Ten Things We Learned from Ohio State’s 36-31 Win Over Nebraska

J.K. DObbins Ohio State Football Buckeyes

It had been a while since we got to see the Ohio State Buckeyes on the football field, so there was a lot to take in when watching OSU defeat Nebraska 36-31 on Saturday.

We all went in with an eye on the running game and the tackling, and while both were improved, I don’t think anybody is going to be throwing the F-word* around.

J.K. Dobbins was finally J.K. Dobbins again, but perhaps the brightest light on a sun-plopped day was the number of young Buckeyes coming through in key roles. If Ohio State is going to win out, they’re not going to do it with status quo. Changes were needed and changes have been made.

Are more coming? We’ll see next week.

For now, let’s talk about what we learned on Saturday against the Huskers.

(* “fixed”)

1. The Buckeyes can run hard.

Urban Meyer said he wanted running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to run through some tacklers and be their own blockers, which they did quite well on Saturday. They combined for 254 yards rushing on 32 carries and if they can do that the rest of the way out this season, the Buckeyes won’t lose again. That is the biggest of ifs, however.

2. From now on, maybe “RPO” should stand for “run people over.”

The Ohio State offense went without the run-pass option on Saturday, choosing instead to go with the LJRTDBO (“let’s-just-run-the-damn-ball option”). Greg Studrawa has talked about the difficulties of run blocking in an RPO offense, but Isaiah Prince took it a step further after the game, explaining that with an RPO, you never really know where the defense is going to be and what it is going to do. As a blocker, that is difficult to deal with. When there is no RPO and the offensive line knows that it’s just going to be a hand-off, they also know what the defense is going to do in order to stop the run. The linemen know where the defenders are going to be and how they’re going to get there. They have more information and more confidence that they can handle it. As Prince said after the game, there is a time and a place for the RPO, such as the successes they had with it in the TCU game. But to a man, the linemen were happy to just get back to mauling people without a concern for the ball being thrown behind them.

3. Brendon White needs to stay on the field.

There was a lot of mixing and matching in the secondary on Saturday due to injuries. The original plan was for Shaun Wade to be at field safety and Jordan Fuller to be at boundary safety. Then on passing downs, Wade would slide down to nickel, and Brendon White would come in to be the second safety. When Fuller was ejected for targeting, White came in at boundary safety and played as well as Fuller has this season. Heading into the game, I felt like the best safety duo would be Wade and Fuller, but with the way White played, you have to make sure that wasn’t a fluke. He needs to stay in the game this week against Michigan State. White had a great week of practice leading up to the Nebraska game and responded with 13 tackles in three quarters of action. His confidence is sky high right now and needs to be both mined and rewarded.

4. Wyatt Davis needs to see more action.

No, Wyatt Davis didn’t get any snaps on the offensive line, but he did make for an effective blocking tight end. They went with the jumbo pistol look (three tight ends, one receiver, one running back) at least three times. Since it worked on short-yardage, that means we will see it more, which also means we should probably name it. “Jumbo Pistol” isn’t flashy enough, so how about the “Dirty Harry Formation”? In the times they did run it, Davis was able to engage his man and stay engaged. Eventually, however, he’s going to be wide open on the play action.

5. The pistol should be more involved.

It’s something we have been advocating for for a while now. The pistol formation will always get an approval from me when it comes to running the ball downhill and attacking with the play action. It doesn’t feel like something that needed a bye week to figure out, but at least we saw more of it than we have so far this season. It’s not the only answer, but it’s part of a collective response that is absolutely necessary.

6. Dwayne Haskins is not a fan of contact.

In case we’re just figuring this out now, Dwayne Haskins isn’t a huge fan of getting hit by large men. He took a pretty big hit from the Huskers and he was slow to get up from it, as most quarterbacks would be. That is understood. What was hard for many to understand was his scramble and slide with nobody within seven or so yards of him on a 2-yard run. There were boos and grumbles in the crowd after that slide, but on a positive note, it was probably his best slide of the year.

7. The young players are indicative of a coaching staff trying.

While the coaches weren’t talking too much about personnel changes over the week, this game provided a bunch of snaps for freshman tight end Jeremy Ruckert, as well as freshman defensive tackle Tommy Togiai and sophomore defensive tackle Haskell Garrett. We already know about sophomore safety Brendon White’s day, and freshman receiver Chris Olave worked his way into the receiver rotation. Seeing Ruckert involved so often in the running game tells me that his blocking has gotten much better and he is soon going to be making plays in the passing game. Things are happening in several places, which is a step in the right direction. The journey is far from finished, but at least the Buckeye coaches have decided to attempt the trek.

8. Even Dwayne Haskins’ worst game is plenty good enough.

Let’s all take a moment to criticize Dwayne Haskins’ worst game as a starter. He completed 18-of-32 passes for 252 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. If he simply averaged 252 yards over a 13-game season, he’d finish with the second-most passing yards in a season in OSU history. And if he averaged just two touchdown passes per game over 13 games, he’d finish with the fifth-most touchdown passes in a single season in school history. Haskins found eight different receivers on a day when he was clearly off. But even his off games are still good enough to win with.

9. The linebackers just don’t look confident.

There were times on Saturday when more than one linebacker ran into the backfield only to see the ball run by them on an option read. You could see the disappointment on more than one occasion from the linebackers themselves. There were still missed tackles, just like in the Purdue game. Also, just like the Purdue game, the linebackers were put in difficult spots to make plays. Some of those plays need to be made — like Dante Booker out wide attempting to blow up a screen. Other plays, however, are impossible to make — like Pete Werner being picked while trying to defend J.D. Spielman in the flats. We already know the linebackers weren’t comfortable being asked to take on offensive linemen for the defensive line. They don’t look super comfortable running after 4.4 slot receivers either. Is it a lack of confidence in the system or the simple fact that they know they are being asked to do something that they are not consistently capable of doing? Are they not being coached well enough to make any of this week? There are still plays that are there to be made, but is there simply too much thinking and worrying going on to be able to play naturally?

10. There may be other answers out there.

I plan on writing about this in the next day or two and asking Urban Meyer about it as well. As Tom Orr and I talked about on Sunday’s podcast (by the way, we have changed the name of Accost the Field to “The Buckeye Weekly Podcast“), Terry McLaurin said last week that it took Urban Meyer a while to be convinced that Chris Olave was tough enough to play because he didn’t get to see him in camp. I’m wondering how many other players Meyer is only now coming around on. Brendon White, Jeremy Ruckert, and Wyatt Davis all provided answers. Are there other answers out there? Keandre Jones had a punt block. Could he be an answer? The freshmen linebackers are providing help on special teams. Can they do more on defense? Who else is out there that still needs to convince Urban Meyer that he can handle a role?

29 Responses

  1. 6. Dwayne Haskins is not a fan of contact.

    I like Haskins and consider him a prodigy as a passer but that slide was the pussiest thing I’ve ever seen from an Ohio State quarterback, lol. Not at all a fan of contact.

  2. What ever happened to the good old Nickel defense? I feel like with as many spread looks that we see, and how many times I see linebackers covering receivers, it would be a good time to throw an extra DB out there. And if we dont have strength in the linebackers this year, why not throw an extra safety out there instead? Maybe a stupid comment, but I just wonder about having another guy out there that can blaze to support those deep passes with press man.

    1. They play nickel plenty. Teams have run successfully against it at times as well.

      1. I agree with Pete. Having our 5th slowest player on D covering their 3-4 fastest is a no win. They don’t play nearly enough nickel. The base gets run on too. Let’s face it, these LB’s aren’t what we’re used to. HAVE to play to your strengths. It only took 9 games to scrap the rpo. That should have been done before the season started

  3. 11. All these wonderful improvements occurred against a 2-6 team. This week in EL against a coaching staff that always gets more out of 3 star recruits than anyone else will tell the tale.

  4. Ok some very good post on the site that I agree with but a few additional thoughts to consider.

    1. It seems like Urban and his staff are sometimes too loyal to their players. When they simply aren’t performing they tend to make excuses instead of replacing with younger eager possibly more tallented players. (See Nick Sabin and his QBs during last years National Championship game) Why was Brendon White not on the field earlier this season at safety? Has he suddenly matured into a high performer – maybe – or is it an artifact of a coaching staff with blinders on who are committed to a set of players they decided on in August and are sticking with them no matter what. In this case, injuries and an ejection were the only way White finally got on the field at safety. I am sure he wasn’t perfect for the day but I saw energy and play making on defense. Something this team has been sorely lacking. Especially at linebacker and the secondary. It looks like everyone is so focused on not making mistakes that they are hesitant and simply not flying around acting with speed and instinct. I am tired about reading statements that going to work Tate into game plan and Bowen and Taylor are ready but we don’t see them. Makes me wonder. Who else could be helping?

    2. In addition, I do not see the physical aggressive style of play we have seen on defense in the past. In watching the game against Purdue and Nebraska I actually felt our defense was physically over matched at times. – they were getting pushed around. We were not dominating the line of scrimmage. In the past teams simply could not run the ball on the Bucks so they often gave up trying by the third quarter. Today I see teams running consistently and moving the sticks which chews up clock and keeps our offense off the field. the longer our offense is off the field the more difficulty they have establishing rhythm.

    3. Finally, I wonder if our defensive scheme needs to be simplified. We are making late shifts on the line and players are ending up out of position to make plays. this ends up giving up huge plays through gapping holes. Sometimes you just need to simplify and tell your guys to go play smash mouth football.

  5. LB’s to me look like they are thinking too much and not playing fast. There were many plays Saturday they looked to be in position but just whiffed on the tackle. They get into position and stop and break down and let the ball carrier come to them instead of attacking the ball. As a result they are getting juked and miss the tackle. Its almost like they are afraid of making a mistake to the point they are not playing fast and aggressive. I’d rather see them miss a tackle because they attacked the ball carrier instead of the other way around.

    1. I was wondering that was possible too. Maybe play them twice next year but right now it’s not a good idea to play scUM.

  6. Urby has to decide whether he wants a dual-threat QB who can read and run the R/O or a pro-style O, and then he needs to recruit that kind of QB.

    It’s my opinion that the R/O, IF run properly, is a nightmare for D-coordinators. JTB was a master who couldn’t pass. Let’s find one who can. And some O-linemen with some mobility while we’re at it.

  7. Great post James A Mills!You are right on I hope Bill Davis reads it and lets the young fast linebackers get a shot at gaining some Confidence!

  8. Thank goodness for Kurt Mews & Mr AA. [ Andrew Alexander] the only sane fans to post on this sit. It just isn’t fun anymore.

    1. James Mills posts the best comments

    2. So you’re not sane? Actually there are quite a few sane fans here but they don’t post all day long. That’s one of the signs, lol.

  9. 1 – 10. It’s the 10th game of the season and Ohio State is still tinkering with an offense just to find the base to build an identity on? WTF. Dwayne looked absolutely frightened on the field Saturday. If he’s afraid of Nebraska’s garbage can defense, you can bet the farm he’s nowhere in the vicinity of being ready for the next level. A lot of people (couch coaches) have been screaming that running the RPO with a pro style QB was the problem with the running game. Why in the hell has it taken 10 games and getting mauled by a bottom feeder to the tune of 49 – 20 to have a EUREKA level epiphany for coaches who are paid a lot of money, because of their “supposed” football expertise” to discover that?


    Tony, I love ya man, but simply running for 254 yards in each of the remaining games is far removed from winning out. Statistically that “should” be true, but when you have a weak juco level defense you’re living on the edge of rage and ruin. All the bluster from coaches about the mighty resurgence of Nebraska’s offense is mere window dressing to hide the FACT that Ohio State’s defense is one of the very worst in the Country. Combine that with the FACT that Nebraska came in ALSO having one the very worst defenses in the Country, than what we have here, is a Buckeye offense that can perform only average against one of those flat, because of ocean pressure, bottom feeders who are mining for bread crumbs on the edge of the Mariana’s Trench and NEVER see the light of day. Ohio State should have put 60 points on the board with over 700 yards of offense on that flattened carp. Color me as a Negative Nancy, because I’m not buying that the “offensive” staff magically solved the disaster of the offensive line and running game against a crumpled beer can level rush defense. While 254 yards was cool and all, it doesn’t mean much when it’s against a very. Securing a W in East Lansing based on rushing for 254 yards against them, with a Buckeye defense, which itself is offensive, is a dangerous proposition to proclaim.

    Is there a bright spot to this post? YES! The Buckeyes are FORTUNATE this game is being played in East Lansing.

    Since Woody Hayes became the Head Coach, the Spartans have beaten Ohio State in East Lansing 5 times. The LAST time the Spartans beat the Buckeyes up there, most of the guys on both rosters were either toddlers, or not yet into their terrible 2’s, if even potty trained. That was WAY back in 1999. In other words. Prior to that the last time the Spartans got a W in Spartan stadium was following the firing of Earle Bruce and first season of John Cooper in 1988. In other words……..MSU SUCKS MOOSE TITS against the Buckeyes in East Lansing.

    That last part is THIS version of the Buckeyes best hope against a defense that WILL punch them in the face over, and over, and over, and over. They are going to kick the Buckeyes offensive lines teeth in, and with a quarterback who is frightened (not to be confused with merely afraid) of contact, the Buckeye running backs are going to have to gain those 254 yards on their own………and it still probably won’t be enough. There’s no chance that the Ohio State defense can contain Dantonio’s hyper potent (obviously TIC), point and a half per minute offense.

    But I AM looking forward to seeing Jordan Fuller and Brendon White on the field together as starting safeties.

    1. against a very bad football team. ^

  10. Nice article. Ten lessons.
    1. Our RBS refused to go down. Many times they turned losing yardage into big plays.
    2. NE gifted us with key drops early in the 3rd q that could have made this game very different.
    3. Our D handed our O with a blow out throughout the 3rd quarter. What could have been a 35 point splurge turned into a 14 point squirt.
    4. Our O play calling left much to be desired in the fourth. With momentum with 13 minutes left we threw 3 straight poor passes instead of running a tired NE D into the ground.
    5. This game could have been a route with better discipline.
    6. White needs to be on the field he has a knack that reminds me of C. Spielman.
    7. Glad to see other plays in our red zone. Where is Tate?
    8. Haskins passing came down to earth. But still not bad. Where is our deep ball?
    9. Not sure what the crystal ball shows. OSU has only shown us that all games from here in will be tight.
    10. At least OSU is scrapping and being the most talented team in the Conference may surprise us especially with new players and healthier D players.


    1. Good stuff, Kurt!
      Run game needs to continue improving as the level of competition goes through the roof this Saturday and doesn’t drop off much in 3 weeks.
      The secondary may have found a ‘second wind’ in Brendon White, now if there were only a rabbit for the linebackers’ hat?

  11. 1) (Paraphrasing Han Solo): “Good against Nebraska (71st in the nation vs. the run before Saturday) is one thing, good against Michigan State (#1 vs the run before Saturday) is another!”
    2) This OL has never known anything except RPO blocking. Why is this year suddenly where it’s a make-or-break issue for the entire offense? I think it’s because Barrett was so good at making RPO decisions and Haskins isn’t an assertive leader and while he makes good-to-great decisions in passing, his run decisions are average at best and often not ‘best’.
    3) Yah. White was a beast and needs to be out there full-time at least until we know if it was a fluke or if he’s just ‘ready’.
    4) Davis COULD be the shot-in-the-arm the O-line needs. Maybe Josh Myers too? Brandon Bowen? Just hope the coaches aren’t afraid to tinker because they need the nasty back in the OL and they need it yesterday!
    5) Pistol needs in, so does under-center for short yardage. Oh, and throw away the fly sweep on 3rd and short. NOT a winner! What’s wrong with pop-passes? Other teams use ‘em on the Buckeyes with decent effect.
    6) I read somewhere that the writer felt Dwayne wanted to be a “one-and-done” and shied from contact for his NFL future. Not sure I buy that but the kid sure isn’t taking hits like Barrett or Miller did.
    7) Interesting point you make on the coaching. I wonder though, why a staff that’s been together for years suddenly has an entire batch of upperclassmen who aren’t responding to coaching but the young kids are?
    8) Yes. Haskins is a rare passing QB talent. But his leadership and some of his decision-making leave a lot to be desired. Yards and completions don’t’ win games. A QB who knows how to orchestrate ALL aspects of offense – including being able to force feed a defense runs when the game requires – to win championships.
    9) If the LBs don’t look confident that’s squarely on Bill Davis. These guys have been ‘learning’ from Davis for 2 years now. If they’re not confident he’s putting them in position to succeed then that’s squarely on him. If the younger ‘backers should be in that’s on Davis as well.
    10) I agree. Let ‘em play and let’s see who rises to the occasion.

    1. JT Barrett remains the very best RPO QB in Ohio State history, and one of the very best in College Football history……….but if reports are true, he still can’t pass worth a damned! What he had in royal flush spades was toughness and heart and LEADERSHIP. He could literally make chicken salad out of chicken shit. To a degree JT Barrett could be compared to Leonidas defending the pass of Thermopylae with 7000 men against the 150 – 250 thousand man army of Xerxes I, only to be betrayed by a countryman, Ephialtes (predictability). The Spartans lost exactly 2 battles in that war, compiling a brilliant win loss record, stomping Xerxes I at Salamis (East Lansing _ichigan) forcing Xerxes to tuck tail and run all the way back to Persia, leaving his forces to meet the Spartans at Plataea (Ann Arbor) where the Wolvervarmints were crushed, ending the war (season), and thereby seizing victory for the Buckeye Nation.

      1. Ah yes, Leonidis…..he was good!

        1. Billie Boy………maybe someday you’ll pick up a book and actually start to get an education. It’s doubtful, and, I don’t bet on long shots.

          Lets see, you’re posting on a football site and have never made a football post. You direct what little of anything that you have at me, and like the fallacy of the primordial ooze, just too stupid to claim the right to eventually evolve beyond the single cell stage.

          How sad for you.

          1. If I’m going to make any serious football comments, I need a better audience. Took me a while to learn this but the cream of the crop, as far as well adjusted humans go, are generally not making comments on the computer. Too bad!

            1. Is that right little Billie Boy. Then bye…..go talk to the wall in your mommies basement.

            2. So this crowd isn’t good enough for your serious football comments but it’s worth projecting on them about their faults as humans. Sounds like somebody with issues themselves. Lol! Don’t look now but who’s making comments on the computer? The cream of the crop!

      2. Now I have to read another book?. Thanks for entertaining post.

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