(Photo courtesy Cleveland.com, game information courtesy Ohio State Athletic Dept, Cleveland.com, ESPN, Dispatch.com)
Well, that was exciting. OK, a nerve-wracking for the first half and a satisfying final 20 minutes. Ohio State overcame a first half malaise, got it’s bearings early in the 3rd period, then dominated play for the final period and a third. Although the final score of 49-21 may not have been that big of a surprise, perhaps they route they got to that finish was a surprise. Or maybe a concern.
Ohio State’s first half offense was a mystery; both to the players, it seemed and to viewers. The running game was somewhat functional and the passing game looked uninspired. There were few, if any downfield passing attempts by JT Barrett, or rather coach Kevin Wilson. Any attempt to stretch the Indiana defense was via a horizontal passing game rather than by vertical routes.
The Buckeyes were fairly ineffective in first half red zone offense; 2-2 in chances and scoring, bit the scores were field goals. The other offshoot of the offensive ineffectiveness was their inability to stay on the field to a) keep the ball out of Indiana’s hands and b)give their defense a rest against a very fast-paced Indiana offence. Ohio State’s five non-scoring drives in the first half consisted of four 3 & outs and a 5-play drive. Two drives “consumed” 42 seconds, two drives just over a minute each and the fifth drive just over 2 minutes. That’s not much time for a defense to catch its breath. Hell, in the :42 drives, they barely got back to the bench.
I think part of the problem with the first half offense was JT Barrett trying to play like a “pocket” passer rather than the natural dual threat, throw on the move passer that he is naturally.
Ohio State was much more aggressive in the 2nd half. Urban did not look pleased going into the locker-room and I’m sure that he had a rather “inspirational” talk for his players and coaching staff. In the 2nd half, particularly from middle of 3rd period onward, this looked like the Ohio State offense we’ve come to love. Or, at least, expect.
Barrett was more assertive with his option reads and his running style. The offense made use of their extraordinary speed at WR by hitting short-mid range crossing routes (Campbell, Dixon) and allow the athletes to be athletic in open space.
It was quite a contrast to their first half efforts. For example, Ohio State’s first six drives of the game were; FG, four punts, FG. Ohio State’s last six dives of the game were; TD, TD, TD, punt, TD, TD. Quite a difference.
True freshman J.K. Dobbins started his first collegiate game in place of the injured Mike Weber and too full advantage of it. His 181 yards rushing was the most by a ‘first-game’ freshman in OSU history. I doubt if J.K. is going to supplant Mike Weber, but it’s nice to have a 1-2 punch at running back. “Third” string running back Antonio Williams also had a nice evening. Young Mr. Williams had 44 yards in 7 carries (6.3 ypc) and 2 TDs. Being the Big Ten, with Weber, Dobbins and Williams, Urban seems to have “a pair and a spare”.
Indiana features a very high-paced offense that, a least Thursday featured at very accurate quarterback (Richard Lagow) two excellent WR’s (Simmie Cobbs, Luke Timian) and a very good TE (Ian Thomas). The Hoosier passing attack chalked up 420 yards and 3 TD’s.
Indiana took advantage of 1-on-1 corner coverage to play pitch and catch for the first two and a half quarters. The other issue is that as
good great as Ohio State’s defensive line is, Lagow had the ability, with his quick release, to get the ball off to his receivers.
The other defensive impediment to Ohio State in the first half was the lackluster play of Ohio State’s offense; they were absolutely no help in establishing ball control. The fast paced Indiana offense had the Ohio State defense on its heels, but the Buckeye offense did not take the heat off their team mates.
Things changed quite a bit in the second half as Ohio State changed up coverage assignments and pass rush lanes. I think the turning point was a result of OSU’s halftime adjustments. Indiana was forced into 3-and-outs in their first two possessions after the half.
The 3rd quarter was also significant, since it also had a “hold the barbarians at the gate”
moment sequence. At the 6:57 mark, Barrett’s TD gave Ohio State it’s first lead, 20-14. Two minutes later, Indiana’s Ian Thomas gave Indiana the lead again, 21-20. On OSU’s subsequent play from scrimmage Barrett and Parris Campbell strike for a 74 yard TD to put Ohio State in the lead for good.
In the first half, Indiana ran over 50 plays and had approximately 280 yards and 2 TDs. In contrast, from the 10 minute mark in the 3rd period to the end of the game, the Hoosiers ran 23 plays for 82 yards and no points. Their final five drives consisted of two three-and-outs, two turnovers and end-of game clock run-out.
It wasn’t pretty, but opening games seldom are. However, it was a conference road win, which is always a good thing.
The Buckeyes host the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday September 9th. It’s a 7:30 pm ET kickoff, so get your yard work and errands done early.