Ten Things We Learned

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Last updated: 11/04/2012 5:41 PM

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Football
10 Things We Learned from the Most Convincing Win of the Year
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It didn’t end exactly the way Urban Meyer had hoped, but Ohio State’s 52-22 win over Illinois was the team’s most lopsided Big Ten victory since Jim Tressel coached his last game back in 2010.

The offense put up 21 points in the second quarter and the defense held Illinois in check all afternoon as the Buckeyes finally put together four quarters of football. It allowed Meyer to empty his bench at the end of the game, but there was a lot to learn before the second teamers took the field on Saturday.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

1. When his mechanics are right, Braxton Miller can really throw the football. If you were starting to worry about Braxton’s future as a passer after the last couple weeks, fear no more. He still has a LONG way to go in terms of consistency and ability to throw tight spirals down the field, but he looked like a different player throwing the ball Saturday than he did a week ago. His footwork was much improved and he was putting the ball on the money for most of the afternoon. His 226 passing yards were his most in the Big Ten this year and second most of the season. He also had his highest QB rating of the year in the first game where he didn’t throw a pick since the Nebraska game. He also had a couple passes dropped by Jake Stoneburner and just missed on a long ball to freshman Michael Thomas down the sideline.

Corey Brown
Photo by Jim Davidson
Corey Brown

2. Corey Brown borrowed some of Braxton’s moves. How about those moves from Corey “Philly” Brown on Saturday? Who knew he had that kind of wiggle to go with his straight-line speed? Brown has been criticized at time for his inability to break tackles and get up the field this season, but it looked like he borrowed a few of Braxton’s moves on his 37-yard touchdown catch against Illinois. He even told Miller he was going to use some of his moves, and it took every one of them to break the five or six tackles he had to get out of in order to get across the goal line. If he can do that more often, it might change the entire dynamic of the offense over the last two weeks.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

3. Carlos Hyde is a force to be reckoned with. He’s not going to break off a ton of 50-yard touchdown runs in his career at Ohio State, but Carlos Hyde is exactly what this football team needed. His toughness, aggression and relentless running style sets the tone for the offensive line and he’s able to finish off runs as well as any back I can remember in a while. He keeps his legs moving and seems to run the ball with equal parts passion and hate. Since missing two games with that knee injury, Hyde has scored 12 touchdowns and he’s still within reach of 1,000 yards this season, which give the Buckeyes two of them. Their contrasting styles makes it really tough to handle both Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.

Rod Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Rod Smith

4. Rod Smith is still on the verge. Meyer has to be clenching his knuckles every time he puts Rod Smith in the game, just waiting and hoping Smith will finally put it all together. The talent is there. It’s apparent almost every time he touches the football, and his emergence as a third option to go with Hyde and Miller might make this OSU offense unstoppable. Unfortunately, Smith is still lingering on the verge of both greatness and disappointment. His fumble against Illinois was a better play by the defender than it was a mistake by Rod – it’s hard to keep that ball from popping out with a direct hit from the helmet – but it’s impossible to ignore the fact Smith is constantly struggling to maintain possession of the football. If he can figure that out, Meyer has big plans for this kid over the next two years.

Bri'onte Dunn
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bri'onte Dunn

5. Bri’onte Dunn can run the ball hard. It’s not going to happen this year for Dunn, but it’s hard not to feel more optimistic about the freshman tailback after the way he ran the football at the end of the game Saturday. Until now, we had only seen glimpses of Dunn early in the year, and he looked more tentative than anything else. That was certainly not the case against Illinois, where Dunn ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. Yes, it came in garbage time against a pretty bad Illinois defense, but it also came behind Ohio State’s entire second-team offensive line. He ran the ball hard and ran with authority. He seemed much more comfortable with the football and it looks like his future is bright.

6. Ohio State’s offensive line is now the strength of the team. All the talk this far has been about Ohio State’s skill players, but everything they did Saturday was made possible by the work done up front. Ohio State’s front five has been nothing short of spectacular this season, at least by comparison to last year. Even Meyer said it was unfathomable how far this group has come since the spring, and that’s a credit to the work they’ve put in and the work by line coach Ed Warinner. He really re-shaped this group, in more ways than one, and deserves as much credit as anyone for the undefeated season this team has put together. The offensive line has been criticized as the weakness of the team in the past, but they have been a major strength for the Buckeyes all season long.

John Simon
Photo by Dan Harker
John Simon

7. John Simon showed he can take over a football game. The Buckeyes were equally impressive on the other side of the ball, where the John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel and Nathan Williams really controlled the Illinois offense. They had Nathan Scheelhaase running scared most of the day and Simon in particular seemed to dominate the game up front. No. 54 was all over the place, hitting Scheelhaase and making plays in the backfield. Whenever he was lined up next to Williams, it was basically chaos for the Illini on the other side of the ball. He’s starting to look healthy and should be even better in a couple weeks.

Zach Boren (44) and Ryan Shazier (10)
Photo by Jim Davidson
Zach Boren and Ryan Shazier

8. Zach Boren is the perfect compliment to Ryan Shazier. Talking about blessings falling out of the sky, where would this team be without Shazier and Boren right now? Shazier appeared out of thin air after he de-committed from Florida and Boren has been a fish in water the last couple weeks since making the switch from fullback before the Indiana game. He looked a little out of place early on, but No. 44 has really settled in to his new role. He brings much-needed leadership and toughness to the position, but more importantly, he brings his instincts to a position that desperately needed it. The two of them combined for 22 tackles Saturday against Illinois and they seemed to compliment each other perfectly. The return of Etienne Sabino should make this group as good as it’s been in two years.

Adolphus Washington
Photo by Jim Davidson
Adolphus Washington

9. Adolphus Washington is starting to look comfortable. I'm not entirely sure what was up with Ohio State’s rotation on the defensive line Saturday. After starting at tackle last week against Penn State, Michael Bennett barely played in the first half. Same with Noah Spence, as Steve Miller and Adolphus Washington saw the most early playing time they have all year. If they Buckeyes have all four of those guys coming off the bench, along with Tommy Schutt, this team might finally have the depth it wanted at the beginning of the year. Washington hadn’t seen the field much since he had a couple bad penalties against Cal, but he looked good in this one. He got a sack at the end of the game, but didn’t see to be out of place in the first half either.

10. The Buckeyes are as shaky as ever on special teams. If there is one area that still causes great concern for a 10-0 football team, it has to be special teams. The Buckeyes didn’t have any complete meltdowns on Saturday, but they barely avoided disaster on the first punt. Ben Buchanan nearly stepped right into a guy who came through unblocked, and it just seems like at some point these special teams miscues have to cost this team a football game.

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