Ten Things We Learned From Ohio State’s 45-21 Win Over FAU

Justin Fields Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterback

There is always a lot to learn from the first game of the season.

(Unless that first game is against an overmatched opponent and there’s somebody lurking in week two that you don’t want to show too much to.)

That may be the case here, which could help explain Ohio State bursting out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, to then just coast the rest of the way to their eventual 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

Justin Fields made his debut as the Ryan Day Era officially got underway. The Buckeyes also broke out a new defense. There was a lot to see, and plenty to like. It was far from perfect, however, and concerns remain.

We have talked about the lull, we have discussed the good and the bad, and even handed out some Buckeye leaves and peeves.

But what have we learned?


1. That talk about playing two tight ends instead of an H-back wasn’t just talk.

It’s hard to keep track of who is and isn’t in the game on every snap, but one thing was clear — the two tight end system was as prevalent as the coaches warned early in the spring. KJ Hill didn’t even start the game because they went with Jeremy Ruckert instead. It was effective in the passing game, and helped with some max protect on the touchdown pass to Chris Olave. When under center, it gives the Buckeyes another run blocker and makes both Ruckert and Luke Farrell tough matchups for linebackers.

2. Maybe Jaelen Gill isn’t quite ready.

Jaelen Gill played here and there behind KJ Hill, but there just weren’t as many snaps for the H-backs as there were last year. He only had one catch, and he didn’t get that until late. The conspiracy theorist in me says maybe they’re holding him back for Cincinnati, but the realist in me says he played, he just wasn’t targeted. It’s not fair to say he isn’t quite ready. A more realistic thought would simply be that there are a lot of guys to throw to and not everybody can get the ball. Heck, the two receivers who started the game — Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack — only caught two passes each.

3. Jashon Cornell looks faster than ever.

Jashon Cornell dropped some weight in order to play defensive end last year, but then added some to be able to handle the interior at defensive tackle this year. And then Jonathon Cooper went down, along with Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday, and then Cornell had to go back outside to defensive end. And yet this was the most explosive I’ve ever seen him. He was in the backfield several times, coming away with two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. If he does get a chance to move back inside this year, there are some guards who are going to have issues.

4. The secondary showed great discipline.

The best example of this secondary being smart and disciplined came on the jet sweep flea flicker. Damon Arnette points out the quarterback, then defends the intended receiver. Also back deep in double coverage was Jeff Okudah. Last year, who knows what this play would have done. This year, it was just an example of a defense prepared to handle the unorthodox.

5. Demario McCall could add a lot as a returner.

Demario McCall had a 35-yard punt return and two 26-yard kickoff returns. His performance alone topped any return yardage games for the entire team last year, save for the Purdue game where the Buckeyes had enough kickoff returns to still only manage just 98 yards. It has been a while since Ohio State has had a punt returning threat or a kickoff returning threat. McCall could end up being both.

6. JK Dobbins is running tough again.

Ryan Day had to be pleased with a lot of what he saw from Dobbins, particularly the time he threw an Owl tackler to the ground before continuing his day. There was some tough sledding for Dobbins on the day, but he attacked it with the necessary aggression.

7. The offensive line has some work to do.

The Buckeyes averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and when you remove the 51-yard carry by Justin Fields, that number comes down to 4.0 yards per carry. That’s not nearly good enough in conference play. This needs fixed in a hurry. There was also quite a bit of pressure on quarterback Justin Fields. He took a couple of shots and had to escape a worse outcome a few times as well. Fields can help his line look better by making sure he’s making the right reads on the options, but they could help him by giving him more time in the pocket throughout the game.

8. This wasn’t even Neapolitan ice cream.

It wasn’t an entirely vanilla offense and defense on Saturday, but it wasn’t vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry either. There was plenty of newness — going under center, more two tight ends, Pete Werner dropping back as a safety at times, the Bullets and Sams together — but this was far from the entire package. There was no reason to show Cincinnati more than they had to. The Buckeyes will have a few extra things in their arsenal this coming weekend. And Justin Fields is just getting started as well.

9. The linebackers looked better.

I really liked what I saw from Malik Harrison and Pete Werner. Tuf Borland was active. The worst play of the day came in the fourth quarter when receiver Travis Harrison lined up in the slot and was possibly matched up with Teradja Mitchell, but Mitchell let him get behind him and then both he and Baron Browning had to make a mad dash to cover him. Browning almost got there, but didn’t. The play went for 38 yards. But other than that, this was a solid effort from a deep group, and it is clear that Browning is going to be a large part of this defense while he splits time with Tuf Borland. All four of the top linebackers had their moments on the day, which is exactly what you want.

10. There is still plenty of learning to be had.

Players and coaches walked away from this game stinging from the plays and points they left on the field, or in the defense’s case, the points that they allowed. That creates the kind of hunger that finds fixes and pushes them forward. They know they have to play an entire 60 minutes against Cincinnati, and Florida Atlantic helped them see that. For that reason alone, this game was a positive outcome.

9 Responses

  1. “JK Dobbins is running tough again.” Break out the crack pipe! Easiest RB to tackle since Boom (please don’t touch my shoestring) Herron. Do you guys know nobody reads your long winded BS? si

  2. Few questions I have.
    1) were the receivers and TEs getting open when the opponent changed to 3/8. Was Fields hesitant because the holes were tighter and would Haskins do better in that scenario?
    2) how was the receiver blocking?
    3) if the opposing had more time, how would the starting DB’s hold?
    4) Is Fields soft, i.e. Does he fold after taking a hit?
    5) will Fields show the leadership needed if things are tough and we are trailing late in the fourth quater?
    6) how quickly will the coaches bypass Dubbins if he is not performing?
    7) Is Fields/Dubbins combo where it needs to be as far as option runs and if not how long does it normally take, and how about with the other RB’s?I
    8) how long until the OL gels and shows consistentcy?
    9) how long till Fields starts trusting his OL fully and settle longer in the pocket when he is being protected?
    10) was it really because we had some backups in or will the D fall apart facing a better offense?

  3. I don’t think it’s the OL. Dobbins was getting plenty of space, he’s just not that explosive once he gets past the LOS. I saw several holes yesterday that Dobbins should have been off to the races. He was either tripped up, killing his forward motion, or just went down on first contact. Just not quick enough or isn’t seeing the creases quick enough. Either way, 90 yards with the space he is getting screams “meh”. OSU’s been trying to land the next Zeke, just keep missing. Has to be the negative recruiting the last couple years about Meyer’s possible retirement. Not like they wouldn’t be given every opportunity to succeed @ tailback U.

  4. my main concern by far is the run-blocking of the o-line..this is 2 years in a row with 2 almost completely different sets of supposed 4 n 5 star o-lineman and for OSU to barely be getting 4 ypc is very disconcerting…I thought Teague looked good and ran hard when he was in and Dobbins did early on, but Dobbins isn’t breaking many tackles I saw, outside the one play of throwing defender down…but he also isn’t getting much room to move..I didn’t see Dobbins missing many holes–they simply were not there..I know FAU was set to stop Dobbins as their main goal but still….this o-line needs to get more of a push or Cincinnati could be a big issue–I am not underestimating the Bearcat defense……otherwise some stuff to fix but I think overall Fields and the WR/TE ,and defense (compared to last year) looked much better and will hopefully improve in upcoming weeks with more time and I believe this CAN be a playoff team if the run game gets going…..and I like Day a lot but he should have challenged a couple calls …

  5. (Unless that first game is against an overmatched opponent and there’s somebody lurking in week two that you don’t want to show too much to.)

    The Buckeyes are so afraid of Luke Fickell and Cincinnati that they “don’t want to show them too much?” I’m hoping you were just joking with that comment. Seems to me that giving ANY opponent an overload of information would cause more problems than NOT as you develop your plays in real time (ironing out the kinks). The idea is to give the opponents enough information that they can’t focus too much time on any 1 play, but have wrinkles to those plays that the opponent haven’t seen. Urban Meyer was famous for running the same play, but, from different formations. It’s like handing the opponent pristine bed sheets on the outside, but, having them all wrinkled up on the inside.

  6. Good, sound points as always, Tony.

    I’ve heard BTN pundits say, “We judge Ohio State different” (mostly due to talent, goals, and expectations). Basically, fans, coaches, and players expect to be in the playoff hunt until the 4 teams are announced.

    At that time, Ohio State usually ends up being compared with teams with the same record, so it comes down to the dreaded “eye test”. Winning is not enough in the playoff era. You must be impressive and dominant so that you are the team the committee says, ” gotta put them in”.

    Ohio State was very dominant and impressive yesterday – for about 9 minutes. After that they were meh. First game, bland by intention, play lots of guys, etc may all be reasons for that. If they start putting dominant performances up, no one will care about the other 51 minutes of yesterday.

    Ohio State is a program capable of being dominant and impressive in most of their games, and then there are some where you do say, “just win the game”. All I’m saying is since they are capable of being dominant and impressive, I would prefer they be dominant and impressive because it can be the difference in being deemed the 5th or 6th best team, not 1-4.

  7. What moments did Borland have? Just as slow and can’t get off block

  8. The same issues persist for the OLine. The stable of RBs is the most average since 2003 when Clarrett got suspended.

    Werner must be amazing in practice and I assume he splits time with the LBs and CBs because all coaches seem to LOVE the idea of Werner in pass coverage.

    Fields is solid. Complete hybrid between Braxton and TP. He is a solid passer and solid runner (4.5 at best).

    1. Totally agree with the statements regarding the O-line. And it doesn’t matter if they have 4 new starters. It was the same crap last year as well, so I’m curious as to what Day sees in Coach Studrawa. I wasn’t expecting perfection in this game, and I knew going in that there would be issues to fix. And yes, I do know it’s only the first game. It just concerns me that we are seeing some of the same issues that were major problems last year, most especially the offensive inconsistencies. Also, I don’t think Dobbins’ job should be safe! I liked what I saw from Master Teague, and he certainly deserves more touches.

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