In Depth Recap: Ohio State-Cincinnati

The Buckeyes continued to bounce back from their early season loss to Virginia Tech with another impressive offensive outing versus the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday night. After trailing 7-0 early in the first quarter, the Buckeyes went on to score 30 unanswered points. The Buckeyes then showcased their youth midway in to the second quarter through early in the third which allowed Cincinnati to close within 5. From that point forward the Buckeyes scored another 17 unanswered to end the game and win the Battle of Ohio. Here are a few of my personal takeaways from the solid, yet still roller coaster ride, of a game the Buckeyes played on Saturday.

The Offense is Growing Up

Saturday night was the first time this season that we were able to see the very young Buckeye offense flourish against a legitimate FBS opponent. To my pleasant surprise, offensive coordinator Tom Herman seemed to give the keys to the Ferrari to J.T. Barrett, and allowed him to sit back and pick apart the Bearcat defense as he connected with 9 different receivers. Unsurprisingly, the large majority of Barrett’s success can be attributed to the steady dose of good protection, a very efficient run game led by Ezekiel Elliott, and very poised decision making.

The offensive line had its finest performance of the season against the Bearcats. They seemed to finally be able to generate a real push in the run game, opening up huge lanes for any rusher who touted the rock Saturday night. They were also solid in pass protection and provided Barrett, for the most part, a clean pocket that allowed him the time and space to scan the field and locate his target. When receivers failed to get open the pocket was also clean enough for Barrett to locate a running lane and pick-up whatever yardage he was able to gain.

The Bearcats did attempt the 46 Bear defense at points Saturday, as well as throwing stunts in to their scheme, and the Buckeyes offensive line had an answer for both techniques and movements. There were a few false start penalties and holding penalties that will need to be cleaned up, as well as solidifying the depth chart, but the offensive line has taken great strides since their embarrassing Virginia Tech performance.

In that loss to Virginia Tech the Buckeyes were unable to establish their identity which is, and always will be, a power run/inside zone team. Everything in Tom Herman’s offense starts at that base play and if Ohio State is unable to generate positive yardage off of that the offense becomes stagnant. With the consistent push that was created, stud running back Ezekiel Elliott was finally able to have his coming out party exploding for 182 yards on 28 attempts (6.5 ypc) and one touchdown. Other Buckeye running backs were able to contribute as well, as Rod Smith had a solid evening running (11 rush/61 yards), and Curtis Samuel looked to be set for a big night prior to his fumble which led to him sitting the rest of the night. Outside of the fumble, the Buckeye backfield looks primed and ready to explode going in to Big Ten play.

Was the offensive performance perfect Saturday night? Not at all. The offensive line suffered from false start penalties which should never happen at home. Freshman running back Curtis Samuel will have to improve his ball security because he will be needed moving forward regardless of how well Elliott is playing, Samuel brings a home-run threat that Elliott and Smith can’t quite match. And the wide receivers will need to decrease drops and continue to prove they can consistently get open. However, the silver lining in all of these mistakes is that they are fixable.

I walk away from Saturday nights performance impressed, but still not convinced. The sign of a good team is consistency. Going in to Big Ten play this Buckeye offense, starting with the line, will need to play at a very high level if this team wants to travel to East Lansing in November still in the hunt for a Big Ten title.

The Defense is fixed… Almost

For 49 of Cincinnati’s 52 offensive plays the Ohio State defense had a very good outing. Stifling the Bearcats explosive passing attack while also not giving them a sniff of running room in the ground game. However, you can’t take away those three plays where the Buckeye secondary left Ohio State fans and coaches alike frustrated. The three plays I’m referencing were Gunner Kiel’s three huge touchdown passes to receiver Chris Moore for 60, 83, and 78 yards respectively.

The first touchdown of the game was Kiel’s 60 yard connection to Moore and can solely be blamed on Vonn Bell. As good as Bell is in coming up and making a sure tackle, playing deep safety in coverage is something the youngster hasn’t mastered yet. Kiel under threw Moore with a wobbly and ugly pass, but Bell never turned to locate the ball, instead just throwing his arm up in the receivers face hoping he would miraculously knock the ball down. Bell will be grilled in the film room and to be fair to him the receiver made a nice play focusing on the ball and bringing it in.

The second big play forfeited was actually designed to beat the defense the Buckeyes were in. Tyvis Powell was drawn up to the inside receiver’s curl route which left Eli Apple alone in Cover 4 and left the post wide open for Moore to run in to. Big plays like these will be forfeited occasionally against good play callers. There is no such thing as a perfect defense and this play design proves it. Each player stuck to his assignment but the play call was perfect for the coverage.

The third big touchdown falls solely on Doran Grant. Grant got caught looking for the screen which the Bearcats faked and threw the inside slant to Moore. Ash called Grant out for it after the game and it should be corrected moving forward.

The defense played very well aside from two of the three long touchdowns. Meyer stressed that they will look at the scheme on tape and see if they can adjust it to better prevent against big plays. Again, you can not subtract the big touchdowns from the game on Saturday night, but you can sure see that this defense gets better every time they take the field. For example the Bearcats were just 1/7 on third and long compared to Virginia Tech’s 5/10.

The next time this team takes the field they will face a potent Maryland passing attack led by former Buckeye target Stefon Diggs. Diggs already has two 100 yard games to his name this season and is one of the best young wide outs in the nation. The test will continue for this Buckeye defense as they look to sure up the schematic holes that were exposed against Cincinnati.

One Last Thing

J.T. Barrett deserves an enormous amount of credit for his performance Saturday. He is growing and learning very quickly in this offense. He continues to put the rest the question of his youth, arm strength, and mobility. He’s definitely not Braxton, but Barrett is creating is own name and leading the Buckeyes with his maturity, decision making, and outstanding understanding of his job in this offense. From what we have seen so far, even if Barrett does have another rough spot like he did against Virginia Tech, I expect him to whether any storm he faces and come out better. Meyer is doing a great job of guiding and teaching Barrett how to be the starting quarterback at The Ohio State University, and Barrett is doing an excellent job of learning and constantly improving.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: