(Image courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com, game information courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com, cleveland.com, espn.com)
The Buckeyes (1-0) opened their season with a hard to read 45-21 win over Lane Kiffin’s FAU Owls. This was a game of one quarter of “elation” and three quarters of This is harder than it should be”. The first eight minutes of the game were unbelievably good – Ohio State scored TD’s on their first four possessions. These four possessions comprised of 13 total plays, 200 yards and less than 4:30 of game time. Justin Fields ran for one of these TDs and threw for the other three. Quite an impressive start.
As mentioned above, for the first eight minutes the offense was breathtaking, then it went comatose. After the early success, it seemed the FAU defense was adjusting faster to the OSU offense than OSU was counter-adjusting.
For the game, OSU averaged 6.3 yards per play. They had the mid-game doldrums (2nd and 3rd quarters) where they averaged < 4.0 YPP for nearly half of their total plays. Gaining < 4 YPP isn’t going to score many points not keep your defense off the field.
Aside from the first 10 minutes of the game and two drives to end the third and begin he fourth quarters, the offensive line didn’t play particularly well. I was not impressed with Coach Studrawa’s coaching performance last year and tha hasn’t changed.
I think Dobbins did okay. I really liked Master Teague and Demario McCall. Dobbins is still the OSU starter, but I wouldn’t worry too much when he’s not on the field – the Buckeyes have some very capable ball carriers.
One thing I did like was the multiple tight end set they used from time to time. Jeremy Ruckert (4 rec, 38 yd, 2 TD) was the only tight end to catch a pass, but having two or three capable TEs on the field at once should help with blocking (see above) and present some coverage match-up issues. This multiple TE package will be useful on coping with days of “Big 10 weather”.
Finally, I was satisfied with Justin Fields’ play. He’s very athletic, has a “live” arm and is accurate. Of his 7 incompletions, there were easily 2-3 that should have been caught. His running ability and his accuracy will make Justin a very efficient quarterback.
The defense showed signs of improvement over last year, which, granted, is a pretty low bar to clear. New coaches, new players, new philosophy, new responsibilities…
They looked phenomenal in the first half by giving up -14 yards (not sure how negative yardage is actually “giving” anything up) on 32 plays. Things got a bit squirrely in the 2nd half when the defense gave up 242 yards on 41 plays. They also gave up 18 points.
The “new look” defense did well, I thought. In the first half, when a tone needed to be set, they did. The secondary effectively mixed up coverages, the linebackers took proper angles to the ball, the line was difficult to block and everyone was a sure tackler. It was refreshing to watch.
I think the 2nd half performance could be attributed to a couple of things. Could be the mixture on non-starters in the lineup and an increased urgency by FAU to perform better to avoid embarrassment. I was going to mention slacking off due to the large lead, but that would probably be wrong. With players wanting to make a good impression to earn playing time for the new coaches, I don’t think there will be an effort problem.
Buffalonian Blake Haubeil & Co were 6-6 on 7-7 on PATs and 1-1 on FGs. The coverage teams allowed 15 yards per kick return and less than 2 yards per punt return. The return game, featuring Demario McCall, K.J. Hill and Chris Olave accounted for 120 yards. These were not “hidden” yards. Every one was clear as could be. All in all, this was a very good Special Team effort.
Overall, despite some warts, this was still a good win for Ohio State. There are a couple areas to clean up such as penalties (7-62 yd), turnovers (2 fumbles) and inconsistent offensive line play. Since this was opening game, these flaws aren’t unexpected.
The new coaching staff has battle-tested some of it’s philosophies and teaching methods. Play makers, on offense, defense and special teams, are beginning to be identified. Ohio State also emerged from the game fairly healthy. This was a good way to open the season. A lot of new faces, players and coaches, and Ryan Day orchestrated the new parts quite well.
The Buckeyes host The Fightin’ Fickells this Saturday when they host the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincy opened their season with a 24-14 win over the UCLA Bruins. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 pm ET. You’ll be able to watch it on ABC or listen to it on 97.1. Or both.