(Photo courtesy USA Today, game information courtesy Ohio State Athletic Dept, ESPN)  

Ohio State (12-2) used a suffocating pass rush and an opportunistic offense to beat Southern Cal 24-7 Friday evening in the Cotton Bowl. All the excitement (scoring) was finished with two minutes remaining in the first half. For the next two quarters, both defenses dominated; fortunately Ohio State had built a 17 point margin by that point.

Somewhere, Jim Tressel is in good holiday cheer; this game was won by defense and special teams. Tresselball at its finest.

Offense

I’ll get right to the point. In his storied career at Ohio State, J.T. Barrett has had some games that were spectacular and some games where he was functional. This was one of the “functional” games.

Against USC, the Ohio State offense ran its fewest number of plays and gained its fewest amount of yards than any game this season. I’ll chalk it up to playing a very talented, at least defensively, opponent. There were also a couple of “why did you call that?” plays.

The offense was viable in the first quarter, running 55 plays, gaining 114 yards and scoring 7 points. They would run only 33 plays and gain 163 yards the balance of the game. Their 17 point outburst in the 2nd quarter was fueled by defensive scores and short-field drives. The field goal to start the quarter was the culmination of a 13 play, 83 yard drive that occurred in the 1st quarter. seconds later, Webb scored on a pick-6. On OSU’s next possession,  the sequence was: 16 yard completion, 15 yard personal foul, 28 yard TD run.

In the second half, Ohio State ran 24 plays, gained 94 yards, had 4 1st downs and scored no points.

Southern Cal linebacker led the Trojans with 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 asst), so he was active. However, I though that linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (how great would that last name be at Ohio State?) had a far greater impact with his 4 solo tackles, two of which were sacks that totaled 16 yards.

 

Regardless, Barrett chalks up another Big Win and cements his legacy as a talented, winning football player. What a way to finish his career at Ohio State. Well done, JT.

Defense

The defense, particularly the defensive line, absolutely dominated this game. They created four turnovers (3 fumbles, 1 INT). These turnovers were generated by a pressuring defense that also sacked USC quarterback Sam Darnold eight (8) times for 47 yards in losses.

The Buckeyes did give up 413 yards in total offense, but 356 of these were passing. They had a lot of passing yards because; a) they got behind early and b) they averaged only 1.6 yards per rushing attempt.

I’m ‘meh’ on Sam Darnold. He struggled against Ohio State and didn’t show me much. He clearly suffered the results of the USC offensive line being far inferior to the OSU front seven. If I’m an NFL scout, I need to make the guess of whether my offensive line will match up better against opponents’ defensive lines.

What is not in question is the talent that USC has at wide receiver. Deontay Burnett, Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman are really good players.

The defense was on the field a lot, 35 minutes, and yet played to a high level throughout the game. Frankly, I’d attribute this to: lots of talent,  a top notch training program and a “something to prove” mindset.

Special Teams

This had to have gratifying for Urban to have seen the performance of the special teams. The tone was set on the opening kickoff when USC was pinned inside the 15 yard line to open its first series. The kickoff and punt units provided Ohio State with a decided advantage.

Kicker Blake Haubeil and his mates were flawless in his performance against Southern Cal. In five kickoffs, Blake kept all his kicks inbounds and near the goal line. Keeping all kickoffs in play was critical because the coverage team limited Southern Cal to an average of 16 yards per return which yielded a starting field position that averaged the USC 18 yard line. This was a big advantage for the Buckeyes.

Likewise, Drue Chrisman and his mates on the punt team provided the Buckeyes with another advantage by having a net difference of 9 yards per punt. Ohio State averaged 43 net yards per punt while USC averaged 34 net yards.

I’m not quite sure what KJ Hill was thinking when he tried to make the over-the-shoulder catch on a Trojan punt late in the 2nd quarter. His muff was recovered by Southern Cal and set them up for a 15 yard scoring “drive”. Granted, KJ is a talented player, but there is only one person capable of making that type of catch… Say Hey!

Other

Ohio State finished another successful season.  The record of 12-2 included season ending wins over Michigan, again, and a bowl win against a long time bowl rival in Southern Cal. This was a talented team with a few flaws that, for the most part, they were able to work their way around.