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Monday, October 30, 2017

Ohio State vs Penn State Recap




10 Things

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1. Ryan Day was a good hire.

Last week I wrote about one of the things that Ryan Day has brought to Ohio State, which he calls “one inching the defender.” Basically, what Day is asking his quarterbacks to do is skim the ball over the linebacker to the receiver behind that level of the defense. He doesn’t want a lot of loft on the ball, which is why he has his quarterbacks shoot for just an inch or so out of the defense’s reach. It has been an effective tool this season, and when the game was on the line Barrett one inched the linebacker, finding tight end Marcus Baugh in the end zone for the game winner.
Video: J.T. Barrett's winning TD pass to Marcus Baugh seals win vs  39-38. Barrett in  race, OSU back in  talk.

2. Jordan Fuller is possibly an elite tackler.

There have been several tackles by Jordan Fuller this season that I didn’t expect him to make, and yet he has made almost all of them. I only say “almost” because I don’t remember them all, but I assume he’s missed some that he was supposed to. Against Penn State, Fuller was everywhere. He led the team with nine tackles, but his biggest tackle was also his most difficult. On third-and-2 late in the fourth quarter, Saquon Barkley took a hand-off and before he could head upfield, Fuller was already on him. Fuller came on a run blitz and he had Barkley dead ahead, but that’s not always good news for a defender. This is usually when Barkley becomes superhuman and makes the defender miss. Fuller wasn’t having it, however, and brought Barkley down all by himself for a 4-yard loss. Then again, who knows, maybe Barkley was superhuman on that play, and Fuller was just better.
I said when it happened that this may have been a game-saver. Jordan Fuller is a very good tackler.

3. The offensive line dominated.

The damnedest shame from this game is that if J.T. Barrett sells the quilt that he made while standing around in the pocket all Saturday night long, the NCAA will rule him ineligible. We often think of offensive lines dominating because of the rushing yards they create, and while the Buckeyes did rush for over 200 yards against a defense, the real domination here was in pass blocking. Barrett was able to go through his progressions throughout the game, but especially when the game was on the line. The offensive line was never better than when they absolutely had to be. They had an opportunity to make some kind of amends for what happened at Penn State last year, and they reached down for every last ounce of necessity and left the Nittany Lions waiting outside in the cold.

4. Zone 6 is legit.

Urban Meyer has said all season long that the culture of this group of receivers was as good or better than any he’s ever had. So many times his praise for the receivers has been met with eye rolls. After Saturday night, however, the only response should be nodding heads. Of J.T. Barrett’s 33 completions, 25 of them went to the receivers. Six different wide receivers caught passes, and Binjimen Victor wasn’t even one of them. He did draw a significant pass interference penalty, however. Austin Mack caught everything thrown his way — literally. Barrett threw six passes to him, and he caught all six of them. And they weren’t always easy catches. Parris Campbell left the game, but he says he’s okay. Terry McLaurin is producing down the field. K.J. Hill is the kind of security blanket that a quarterback needs when it’s cold and dark like it was Saturday night. And their blocking is even more impressive. Check out Austin Mack sometime.

5. The leaders responded.

Watching the game, the Buckeyes never really felt out of the game…until maybe J.T. Barrett’s fumble. At that point, doubt began to seep in for most, but not for Ohio State. Even after hanging his head following his fumble, Barrett gathered himself and rallied the troops. The troops, as it turned out, are always rallied and none of this was too much to bear. Middle linebacker Chris Worley was back flying around. Jerome Baker was looking like the Jerome Baker we expected from day one. J.T. Barrett did his thing. Sam Hubbard tackled an entire backfield. Jalyn Holmes took flight for a sack. The Ohio State coaches could not have asked anything more from their leaders and the culture that they have cultivated. The win was great for them, but the affirmation of the culture should never be overlooked.

6. J.T. Barrett is everything Urban Meyer has always said he was.

J.T. Barrett is the best quarterback in Ohio State school history. And that was before Saturday night’s performance against Penn State. Barrett completed 33-of-39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 95 yards on 17 carries. The 423 yards of total offense was a school record, but it will be his fourth quarter of 13-of-13 passing for three touchdowns to bring the Buckeyes back that will live forever. Record books change with the seasons. History, however, remains. This was a historically great performance by a historically-criticized quarterback. Penn State does not have a great defense, but this was a very big game played with tons of pressure. Urban Meyer has tried to tell us all about J.T. Barrett. We didn’t always listen. We should now.

7. Kevin Wilson is an elite anticipator now.

Early in the season when the offense wasn’t what it is now, Kevin Wilson said he wasn’t doing a very good job of anticipating what a defense is going to do. Since then, however, he is doing so well anticipating a defense I almost think he’s calling plays for both the opposing defense and the Buckeye offense. Like playing himself in Euchre. And now that he’s living in Ohio again, it makes sense that he would be getting better at Euchre. Since the Oklahoma loss, Ohio State is averaging 604 yards of total offense per game.

8. The defensive line lived up to its billing.

I said it everywhere I’ve been over the last two weeks, the Ohio State defensive line was dying for this game. They couldn’t wait. Mostly, they couldn’t wait because it was a big game and they were going to get to play more snaps than they have in over a month. Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa kept Trace McSorley on edge, and Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes put him on his back. What they did to the Penn State offensive line and Saquon Barkley, however, was as impressive as anything we’ve seen from Ohio State this season. The Buckeyes had the advantage up front, but an advantage doesn’t always apply to Barkley. It did in this one, however. Penn State had a 5-point lead and the ball with 4:14 to play in the game. They didn’t have to give the ball back if they could get a first down or two. Two snaps later and the Nittany Lions were faced with a third-and-19 thanks to two tackles of Barkley in the backfield. The entire Ohio State team was feeding off of each other. The defensive line picked up where the offense left off in what was almost a perfect fourth quarter.

9. Special teams should be banned.

Obviously, special teams are too complicated to continue incorporating it into the game of football. Or maybe it’s just too complicated for Ohio State. Urban Meyer’s decision to kick to Saquon Barkley was a show of confidence in his kicker and coverage units, but it was also a display of arrogance that his players and plan were better than Barkley. Especially when you consider the struggles they have had in this very area this season. After the game, Meyer said he didn’t want to talk about the kickoff coverage, but acknowledged some personnel changes are going to be made. Allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown to Barkley isn’t unacceptable, but kicking to him might be. And if your kick coverage unit is capable of giving up a 59-yard return to a linebacker, kicking to Saquon Barkley should never be a consideration.

10. With this defensive line and this passing game, anything is possible.


We all wanted to wait and see regarding the passing game. “Wait until Penn State,” we all said. Well, Penn State has come and gone and all we have to show for it is J.T. Barrett’s best game ever — and the best quarterbacking game in Ohio State football history. That’s not a bad game to have when everyone is waiting to see what you do with it. This game was a Rubik’s Cube and J.T. Barrett was Aaron Craft. Each Buckeye receiver provides something different and unique, and Kevin Wilson and Zach Smith are using them very well right now. The tight ends haven’t been bad either. We have already talked about the defensive line, but let’s mention the defensive tackles for a moment. Tracy Sprinkle and Dre’Mont Jones are incredibly quick and they get upfield so well. Robert Landers had two tackles for loss in key situations, showing that a fresh defensive line is going to have its way with a tired offensive line. Which means a fresh Ohio State defensive line is only going to be that much more dominating. And when Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Snyder wants to shake your hand, you know you’ve done something right.



5 Things

A WOLF IN NIKE'S CLOTHING

This year's alternate uniforms were fire but the "wolves" theme tie-in was lame. That said, J.T. Barrett is the unquestioned leader of the pack and for a guy that fuels more (unnecessary) debate than maybe any Buckeye ever, even his harshest critics had to marvel at his heroic afternoon
Barrett set a career-high with 33 completions on 39 attempts (three drops) for 328 yards and four touchdowns through the air and added another 95 on the ground. 
His 423 yards of total offense set an OSU single-game record, as did his 16 straight completions, and he also tied Joe Germaine atop the school record book with his eighth career 300+ yard passing game. 
Barrett was solid all day but he was perfect in the fourth quarter and Ohio State needed exactly that trailing 35-20 with 15 minutes to play. 
As a confessed Barrett apologist, I was more than thrilled to watch him complete 13 of 13 throws for 170 yards and three touchdowns as Ohio State outscored Penn State 19-3 over those final, beautiful, 15 minutes. 
The dude was so poised and so calm and so accurate with the season – and his legacy – on the line. He went through progressions and launched some absolute seeds into a couple tight windows setting up easier touchdown throws to Johnnie Dixon (x2) and Marcus Baugh to win it. 
He now sits at 25 touchdown passes against one interception through eight games and is completing 69.5% of his tosses for 270 yards a game. 
If Barrett can keep it up, not only should he lead Ohio State back to the College Football Playoff but he might reserve himself a seat at the Heisman Trophy ceremony. 

ZONE SIX DONE DID IT AGAIN

As much as I've backed Barrett, I've crushed "Zone Sicks" numerous times in this column. While I'll likely never be a fan of how Zach Smith conducts his business, I'm happy to eat crow over the success of his receiving corps. 
K.J. Hill didn't find the end zone but as I noted post game, he registered the fourth-most catches in a game in school history with 12 grabs for 102 yards on 14 targets with eight of those catches coming during scoring drives. 
Hill now leads the Buckeyes with 40 catches on the season – 11 clear of Parris Campbell – who tallied just one grab and fumbled it before leaving the game injured.
Complementing Hill's big night, Austin Mack set his own career-high with six grabs for 90 yards including a clutch 36-yarder on a drive cutting Penn State's lead to 21-10 early in the second quarter, and later, two catches for 29 yards setting up Johnnie Dixon's 10-yard touchdown grab trimming the Nittany Lion lead to 38-33 with 4:20 left in regulation. 
Terry McLaurin's 14-yard touchdown catch trimmed Penn State's lead to 21-10 early in the second quarter.
Speaking of Dixon, in addition to his 10-yard touchdown he added a 38-yard scoring strike on a nice throw from Barrett down the seam cutting Penn State's lead to 35-27 earlier in the fourth quarter. Man is it fun watching the oft-injured Dixon contribute to this team's success. 
Finally, Terry McLaurin stepped up with two huge catches for 34 yards. The first came on a 14-yard toss over the middle with Ohio State desperate for points after falling into a 21-3 hole early in the second quarter. Then, with the game on the line, McLaurin hauled in a 20-yarder from Barrett on 2nd-and-8 during the game-winning drive. 
In total, Zone Six tallied 25 receptions for 301 yards and three touchdowns on 28 targets against what was the nation's seventh-best pass defense (167 ypg). 
Mmmm, mmmm. That is some damn good crow. 

KICKOFF COVERAGE CLOWN SHOW CONTINUES

What in the name of Jim Tressel is wrong with Ohio State's kickoff coverage unit? 
Maryland ran one back for six on a group that also registered a delay of game as part of a total collapse for all the special units, and the kickoff team, though improved (how could it not be), wasn't excellent versus Nebraska either.
After having an extra week to prepare and boasting the unit was ready to go, Urban's guys promptly gave up a 97-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown despite the ball being placed technically where he wants it. 
It looked like reserve linebacker Keandre Jones was at least one man who lost contain by drifting too far out of his lane leaving kicker Sean Nuernberger on an island. 
From there, Meyer largely opted for pooch or squib kicks but Penn State still got a 59-yard return from some dude that I think was a linebacker and started all but two kickoff-triggered possessions from at least the 30 yard line. 
Meyer was beside himself post game, trying not to even talk about special teams but did suggest more upcoming personnel changes. That might be a good idea as the Buckeyes are lucky the kickoff team didn't eliminate them from playoff contention. 
The punt team had a few issues too as Hill muffed but recovered a punt and punter Drue Chrisman dropped a snap leading to a shank which received a fortunate bounce and roll, avoiding disaster. 
On the bright side, Denzel Ward blocked a punt – Ohio State's first since 2014 – setting up a touchdown two plays later cutting Penn State's lead to 35-27. 

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Penn State brought to Columbus an offense averaging 463 total yards on the strength of Saquon Barkley's 108 rushing yards and 64 receiving yards per game but couldn't match those outputs against a stout Buckeye defense. 
With the defensive line setting the tone, Ohio State held Barkley to just 44 yards rushing on 2.1 per carry – and extracting his nifty 36-yard touchdown run early the second quarter, he managed just eight rushing yards on his other 20 carries, or 0.4 per carry. Through the air, Barkley had 23 yards on four receptions, or 41 yards below his average. 
In total, Barkley banked 67 total rushing/receiving yards, or 105 yards below his per game average. 
As for McSorley, a relentless pass rush and improved play from the back seven held him to 192 yards through the air, or 76 below his average, while holding him to a 58% completion rate against a season-to-date mark of 67%. 
Dealt some shady field position in the opening half, Ohio State's defense only yielded 130 total yards on 4.3 yards per play. 
Ohio State's defense notched 13 tackles for loss against Penn State.
Penn State marched 70 yards on 10 plays, taking a 35-20 lead on its first possession of the second half but the Buckeye defense stiffened from there posting the following drive stats: 
  • 5 plays, 19 yards - Punt
  • 3 plays, -1 yard - Punt
  • 10 plays, 64 yards - Field Goal
  • 3 plays, -4 yards - Punt
  • 4 plays, -5 yards - Storm The Dang Field
Living up to its billing, Ohio State's defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage when it mattered most posting 7.5 TFL and two sacks as part of a 13 TFL, two sack effort from the defense. 
Sam Hubbard did work with 1.5 TFL, my man Bobby Landers went for 2.0 TFL in spot duty and Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Tracy Sprinkle and Dre'Mont Jones also posted a TFL. 
Not overly impressive this year while again battling some injuries, Dante Booker had a hell of day with five stops and a TFL and safety Jordan Fuller continued to impress leading the Buckeyes with nine stops plus a TFL. 

RE2PECT

It's sometimes hard to remember J.K. Dobbins is a true freshman because he's been stellar right from the rip, dazzling the staff with his football acumen in spring drills and wowing fans with 181 yards rushing in his first collegiate game not even 60 days ago. 
Averaging nearly eight yards per carry coming into yesterday's action, Dobbins started fast against what was expected to be a stingy Penn State front posting 50 yards on his first four carries as the Buckeyes racked up 73 yards rushing on 10 carries in the opening quarter. Dobbins hit for runs of 14, 4, 11 and 21 with the latter coming on a 3rd-and-4 snap. 
In the second quarter however, Dobbins didn't register a single carry and the dropoff in tailback rushing effectiveness was obvious as Mike Weber carried seven times for just 21 yards. 
Obviously both backs are going to play but it looked like maybe Dobbins got a rest because of a couple struggles in pass protection which would make sense considering the rate Penn State blitzes and how sometimes that skill can be the final piece of a complete running back's repertoire. 
Either way, having Dobbins log the bulk of the tailback carries is paramount to Ohio State beating elite teams because he simply brings an extra gear and therefore home run threat Weber can't match. That's no knock on Weber – just real talk – when you consider Dobbins averages a ridiculous 7.6 yards per carry compared to 4.5 for Weber. 
Dobbins' 7.6 per carry slots seventh in the country for guys with at least 65 carries. Weber's 4.5 would be good for roughly 114th place (he has 55 carries). 
Weber presents clear value to the team – every elite team needs a solid backup tailback – but Dobbins is next level as a rusher and continuing his already incredible development in facets like pass pro, blitz pick ups etc. is essential to Ohio State's title hopes because of the different type of respect opposing defenses must give when scheming to stop the Buckeye attack. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 Ohio State Football Alternate Uniforms for Penn State Game







First Good Look at Ohio State’s Alternate Uniforms for Penn State Game



Ohio State Football’s official Twitter account has finally released the first good look at what the Buckeyes will be wearing in Saturday’s game against Penn State. Here are the photos that were posted.








(via Ohio State and Nike)
Ohio State officially unveiled the special uniforms it will wear vs. Penn State on Saturday.
The Buckeyes will depart from their traditional red jerseys and gray pants and helmets for gray jerseys and pants. The team’s shoes will be red and the helmets will be black.The black numbers on the uniforms may make it a bit hard to see the jersey numbers. The game vs. the Nittany Lions will, in all likelihood, determine the winner of the Big Ten East Division.
This reportedly won’t be the only special uniform Ohio State wears this season. They could have a different look when traveling to Michigan at the end of the season.