Ohio State-Virginia Tech: In Depth Reaction Part 1

We all know what happened Saturday night and to some of us it left a sickening feeling. My initial knee jerk reaction was “Wow this feels like 2011 all over again.” J.T. Barrett looked like Braxton Miller as a freshman. A talented kid who gave his play makers opportunities to make plays but in the end it looked like he was on his own. The receivers could not manage a yard of separation, and when they did they could not make a play on the ball to save their life. Every running attempt looked uninspired, aside from Elliott’s TD run. The offensive line looked completely over powered and over matched.

The defense did an alright job, forcing turnovers here and there, keeping the game within reach. Ultimately they would be let down by their offense and its inability to move the ball. And in today’s age of college football, if you give a decent spread offense enough chances they will surely capitalize on some of them.

The one difference between the 2011 squad and this years is that there is a strong leadership group of coaches to work the players through this loss. As Lou Holtz was once quoted as saying, “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” And I think this quote applies to this football team very appropriately. I will get to the in depth breakdown of this game shortly but I think a bit of perspective is helpful when dealing with a loss like we saw on Saturday night. It would be incredibly ignorant and uneducated to say this team is not as, if not more, talented than every other team on its schedule for the rest of the year, the lone exception being Michigan State. That was not the case in 2011, in my opinion, and that team still managed to find itself in almost every game.

I say all of that to say all of this: the fans needed this loss more than the players and coaches did. I think this team needed this loss, but several of the fans, including myself, were either too high on this team, or were convinced that the team in the 2nd half of Navy was the Ohio State team we would get the rest of the year. While we still may not know which team to fully expect, I think we as fans know that this team is both very talented and very inexperienced, which will lead us to very high high’s and some disappointments as well. Either way this team will be entertaining and provide us all with more dialogue than we may even want. Now to the breakdown of the offense:

The Quarterbacks

There were times in this game where I felt bad for J.T. Barrett and times where I was frustrated with him. In either case I will start his review off by applauding him for fighting until the end. Not that he had much of a choice, but you could tell by his body language and demeanor he would not let his team quit until the final whistle.

Barrett ended the game 9 of 29 for 219 yards, throwing 1 touchdown to 3 interceptions. He also ran the ball an astounding 24 times for 70 yards and a touchdown.

That stat line is not flattering but judging Barrett on completion percentage and turnovers alone is not a fair evaluation of his performance. Barrett was apparently handed more of the playbook Saturday night, however that “more” meant more QB runs and more go routes. Which in my opinion Barrett did pretty well on both. I thought he threw the ball fairly well. His arm strength concerned me at the beginning of the game, but once he realized the speed at which the game was being played at he adjusted and I thought he threw the ball with greater velocity as the night went on. Barrett’s rough stat line is more of a product of poor pass protection, receivers not making plays, and a very very poor run game. Overall I would grade Barrett out at a B-.

Running Backs

It was hard to tell whether it was intimidation, poor play calling, or lack of effort, but Saturday night was one of the worst rushing performances I have ever seen out of Ohio State. The stat line backs it up as the team only ran for 108 yards on 40 attempts. Saturday night marked the least amount of rushing yards accumulated by an Urban Meyer coached team ever. It was abysmal. The offensive line could not generate any push or running lanes. Credit defensive coordinator Bud Foster for employing his 46 front and using 3 nose tackles at points in the game. A scheme that he said he hasn’t used in about 20 years, and Urban Meyer would echo that sentiment after the game stating that his coaching staff was “surprised” to see the 46 front.

The Buckeyes lone success running the ball came after they pounded the middle a few times and then ran speed option. However, even that play provided limited success as the Hokie linebackers or safeties often proved aware enough of the play to string it out for little to no gain.

Carlos Hyde was greatly missed Saturday night. His determination and angry running was much needed versus a very experienced and violent Hokie front. Curtis Samuel seemed to be the only Buckeye running back that consistently looked willing to push the pile and run violently. Elliott was thought to be that type of all purpose back this year, but I have not seen any violence in his running and that should be a serious concern for the Buckeyes. Inside zone is the Buckeyes bread and butter, if they do not have a running back who is willing to take on that task of running between the tackles the offense will not have a starting point or foundation.

Wide Receivers

Next to defensive backs, wide receiver has been the poorest position group for the Buckeyes under Urban Meyer. As an overall group the receivers, aside from Philly Brown, have been poor route runners, unable to get separation off man coverage, and all love to catch the ball with their body not their hands. The one commonality between the group? They are all good run blockers. That trait was useful in last years offense when Carlos Hyde was the feature and not the receivers. The receivers are not the feature of this team this year but they are being asked to pose somewhat of a threat to beat coverage on a consistent basis.

It’s perplexing how players like Evan Spencer still receive playing time at the position. His route running is poor, he is not electric in any sense of the imagination, his lone skill trait is run blocking which did not seem to make a huge difference Saturday night. Meyer has recruited more natural receivers, such as Johnnie Dixon, to start as freshman yet Spencer continues to see playing time while not producing. Another player who seems to automatically get the nod over others is Devin Smith. Smith does have a reputation for making highlight plays, but the Buckeyes could use more consistent route running and catching at this point. Smith has made a career out of being a hood ornament, the same thing Dontre Wilson was accused of being last year as a freshman.

Overall the group needs serious work. While Corey Smith did himself no favors following Saturday night, he left me with a greater belief that if given a chance on a more consistent basis he at least was able to create separation for a throw. Smith may just need more experience at game speed to begin to haul in those balls. Michael Thomas needs to see the field more due to his rare skill set. The kid does nothing but catch the football like a receiver should, with his hands. He runs smooth routes, see his touchdown catch and run on Saturday night. He has all of the tools a coach would desire of his number one receiver. This is a very deep group and after Saturday’s performance, no spot should be safe.

Tight Ends

Can’t really say anything other than good blocking by this group. Vannett and Heuerman continue to be ignored by the offense. They had prime matchups versus undersized linebackers for Virginia Tech yet received very few to no targets at all.

Offensive Line

This position group had a forgettable night Saturday night to say the least. I’m not sure if rotation or change is the right answer here since it takes time for lineman to gel, but the coaching staff may experiment with that versus Kent State. Baldwin looked entirely too slow against Navy and Virginia Tech’s edge rusher so maybe its time to give Chase Farris or Jamarco Jones an opportunity. The whole right side of the line was completely over matched from Boren to Baldwin. I’d imagine if Chad Lindsay is healthy and has a good week of practice he will receive some playing time against Kent State. I know Meyer wants to save Demetrius Knox, Marcelys Jones, and Jamarco Jones but if Baldwin and Price can not fix that right side of the line it may be time to put the freshman in. Having two freshman start on your offensive line would not be the ideal scenario for Meyer and Warinner but if the kids are as talented as they were touted to be, then they could provide some help to an over matched group at the moment.

I will excuse the offensive line on one note, Meyer stated that they were not prepared for the use of 3 nose tackles and a 46 front. So for a team that’s youth is on the inside of the offensive line, after knowing that and re-watching the game I can understand how they struggled.


Tom Herman called a pretty poor game against Virginia Tech. The offense does not perform that poorly without some of it resting on the shoulders of the coaching staff. Maybe he wasn’t expecting to face a 46 front and cover 0, but either way, I stated in my players to watch post that this game would come down to preparation and it seems like the whole offensive coaching staff failed in that department last week. Bud Foster is a defensive genius and has been doing this a very long time, but Tom Herman should not have been out-coached as bad as he was on Saturday night.

More to Come

I’ll have my recap on the defense tomorrow, in the mean time leave your comments below on the offense, let me know what you think went wrong versus Virginia Tech and what can be improved moving forward.


  1. Maybe you watched a different game then I did but it was quiet evident that Barrett’s ability to throw the ball is lacking. He lacks touch and his mechanics are poor. On one play you could see his feet planted in the opposite direction of his throw. His footwork is bad.
    As for receivers not getting open, blame the coaches. If a receiver isn’t getting open it is the coaches responsibility to “explain” expectations at THAT TIME and if the receivers don’t meet expectations in the next couple plays then remove them.

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