10 Things We Learned

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Last updated: 09/30/2013 1:36 PM
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Football
10 Things We Learned from A Big Win Under the Lights
By Brandon Castel

It was the fifth game of the 2013 football season, but we finally know a little bit more about Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes after Saturday. Ohio State held off a late comeback from Wisconsin for a 31-24 victory in their first big test of the season.

Here’s a look at 10 Things We Learned from a big win under the lights at Ohio Stadium.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

1. Braxton’s the guy. Really, in the end, the debate about Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton was much ado about nothing. That’s not to say there was no legitimacy to the idea Guiton had played well enough to deserve some consideration, but there was really no choice to be made if Miller was healthy heading into the Big Ten opener. After all the talk about Braxton or Kenny, or how Urban Meyer might be able to use them together, it was Miller who took every snap for the Buckeyes in their first big test of the season. He didn’t quite look like his usual elusive self – 83 yards on 22 carries – but he looked like a guy who was out to prove he could throw the ball as well as his backup. Miller threw a couple beautiful passes on Saturday night, including touchdown passes to Evan Spencer, Devin Smith and Philly Brown. The offense didn’t look as dangerous as it had the previous week with Guiton at the helm, but this was Wisconsin and not Florida A&M we’re talking about.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

2. It’s going to take some time for Braxton to be Braxton. Miller may have looked good throwing the ball Saturday – 17 of 25 for 198 and four scores – but it’s going to take some time before Miller looks like the guy on all those Heisman Trophy highlight reels from last season. There’s no question Miller was a little tentative running the football against Wisconsin. He said he thinks his knee is 100 percent ready to go from the injury, but he admitted being a little hesitant to open things up on the ground. We will find out how much that thought is in the back of his mind going forward, but it’s only natural that it would take a little while for Miller to get his feel and confidence back.

Ryan Shazier and Michael Bennett gang up to stop Melvin Gordon
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ryan Shazier and Michael Bennett

3. Ohio State’s defense looked good…and bad. The Buckeyes did exactly what they wanted to do against Wisconsin in this game. They committed to stopping the Badgers dangerous running game, and it cost them a few times in the passing game. It was clear from the start Luke Fickell and Everett Withers were focused on slowing down Wisconsin’s stretch running game. They held Melvin Gordon in check and limited Wisconsin to just 104 yards on 27 carries. Ryan Shazier played a tremendous football game and Curtis Grant had one of his better games. They dared Joel Stave to beat them with his arm, and to some extent he did. Stave completed 20 of his 34 passes for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wisconsin’s play action had OSU fooled a couple times, and the Buckeyes weren’t able to generate enough of a pass rush to keep Jared Abbrederis from having the time he needed to get open down the field.

Christian Bryant
Photo by Jim Davidson
Christian Bryant

4. Time for someone to step up. The Buckeyes came away with a big victory Saturday, but they suffered a pretty big loss in the meantime. Meyer was understandable emotional about Christian Bryant’s broken ankle after the game, especially considering the Buckeyes just lost a team captain and one of the better players on their defense for the rest of the season. This team has adopted a “next man up” philosophy when it comes to injuries, but this a pretty significant injury for a defense that is still trying to find its footing. Bryant had developed into one of the better safeties in the Big Ten, and now it’s going to fall on one of the untested guys to step up and replace him. If this were next season, there’s a good chance Vonn Bell might be ready to step in and play some big minutes, but the most logical choices right now would appear to be Corey Brown or Ron Tanner. Brown is a former 5-star prospect who has never quite developed into the elite level player many expected, but maybe this is his chance. I’ve always felt he was a better back end guy than a nickel or dime back, but Fickell and the defensive staff could also decide to get creative with their plan to replace Bryant next week.

5. This Abbrederis kid is pretty good. No seriously. Either Bradley Roby isn’t nearly as good as we – and just about everyone who has ever seen him play – thought, or Jared Abbrederis is that good. Remember, this guy torched Ohio State for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Columbus two years ago, and he looked like a much better version of that guy on Saturday night. His route-running was pristine and he showed a tremendous ability to create separation with excellent footwork. What he lacked in physical ability he more than made up for with savvy and toughness, but what really impressed me was the burst he showed in and out of his breaks. I’m not sure whether this kid is a legit NFL prospect – he has had eight 100-yard receiving games the last three seasons – but he reminds me a lot of some guys who are making a living catching passes in the NFL today.

6. Bradley Roby has some work to do. I tend to think Saturday said more about Abbrederis – who hauled in 10 catches for 207 yards – than it did about Roby, but it’s hard to ignore what we saw out there. Wisconsin couldn’t get its run game off the ground, so if Roby had been able to take Abbrederis out of the game, it might have been a blowout in Columbus. Abbrederis accounted for 207 of the Badgers’ 295 yards through the air, and he had his way with Roby and the OSU secondary for most of the game. Part of that was probably game plan. Roby seemed to be focused on taking away Wisconsin’s stretch run play on the edge, but it left him vulnerable to the playaction pass and the double move from Abbrederis. Even if Abbrederis is an NFL-caliber receiver, those are exactly the kinds of guys Roby will be asked to shut down at the next level.

Bradley Roby won this match up with Jared Abbrederis, but lost some big ones too.
Photo by Jim Davidson

Bradley Roby
Chris Borland draws a bead on Braxton Miller
Photo by Dan Harker
Chris Borland and Braxton Miller

7. Chris Borland was a difference-maker. Let’s not forget Borland didn’t play in the game last year up in Madison, but we were reminded yesterday of what he means to the Badgers on defense. The Ohio native was all over Ohio State’s running game Saturday, racking up a game-high 16 tackles while helping to contain the Buckeye ground game. Ohio State still managed 192 yards rushing against Wisconsin’s defense, but it took Braxton Miller 22 carries to get to 83 yards, and no OSU player had a run longer than 15 yards. Before the game, Meyer talked about the fact Borland, being an Ohio guy, should be playing for the Buckeyes. They could certainly use his toughness. Curtis Grant had a solid game and Ryan Shazier is a different player, but Borland is the heart and soul of that Wisconsin defense.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

8. So was Carlos Hyde. It didn’t take long for Carlos Hyde to make his presence felt. He didn’t put up big numbers on Saturday, but his 85 yards on 17 carries was exactly the kind of tough running the Buckeyes needed to help put this game away. He was the one who carried them to victory in overtime against Wisconsin last year, and Meyer leaned heavily on No. 34 in his second game back from a three-game suspension. He took 17 of the team’s 20 handoffs against the Badgers and averaged five yards per carry in a tough, hard-fought game that ended up a lot closer at the end than Ohio State would have liked. When things get tight, Meyer and Tom Herman are always going to fall back on their power running game, so don’t be surprised to see a lot of Hyde going forward. 

Jordan Hall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

9. Jordan Hall may have to take on a different role. The emergence of Hyde and OSU’s power running game Saturday meant Jordan Hall turned into a spectator against Wisconsin. After carrying the ball 64 times for over 400 yards in the first three games of the year, Hall carried the ball just one time for five yards against Wisconsin. He has only five carries the last two weeks, but Meyer said after the game he needs to find a way to get Hall more involved with the offense now that Hyde is back. It’s no secret Meyer loves the power element Hyde brings, especially when paired with Braxton Miller’s elusiveness, but it was somewhat surprising they didn’t make it a point to get Hall more touches after the way he carried this offense through the first three games. Maybe they can use Hall more in a H-back role, but then again that would mean taking Dontre Wilson off the field. Whatever it is, Meyer knows he needs to figure out how to use all his weapons and Jordan Hall has proven himself to be exactly that for the Buckeyes this season.

10. Don’t forget about the Australian. Speaking of weapons, how big was the play of Cameron Johnston on Saturday? The freshman punter from Australia averaged nearly 40 yards per punt on Saturday, and that includes six punts he dropped inside the 20-yard line. In fact, Johnston was probably Ohio State’s most important player in the fourth quarter. He pinned the Badgers at their own 8, 16 and 10 yard line with his three punts in the fourth quarter, which almost certainly helped deliver a victory for Meyer and the Buckeyes in a quarter where they didn’t play all that well on either side of the ball. 

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