Ohio State defeated Youngstown State 35-7 on Saturday, showing some improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. However, there are still a ton of question marks about this year’s Buckeyes.
With 58 points scored through two weeks, Ohio State is off to its worst offensive start in Ryan Day’s head coaching tenure. The team needs to pick a starting QB and stick with him, the run game has been largely inconsistent, and the offensive line is lacking. The Buckeyes are just 7-of-24 (29.1%) to start the year, and the play-calling in short yardage situations has been nothing short of miserable. Even on drives that do result in points, guys seem like they are playing so tight and every yard gained feels like a battle.
For all the struggles on offense, the defense has been largely good. The Silver Bullets showed some warts early on against Youngstown State, allowing the Penguins to score a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, but the Buckeyes allowed only 159 total yards the remainder of the afternoon. The defensive line has been strong in stopping the run, but Larry Johnsons group has been a no-show from a pass rushing standpoint. In the backfield, Sonny Styles and Denzel Burke have really shined in these first two games.
Here is the good, the bad and the ugly from Ohio State’s victory over Youngstown State.
Marvin Harrison Jr.
It turns out good things happen offensively when you get the ball to the nation’s top wide receiver. After only two catches for 18 yards in Week 1 against Indiana, Ohio State made it a point of emphasis to get the ball to Marvin Harrison Jr., as the star wideout led the team against Youngstown State with seven catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns. McCord and Harrison Jr. had that St. Joseph’s Prep connection going early and often, and that is more like what we expected from the Route Man this season.
His numbers may not jump off the page, but TreVeyon Henderson looked maybe as healthy as we’ve seen him since early in his freshman year in Week 2 against the Penguins. Henderson made the most of his five carries, totaling 56 yards (11.2 yards per carry) and a pair of touchdowns. More important than the numbers is how he looked doing it, as the junior made some really good cuts and showcased that home run hitting ability that we knew he was capable of since he came to Columbus as a prospect. Tre also caught two passes for 18 yards, and the Buckeyes should continue to utilize his skillset in the passing game.
Speaking of guys who finally look healthy, Denzel Burke put together a really strong performance against Youngstown State. Through two games thus far Burke has looked back to his freshman All-American form, and all his hard work paid off when he collected Ohio State’s first takeaway of the season with an interception in the third quarter against the Penguins. Burke was credited with just one tackle and a pick in the game, but he what doesn’t show on the stat sheet was his consistent lockdown coverage. The Buckeyes will need that again in Week 3 against the high-flying offense of Western Kentucky.
I’m actually not entirely sure Ohio State had a defensive line on the field on passing downs. If they did, then those guys didn’t get an ounce of pressure on Youngstown State’s quarterback for the majority of the afternoon. On a serious note, the Buckeyes’ defensive front has not been good at all at rushing the passer, especially off the edge. J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer came into the season with a ton of hype, and both have been complete non-factors through two games against largely inferior opponents. Ohio State has three official sacks thus far, and none have come from a defensive end. Larry Johnson is hamstringing Jim Knowles’ defensive scheme with zero results from his unit to show for it.
I don’t love to pick on individual college athletes, but there were some personnel decisions Ohio State made against Youngstown State that just ain’t it. After getting torched by Michigan last season, we saw Cam Martinez rotate in at the nickel spot in the first quarter, and proceeded to immediately let up a 36-yard catch. The Buckeyes’ defense is significantly better with Sonny Styles — who should never come off the field — or even Jordan Hancock in that role. Up the middle, nobody played particularly poorly, but it was definitely noticeable when Mike Hall Jr. was on the field vs. the other guys in that room. It has been a staple of Ryan Day’s tenure in Columbus, but Ohio State continues to make its life harder but not putting its best guys on the field.
You’ll be stunned to know that the bad play-caller from every big game the last few seasons (besides Georgia and Clemson) as well as Week 1 this season was once again bad at calling plays in Week 2. It hasn’t cost them against two teams that never had a chance to win, but against better teams Ryan Day cannot continue to call plays from hidden inside a turtle shell. Ohio State went 5-of-12 (41.7%) on third down against an FCS school, and most of the play calls in those spots were head-scratchingly awful. The pitch play to Henderson to the short side of the field early in the game felt like Day was actively taunting fans with intentionally bad calls. The man is addicted to trying to look like the smartest man in the room with an offense that is simply too talented to make it look this difficult.
While I don’t think the Ohio State offensive line has been particularly awful, it’s certainly not dominant by any means. That being said, I think the Buckeyes have a bit of a problem brewing at left tackle. They brought in Josh Simmons from San Diego State with hopes that he could anchor the position, but through two games things have not looked good. Justin Frye has a handful of options he could look too — moving Donovan Jackson to tackle and letting Tegra Tshabola play guard, or replacing Simmons with Tshabola or Luke Montgomery — but time is running out to try something else. Ohio State should probably make a move in Week 3, because going into Notre Dame with the current set up seems like a bad idea.