What more can you learn when every test looks the same?
Ohio State went into Northwestern favored by four touchdowns and covered the spread in the first half.
The most efficient offense in the Big Ten once again took one of the conference’s best defenses and made them look like the worst.
Even when they are trying to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, the OSU offense is still dynamic. The Buckeyes ran the ball with an actual running back seven times in the fourth quarter. Those rushes went 3, 4, 1, 4, 73, 0, and 53 yards.
This is kind of like a closer in baseball being among the league leaders in strikeouts.
While this game seemed like many others before it, there were some new things to watch and learn from, as well as some additional conclusions to make.
Beginning with something very elementary.
1. Ohio State’s defensive staff needs to learn to count better.
Ohio State’s first defensive series began with just 10 defenders on the field. That snap resulted in a 13-yard rush for running back Kyric McGowan. I assume this was just some confusion because the Buckeyes were alternating Tuf Borland and Josh Proctor due to the absence of Baron Browning and one thought the other was supposed to be in there. Though, if you’re going to make that kind of mistake, it is better to do it on the first play of the game and not the last play.
2. Demario McCall is still part of the plan.
According to a win real cash app research stats, the backup running back job is long gone, but there is still a role for Demario McCall in this offense. Last week, he tweaked something in warmups and didn’t play. This week, he was good to go and was back on both kick and punt returns. More than that, however, was the fact that he was also in the game on third downs. Ryan Day has called him a ‘third-down back’ earlier in the season, but we have yet to see too much of an impact there. He only carried the ball once Friday night, but don’t sleep on him. Defenses aren’t, after all. And if they are, then they’re going to regret it.
3. Justin Fields is getting good.
In the gamer Friday night, I called Justin Fields a junior. I’m chalking it up to the fact that it was like 1:30 in the morning and I was all hopped up on cold medicine, but I think some of the blame should also be placed on Fields himself, because he is not playing like a sophomore with seven career starts under his belt. When you watch him, you see an upperclassman just like I do and you know it. When he dropped a snap and had to jump on it, after the play he immediately went to center Josh Myers and smiled and apologized. No big deal for Fields. On his touchdown pass to Austin Mack, he dropped in a perfect pass over a zone defender. It was another example of Fields being able to “one inch the defender.” Fields may not be making all of the calls yet — or almost any of them — but everything he has been asked to do, he has done very, very well.
4. Ryan Day’s patience is impressive.
Ohio State ran the ball 12 times for 40 yards in the first quarter against Northwestern. Two weeks earlier against Michigan State, it was 10 carries for zero yards in the first quarter. Ryan Day didn’t give up on the running game in either instance. Over the next three quarters against the Wildcats, the Buckeyes would run the ball 25 more times for 239 yards (9.6 ypc). Things were even better against Sparty, where OSU’s final 39 rushes went for 323 yards (8.3 ypc). With this offensive line, these running backs, and a passing game that has been the perfect complement, Ryan Day is showing that he’s every bit the lover of the running game that Urban Meyer was (and still is).
5. Ryan Day is a master playcaller.
It looked like there were a couple of new plays put in this week, or at least a couple of new first reads. The first touchdown pass to Chris Olave where Olave ran a drag and then turned it upfield looked new and worked perfectly. It didn’t hurt that the cornerback fell down and two other defenders seemed to get distracted watching the tight end fall down as well. The other seemingly new play was the angle route touchdown pass to JK Dobbins. It was another perfect plan, perfect call, and perfect execution. With talented playcallers like Kevin Wilson and Mike Yurcich in Day’s ears, you can’t help but wonder how many more perfect calls are coming. And the answer assuredly won’t be ‘zero.’
6. Baron Browning should be back this week.
Ohio State’s junior middle linebacker Baron Browning missed the Northwestern game due to an injury suffered at the end of the Michigan State game two weeks ago. After Friday night’s game, Ryan Day said that they do expect to have Browning back for the Wisconsin game.
7. Jameson Williams is going to block a punt this season.
You know Urban Meyer’s rule about a young player having to compete on special teams before they get to play on offense or defense? Well, I know Meyer is gone, but freshman wide receiver Jameson Williams should start seeing some more time on offense based on how close he got to blocking a punt more than once against Northwestern. It feels like a matter of time until Williams blocks a punt this season, and a matter of time before he’s catching a 62-yard touchdown pass from Justin Fields.
8. Our perspective has already been skewed.
Northwestern had some success running the ball, but it sure felt like a lot more than it actually was. The Wildcats set the tone early with 54 yards on their first five rushes. Their other 42 carries went for 103 yards — or 2.5 yards per carry. As it was, they still only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Interestingly, much (most?) of that early success came against a new look from the Ohio State defense. With Baron Browning out, Pete Werner and Malik Harrison were inside and sophomore safety Josh Proctor was the third linebacker. You could probably call him the Bullet. There were a few of these snaps that didn’t go great, not including the first snap against 10 defenders that went 13 yards. This is also another reason why it will be good to get Browning back this week against the best running game this Ohio State defense will have seen in 2019. But again, our perspective this season has already been so skewed because of how well this defense has played. The Buckeyes gave up three points and yet there is still this tinge of a rush defense concern following a game where an opponent averaged a less-than-pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry.
9. Master Teague? More like Master Chef.
Every show about a cooking competition will have some episode where contestants have to make literal chicken salad out of figurative chicken s***. The ability to make something divine out of hellish ingredients is a testament to their cooking skills. Nobody, however, does more with scraps than Master Teague. I’ve called him a closer in the past and that term certainly fits again this week. Teague ran the ball five times for 85 yards in the fourth quarter against the Wildcats. Against Michigan State, Teague rushed for 79 yards on 10 carries in the fourth quarter. He gets leftovers and wins Michelin stars. Not too shabby.
10. Shaun Wade won’t be shutout forever.
Shaun Wade is around the ball too often to remain interceptionless for much longer this season. As Jeff Hafley told Jeff Okudah, just do your job and the ball will eventually find you. Wade’s problem hasn’t been the ball finding him, it’s been his inability to see it before it was already on him. That’s not a criticism, because I’m not sure anybody outside of Hafley could actually criticize Wade right now. Eventually, he’ll have his head turned towards the ball on a throw headed his direction and he’ll bring it down. The interceptions will come, and don’t be surprised if they come in relative bunches.
You commented on Day’s great play design on Olave’s first TD. But Olave’s second TD is a total set-up play for a throwback to a TE running a drag route in the opposite direction. MID.
Another thing we confirmed at Northwestern is that this coaching staff continues to make productive adjustments when things are not working in the first quarter. The second quarter production this year is astounding and much of that credit should go to the coaching staff. Regarding Justin Fields, the really surprising thing is not his physical talents (everyone but the Georgia coaching staff seems to have recognized them), but that he has mastered the Buckeye offense so quickly and that he has performed so well as a starter in a program where championships are always the goals. Talent alone can’t do that. Fields is smart and tough to go along with incredible talent.
Everyone knew that Justin Fields was talented (the stupidity of the transfer “pothole” notwithstanding), but, he’s certainly surpassed expectations as a first year starter. If he’s just getting started he’ll certainly be the Heisman front runner to start 2020.
In 2020 the Buckeyes are going to have a 3 headed monster in the running back room, plus an addition or 2. Master is a beast just bidding his time as the closer. Marcus Crowley has already shown flashes and got the nod because he came in early over Steele Chambers, who has all the tools to be a defense wrecker.
The problem that defensive lines have against this offensive line seems pretty evident. They finally found an offensive line who doesn’t get bothered by getting blasted in the mouth early on. They just keep coming until that defensive front quits from sheer exhaustion. It’s safe to say that every expected this line to be better, bow WOW they are playing nasty meat grinder football.
The Staff has done a fantastic job preparing and game planning and adjusting on the fly. We’re seeing real, solid player development where guys enter games tough and locked in.It’s next to impossible to say with certainty when the starters on defense are in and when the line-up is mixed between starters and reserves. The level of play just doesn’t change. It’s even hardly noticeable in the 4th quarters when the shuffle is between 2’s and 3’s. That’s a credit to coaching/development and the player leadership bringing the younger guys up with them.
NOTE TO REFS. Keep your mouths closed at all times. That ref didn’t require stitches because of a hand or a helmet. It happened when he caught the cutting vapor trail of JK Dobbins blowing past him at supersonic speed.
Credit Ryan Day for the exceptional coordination that results in the best ‘time’ management i have ever seen by an OSU staff. Watching the Whiteout Saturday was literally the difference between Day and night, as neither Harbaugh or Franklin seem to have any idea what they were doing with their timeouts. Day’s all out aggressive attitude will have the Buckeyes ready to go when they need it. It was an absolute coaching clinic. The confidence that Ohio State plays with, clearly emanates from the top.
Tom that is a great point about time manangement. I really liked UM but his time manangement was way below par.
“Loyalty” is a harsh and hurtful value… but it can make the self-centered sacrificially selfless, and thus help put the best teammate on the field.
A few of our past leaders have had a few ‘favs’ at the expense of putting the best men on the field..
The consequences can be carcinogenic… and as we enter the stretch run vs better & better teams… the potential to tear what all Buckeyes have so laboriously and steadfastly built thus far… is magnified.
Leadership can be as tough and lonely, as it is necessary
The ante in 2019 is in. The game begins in earnest, now.
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