battle.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate (i.e., good enough to win)
The Buckeye defense rose to the occasion at the end of the game – and put it away. But they had trouble with Tagovailoa throughout. He completed 72% of his passes for nearly 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He came through in the clutch on several third-down (and one fourth-down) plays. The cornerbacks – Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and Jyaire Brown – all got torched for big plays. And the ABC announcers were correct: why did they give such a big cushion to the receivers? Third and six, and Burke was 15 yards off his man. ??? Generally, I thought that Cam Brown played better in the position than his teammates.
Stuffing the opponents’ run game has become familiar, and I sure hope that it continues next week. The D-line and linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers were almost always on the ball carriers quickly.
The Bucks’ susceptibility to the pass and some bad penalties kept the Terrapins in the game.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate
What a mixed bag. First, the good. For the second game in a row, Lathan Ransom blocked a punt and Xavier Johnson recovered it, setting up an easy score. This time, on the Terps’ first drive of the second half, it was a game-changer. The Bucks scored on their next four drives, and it took Maryland a while to recover. X. Johnson also had a couple of nice kickoff returns.
The bad. Two delay of game penalties on extra points? Ridiculous. The first one didn’t matter, but the second one was really costly. (See “ugly” below.)
The ugly. In the fourth quarter, Maryland scored a TD and succeeded on a two-point attempt to close the score to 27-21. The Bucks came right back, as Hayden scored on a 13-yard run. The Buckeyes lined up for a two-point conversion of their own, only to be flagged for the second delay. Backed up, they elected to kick the one-pointer. But it was blocked and returned all the way for two points for Maryland. A potential four-point swing, when the outcome was still in doubt. Ugly.
Dallan Hayden. With so many injuries at the running back position, Hayden has been durable and productive. Hell, he’s been a godsend, especially yesterday. He dominated the second half of the game, gaining 143 yards on his 26 carries and scoring three rushing touchdowns. He doesn’t fumble. He doesn’t lose yards. He doesn’t hesitate. He hits the line hard and has great balance.
Zach Harrison. Harrison’s two sacks in the fourth quarter really put the finishing touches on Tagovailoa and the Terrapins. The strip fumble was the icing on the cake. Harrison finished with four tackles, but he was trouble for Maryland the whole way.
Lathan Ransom. Seven tackles and the blocked punt. Strong support on running plays. Good coverage on passes. Ransom had a strong game in every phase.
Tommy Eichenberg. A game-high 12 tackles. Eichenberg was a one-man wrecking crew, stuffing the run and confusing blocking schemes. He’s really having an outstanding season.
Jack Sawyer. Sawyer played a strong game, collecting four tackles, including a sack. He proved a handful for the offensive tackles and tight ends trying to block him and keep him out of the backfield.
Emeka Egbuka. I thought that Egbuka played his best game in several weeks. He made some great catches – and they were on crucial plays, often keeping drives alive when the offense wasn’t very consistent.
Taron Vincent. Vincent, as he has all season, played well against the run. But that unsportsmanlike conduct penalty near the end of the first half? It didn’t cause real trouble in this situation, but what was he thinking?
Despite another frustrating game, the Buckeyes are still undefeated and still have beaten all of their opponents by double digits. The season, as we somehow knew that it would, all comes down to next week. The Buckeyes will need to play better on both sides of the ball. But you know what? I think that they will.