Three and Out: Thoughts From OSU's 42-7 Win Over San Diego State
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes played as well as could be expected on Saturday considering they lost their best player early on.
The offense responded well, putting up 35 points in the first half. The Buckeyes essentially did whatever they wanted to do in the first half. However, backup quarterback Kenny Guiton did have a couple of issues with his accuracy downfield, or else the score would have been even worse.
Defensively, the Buckeyes were stellar this week, giving up just one scoring drive, and limiting the Aztecs to zero plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more. The Ohio State defense showed great leverage for the second-straight week, and as long as they keep doing that, the speed and pursuit of the defense should be able to cover up any missed tackles.
There's just something missing about the Ohio State offense, and it's been missing for a while. Despite the potential of this offense, at times things just don't come as easily as they do for other offenses around the nation. Namely, it seems like there aren't enough minutes in a game for this football program to ever throw for 300 yards.
The Buckeyes have had just one 300-yard passing game from a quarterback since 2006, and that was Terrelle Pryor against Indiana in 2010. Even when the Buckeyes have gotten out to a fast start in the first half, the second half passing numbers are always a fraction of what they are in the first half. Obviously, that's a product of taking care of a second-half lead, but why must the passing game be such a difficulty?
Those numbers will increase once players start making defenders miss on the quick screen plays, but even that points to an inability to run those plays as well as other teams. But maybe I'm expecting too much from this offense. After all, Tim Tebow only threw for 300 yards twice in his final two seasons at Florida. Sometimes the running game is just too good and eats up too many yards, which is probably a good problem to have.
This defense is going to be completely untested until the Wisconsin game on September 28th. Yes, California will put them under some stress next week, but we won't know exactly what the Buckeyes have on defense until we see them against a quality football team.
Saturday's game against San Diego State showed a fast defense that runs to the ball extremely well, but the Aztec running game was pitiful and the passing game was even worse.
The Cal offense is going to try to run the Buckeyes ragged, but they won't test the Ohio State run defense. And as far as tests go, Florida A&M will be open-book for the Silver Bullets.
If there has been any good to come from this non-conference schedule, it's that the defense has been allowed to gain confidence, and they should come out completely amped at night against the Badgers in a few weeks. Until then, however, we'll just watch and wonder what the Buckeyes actually have on defense.
This was the offensive distribution that we expected last week. More players got more touches, and to everyone's credit, it was done with a backup quarterback. The coaches finally got some longer looks at players who will need to help them in Big Ten play, which will only build the confidence of both the players and the coaches.
Perhaps most interestingly is that it would appear that freshman Ezekiel Elliott has passed second-year players Warren Ball and Bri'onte Dunn. Of course, early season is not always the best time to determine that somebody is ahead of another, because there is a lot of time between now and November.
Against Buffalo, much of the offensive attack was simply Jordan Hall pounding the ball up the middle. This week, however, there was more distribution, and it came from a variety of angles.
The speed option, for instance, was tremendous all game long. Guiton did a fantastic job of deciding when to keep and when to pitch, and positive yards were easy to come by. Eventually, that speed option is going to be pitched to the slot receiver who is going to be headed in the opposite direction of the play, and it could go all the way.
As an aside, we got a glimpse into the future of this running game with Elliott and Dontre Wilson in the game together several times. With Elliott able to go both inside and outside, and Wilson everywhere in between, the future is very exciting for this duo.
You can see the depth building on the defensive line. I was extremely impressed by freshman Joey Bosa yet again this week. He did a fantastic job stepping in for Adolphus Washington. He surprised me with his speed in pursuit. He certainly looks like an Ohio State defensive lineman.
It had to be a pleasant surprise, or perhaps a relief, for defensive line coach Mike Vrabel that two of the Buckeyes' three sacks came from backup defensive ends. Both Jamal Marcus and Steve Miller got to the quarterback, and the more they show that they can produce, the more likely Vrabel is to utilize a deeper rotation.
Regardless of what Vrabel would like to do, he is certainly going to have to rely on these same guys next week against an up-tempo California offense. After what he saw this week, he should feel much more comfortable about doing so.
It's also telling that the Buckeye defense came into this game with a plan to use defensive tackle Chris Carter in short-yardage situations. That tells me that he does something they like, which means he should figure in their plans moving forward as well.
Michael Hill and Chase Farris are also providing depth, and each of them has flashed already. It is going to be incredibly interesting to see what happens when this defensive line finally meets up with Wisconsin. Will the depth prove to be thinner than thought, or will we begin to see the emergence of a defensive power?
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