“Last week’s gone.”
Those were the words from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer after the Buckeyes’ 48-3 shellacking of Michigan State on Saturday.
With all due respect to Coach Meyer, no it’s not.
In an eerie and unfair way, OSU’s complete domination of Michigan State brought flashbacks to last week’s horrific loss to Iowa. Admit it, the words, “Where the hell was this team last week?” ran through your mind more than once as the MSU game unfolded.
The answer to that question has as much to do with how this game went on as it did last week’s outcome, and it was Urban Meyer who gave the answer.
“This week we dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, last week we didn’t.”
And that, as much as anything, sums it up. The Buckeyes absolutely owned both the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage against Michigan State. The result was a stunning 45-point demolition of MSU that was the worst loss in Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio’s head coaching career.
The Ohio State offensive line took no prisoners and that made room for tailbacks Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins to do something no other tailbacks have done this season — gash the MSU rush defense. Weber rushed for a career-high 162 yards on just nine carries (18.0 yards per attempt) and two touchdown, the most spectacular of which came on an 82-yard sprint in which he outran the entire MSU secondary to get to the end zone.
Dobbins meanwhile added 124 yards on the ground. For the game, OSU rushed for 335 yards against a Spartan defense that coming into the game had allowed just 783 total yards rushing in nine games this season, an average of 87 yards per game.
So yeah, owning the line of scrimmage helps the running game. It helps the passing game too. Quarterback J.T. Barrett had time to throw and went 14-for-21 for 183 yards and two touchdowns, though he did also throw two interceptions.
The defensive side of the ball was more of the same.
MSU could not run the ball against the OSU front that just completely dominated the line scrimmage. The Spartans ended the day with 64 total rushing yards on 34 attempts, just under two yards a try. The Buckeyes also pressured quarterback Brian Lewerke mercilessly. MSU’s passing game managed just 131 total yards despite being in the catch-up mode most the day.
Lewerke was intercepted twice, and the Buckeye defense accomplished all of this without two starting linebackers. Neither Dante Booker nor Jerome Baker played in the game, but Malik Harrison and Tuf Borland were able to get the job done behind a defensive line that kept them clean all game and allowed them to flow to the ball carrier.
So where was this team last week? Urban Meyer didn’t answer that, but the week-to-week contrast between the Iowa and MSU games leaves no doubt that when the Buckeyes play well up front they can compete with — and even dominate — anyone. When they don’t play well up front, you get Iowa.
You probably aren’t quite satisfied. You are wondering “Why” a team can be so good or bad from week to week.
If I knew that I’d be making the big bucks. One thing I know for sure though, is the Buckeyes have it in them to be very good every week when they can bring it on the offensive and defensive lines.
We’ll see if they can do that the rest of the season.