Before the game on Saturday, I said on our pregame Facebook Live that this was going to be a bit like golfing for Ohio State. They wouldn’t necessarily be competing against Miami (OH), but rather they’d be competing against the course. They would be competing against a standard.
Early on, they were falling short of that standard. About midway through the first quarter, however, Ohio State raised their standards and then they razed the Miami RedHawks.
Touchdowns then started speeding past our faces like electric poles on a nice country drive. One right after the other. Six total in the second quarter, which is video game type stuff.
In the end, everyone got to play. Everyone had some success. Everyone came out better for it, which was one of the main goals coming into the game. (The first two being to win and stay healthy.)
There is plenty here for the coaches to study and for the players to learn from.
Being professional second guessers, however, we don’t need to go to the tape. We already know what we learned from watching the game live.
1. I owe Chase Young an apology.
Prior to the season, whenever comparing Chase Young to Joey Or Nick Bosa, I would dismiss the thought that Young should be mentioned in the same breath with the two pass-rushing brothers. I would like to now publicly apologize to Chase because I was wrong. I hope he can find it in his heart to forgive me because this season he is proving to be one of the most disruptive players in Ohio State football history. He is tied for the national lead with 7.0 sacks. Makes you wonder what he will do once this defensive line gets healthy.
2. KJ Hill is starting to get involved down the field.
In KJ Hill’s first three games, he was mostly a short-yardage target. In those games, he averaged 7.0, 7.1, and 11.5 yards per reception. He was an underneath target against zone defenses. Against Miami, however, rather than getting him going east or west or in a stationary zone, his routes sent him downfield. The first was a little wheel route switch with Garrett Wilson that went 53 yards for the touchdown. The second was just a seam route straight down the field for 25 yards. Hill is a tough matchup in man-to-man situations for nickels or safeties, and he’s a reliable release valve in zones. Getting him involved down the field is a bit of a new twist, however, even though his first-ever catch as a Buckeye went for a 47-yard touchdown.
3. The read option is going to get deadlier.
As the Buckeyes now get into their more important games, they are going to have to win by any means necessary. That means a few more runs for Justin Fields. He was outstanding on his two pulls for touchdowns on Saturday. He made the right reads and did it after the defenders were fully committed. That will continue down inside the 10-yard line, but it will likely also start showing up all over the rest of the field as well. Fields’ ability to run the ball has to be managed closely, but you can’t just keep him locked up in the garage.
4. The red zone offense is very good.
Even aside from the read option that Justin Fields has been killing inside the 10-yard line, you’ve seen how good Ohio State has been with those fade passes over the cornerbacks to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson — and those are the two shorter dudes. The sprint-outs to the running back or the receiver in motion have been unstoppable. I think KJ Hill, JK Dobbins, and Marcus Crowley have all scored on them. And I’m probably missing one. Oh, they’re also running the ball well down there as well. The Buckeyes went 7-of-8 on scoring touchdowns in the red zone on Saturday. The lone failure was Master Teague’s fumble. Ohio State’s 85% touchdown rate in the red zone is sixth in the nation. They have scored touchdowns on 17-of-20 red-zone visits.
5. The backup quarterbacks are better than they were last week.
I came into this game wanting to see Chris Chugunov or Gunnar Hoak move the ball because it’s not something they’ve really done this season. They got plenty of opportunity in the second half of this game and made the most of it. They both led two touchdown drives, which might be an Ohio State record for their second and third quarterbacks. For the game, Chugunov completed 6-of-7 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Hoak completed both of his passes, including a 61-yard strike to freshman receiver Jameson Williams. They both left that game feeling better about themselves than they went in, and so did their coaches and teammates.
6. The defensive adjustments happen faster than they used to.
Tom Orr mentioned this on our postgame podcast (which you can listen to here), but the quickness with which Ohio State’s defense adjusted to Miami’s successes out wide was impressive. It’s not unusual for those first 15 plays or so to have some success because they’ve been scripted and practiced and everybody is keyed in on what’s coming. Once that script ends, however, then the real game begins. I don’t know how much of Miami’s success ending was based on the script ending, but I also know had they continued doing what worked in the first quarter, it wasn’t going to work in the second. These coaches had things fixed by the middle of the first quarter. Halftime adjustments? Why wait? At least for one game, no longer was it necessary for a self-addressed stamped envelope to be sent to the defensive coordinators requesting adjustments. And no longer do the players have to wait 4-6 weeks for delivery.
7. Matt Barnes has been a tremendous addition to this staff.
When Matt Barnes was hired as the assistant secondary coach and special teams coordinator, it seemed a bit odd. Barnes being hired wasn’t odd, nor was the special teams coordinator title which had been also given to Taver Johnson and Kerry Coombs before him. The odd part was the “assistant secondary coach” title because we just weren’t used to that sort of thing around here. Regardless of his titles, however, he has been a tremendous addition to Ryan Day’s first coaching staff. The Buckeyes have blocked two punts and a field goal so far this season and it’s a credit to Barnes and his assistants in devising the scheme and putting the right players in the proper spots to have success. Ohio State is currently tied for most blocked kicks/punts in the nation and they sure don’t look like they’re done for the year. Barnes’ contributions in the secondary should also be mentioned because Jeff Hafley isn’t doing everything on his own. These defensive backs have taken to this new scheme and helped make the Buckeyes the No. 12 pass efficiency defense in the nation. After five September games a year ago, Ohio State ranked 37th in that category.
8. This defense still isn’t perfect.
Everybody came into this game feeling really good about the defense. And then the game started and the Buckeyes were being stretched wide and giving up yardage that we haven’t seen them allow all season. The key thing to remember here is that no defense is perfect and every defense has a weakness. Miami saw some things in their film study that they thought they could attack, and they did. That attack didn’t last long, and I doubt RedHawk head coach Chuck Martin expected it to. The start of this game just goes to show us that there are still areas of vulnerability in this defense, but those holes were plugged quickly. Can they do the same next week in Lincoln? They’ll need to.
9. This was just the beginning for Jameson Williams and Garrett Wilson.
Just think, you get 2.75 more years of Jameson Williams and Garrett Wilson making you drop your jaw. It’s always fun when you get to see something from a freshman for the first time, all the while having expected it to eventually happen even before they ever signed. Ryan Day said back on signing day that Williams may be a year away, but then changed that prognosis in fall camp when he saw the freshman making plays. You saw exactly why I’ve been calling him Ted Ginn Jr. Jr. It’s difficult to imagine that there is no need for his speed on this offense. He may only get a few more catches this season, but you better believe that when No. 6 takes the field, the defense will be pointing and yelling. Garrett Wilson, meanwhile, continues to simply be the Natural. I don’t need to say anything about him you aren’t already saying yourself. He’s the Bob Ross of wide receivers — he makes everything look a whole lot easier than it really is.
10. The defensive line continues to pass the test.
On Saturday, Ohio State was without defensive ends Jonathon Cooper and Tyreke Smith and defensive tackles Robert Landers and Taron Vincent. Those four would start as a defensive line on just about any team in the Big Ten, save for Ohio State and Michigan State. And yet each of the four are good enough to start for Ohio State — three of them already have. While this defense did miss them on Saturday, it was good to see a guy like Haskell Garrett explode and make his name known. Of the Buckeyes’ top nine tacklers on Saturday, six were defensive linemen. Chase Young and Davon Hamilton deserve credit for bringing everyone else along with them. Ohio State has had three different starting defensive line combinations this season due to injuries. Despite the constant flux, the Buckeyes are giving up just 1.7 yards per carry, which is tied for second in the nation.