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Monday, November 9, 2015

Everything Ohio State after a 28-14 Win over Minnesota


Does Brutus have any eligibility left? The offense has some holes to fill.
On a night when three previously unbeaten top 10 teams felt their first loss of the year, Ohio State struggled offensively but held on for a 28-14 win in the Shoe
The victory improved the squad to 9-0 overall, set a national record as the Buckeyes recorded their 29th-straight conference win – tying the mark set by Bobby Bowden's 1992-1995 Florida State Seminoles – and moved Urban Meyer to 27-0 in October and November games at Ohio State. 
It's absolutely inconsequential but all that won-loss gloss can't put enough lipstick on Ohio State's offensive pig which will likely allow Alabama to leapfrog them in the latest edition of the CFP rankings. 
Next week the Buckeyes will welcome J.T. Barrett back into the fold for an early kick against Illinois but before we start preparations for Ohio State's trip to Champaign, here are Five Things from last night's decision over the Gophers. 


Urban Meyer and Ed Warinner said all the right things after last night's offensive performance with Cardale Jones at the controls but I would be shocked – assuming the decision is 100 percent football based – if J.T. Barrett isn't back in the saddle next weekend. 
Cardale wasn't awful, his level of play is just not in the same stratosphere as last year and his style of play feels like a clunky fit within this year's personnel and play calling. 
On the downside, he completed only 55 percent of his throws, seemed uncomfortable moving beyond the first read, killed a drive with a fumble in the red zone, came up short on a few deep balls and dropped a pop pass attempt. 
Conversely, he found Jalin Marshall on a 44-yard streak and hit Braxton Miller for 45 yards on a play that might have been a touchdown but Miller seemed to lose awareness of his defender and stopped sprinting after the catch. 
Jones also found a groove with three straight well thrown completions early in the second half before putting the ball on the ground. He also ripped off a few nice runs up the gut including a 38-yarder to seal the deal. 
I'll always be grateful for Cardale – he's a Buckeye legend no matter what happens from here – but on a team that wants the quarterback to run the ball consistently, behind a line that sometimes struggles in pass pro, with wideouts that don't strike fear into opposing defenses with their vertical prowess. Barrett is simply the best fit for the job. 


In a scoreless tie late in the second quarter Ohio State was looking for a spark. 
The Buckeye offense had just punted for the fourth straight time due to just 60 total yards through nearly a half and Minnesota took over at its own 8-yard line. On 3rd-and-6 from the 12, Vonn Belldiagnosed a play he had seen earlier as the Gophers lined up trips right. 
Baiting the quarterback, he briefly held back before jumping the route, intercepting the ball and rambling 16 yards for Ohio State's first score of the game. 
Bell got Ohio State on the board with a nifty pick six.
The play was vintage Bell who has made a habit out of providing big plays with his physical and cerebral approach to the game. 
The surest tackler in OSU lore since Mike Doss, Bell also racked up a career-high 10 stops on the night. 
As the stakes go up with Ohio State's schedule close to getting real, look for Bell to continue raising his level of play just as we saw last year. 


After a penalty-free performance last week featuring 281 yards rushing and one sack the offensive line didn't fare as well versus Minnesota. 
To be fair, the Gopher defense is better than that of Rutgers but Minnesota was without its top two defensive tackles and the Slobs still paved the way for 189 rushing yards on 4.3 yards per carry representing the second-lowest total in the last six games. 
Pass protection was also an issue as Jones was sacked four times thanks to a few blown assignments. Taylor Decker seemed to have an off night in this regard while Chase Farris (false start) and Jacoby Boren (holding) both recorded flags getting the Buckeye offense off schedule. 
Pat Elflein remained the most consistent of the group with another solid effort and Billy Price seems to be following last year's track of improving as the season wears on but Boren and Farris have struggled with consistency. 
With the rest of OSU's league schedule all in the top half of the league in rush defense the slobs need to clean up the opportunities to once again peak at the right time. 


Jalin Marshall didn't find the end zone last night but on seven total touches he racked up 120 all-purpose yards, second only to Ezekiel Elliott's 123 yards on 27 touches. 
Marshall, who has a habit of scaring fans with his punt return exploits had five such opportunities last night totaling 64 yards including a 33-yarder. On the season, Marshall sits fourth in the B1G averaging 13.3 yards per return. 
Jalin is about three seconds away from making an insane jump cut to spring a 12-yard run.
Through the air Marshall hauled in two passes for 56 yards including a 44-yarder setting up Elliott's 15-yard touchdown jaunt one play later giving the Buckeyes their first offensive score of the night. 
On the season – despite playing a new position and missing a game due to suspension – Marshall ranks second on the team in both receptions (23) and yards (357). He sits just behind Miller in yards per catch at 15.5. 
Could he be ready to break out down the stretch as he did a season ago? 


How baffling is it that a football factory like Ohio State hasn't had a reliable field goal kicker since Drew Basil left after connecting on nine of 10 tries in 2013? 
Last year true freshman Sean Nuernberger took over the job and connected on just 13 of 20 tries (65%) with five of those misses coming from 40+ yards. 
While those numbers weren't great Nuernberger was a highly touted guy out of high school and the general thought outside the locker room was that he'd get better with experience. 
Inside the program however Ohio State was interested in going a different route as Urban brought in a graduate transfer in senior Jack Willoughby who subsequently won both kickoff and place kicking duties. 
In the nine games since, Willoughby has connected on seven of 11 field goal attempts (64%). He's missed all three of his attempts beyond 40 yards and last night he pushed a 35-yard try to the right, his first miss from 30-39 yards this season (3/4). 
Considering Willoughby has no eligibility beyond this season and his numbers are no better than Nuernberger's, it makes you wonder just what is going on behind the scenes there. Is Sean that bad of a practice kicker that Meyer has no confidence or is there more to the story? I'm not suggesting that by any stretch, it's just slightly puzzling on the surface. 

Ten Things We Learned from Ohio State's 28-14 Win Over Minnesota
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS — It's difficult to take too much away from a game led by a backup quarterback, but Cardale Jones isn't really your typical backup quarterback. He is, however, a Plan B quarterback based on Ohio State's offense, and that has been evident all season long.
Overall, it was a rather sloppy game by the Buckeyes on both sides at times, but it wasn't difficult for them to do enough to get the win in mostly a comfortable manner. This felt like a "going through the motions game" at times, but you'll have that when Minnesota comes to town.
So what did we learn from Ohio State's 28-14 win over the Gophers? Let's take a look.
1. J.T. Barrett is Ohio State’s starting quarterback. 
All of the talk about this being an audition for Cardale Jones to be the starter at Illinois can now stop. And if this was actually an audition, the director and producer would simply be asking Jones if he can do it more like J.T. Barrett does it. The only question after the game was whether or not Barrett would be allowed to challenge for the job, but Meyer said that he would, which means that he will be getting the bulk of the playing time at Illinois, and almost certainly starting.
As we've seen, this offense is its more natural self with Barrett at the helm, and the players would seem to prefer it, even if they'll never admit it. With Barrett at quarterback, the opposing defenses can't just focus on stopping Ezekiel Elliott in the running game. They don't respect Jones's ability to keep the option, which is why he had a couple of very nice runs against Minnesota. That is also why Elliott's long carry of the night was just 13 yards.
When Barrett is in the game, defenses have to slow down a bit to make sure that he's not the one with the ball. Sometimes that's all Elliott needs to break a big one. Of course, what he needs more than anything is simply blocking, which he has gotten at different times with either quarterback starting.
2. Tyquan Lewis was fantastic against the run and has gotten better.
The smile on the face of redshirt sophomore defensive end Tyquan Lewis after the game Saturday night could not have possibly been wider. Lewis was a force against the run versus the Gophers, helping to limit Minnesota to just 33 yards rushing on 26 carries (1.3 ypc). While defenses continue to try to run away from Joey Bosa, they keep running right into the welcoming pit of Lewis's cruel intentions.
On Minnesota's first five rushing plays, Lewis had a tackle on four of them, including a 3-yard tackle for loss of tailback Rodney Smith. The importance of Lewis's ability to hold up against the run cannot be overstated because opposing offenses are looking for weak links, but they haven't been finding them to the side of Lewis lately. He had a couple of leverage issues a few weeks ago, but those were all cleaned up on Saturday night. Even Lewis admitted after the game that he thought he had a "stellar" night.
3. People need to stop being so nervous about Jalin Marshall on punt returns.
The next time Jalin Marshall muffs a punt — and he will muff a punt, because that's what all punt returners do — you'll groan and moan and yell at either the television or the field about why Urban Meyer continues to put Marshall back there.
The answer, of course, is because of what he does on nearly every punt return between the muffs. He keeps the ball from bouncing into worse field position, and more often than not, he gives the Buckeyes a solid return that eliminates at least one first down that they'll have to pick up on offense. Marshall picked up 64 yards on five returns against Minnesota, which was 64 yards that a struggling Buckeye offense didn't have to worry about.
Marshall is No. 2 in the B1G and No. 11 nationally, averaging 13.3 yards per punt return, and only one player in the nation has more than his six returns of at least 20 yards. That's pretty good. Enjoy it. Be happy about it. Relax a bit.
And yes, I realize what I have just done.
4. Ezekiel Elliott may be too fast to be a fullback.
Maybe the problem with Braxton Miller running the ball out of the wildcat is that Ezekiel Elliott is too fast to be a fullback and the hole that he creates is too far ahead of Miller and it eventually gets filled back in before he can get through it. Like the Egyptians getting caught in the Red Sea.
Maybe if Elliott would slow down, Miller wouldn't need to reverse field so often. I mean, he'd still do it, but maybe he wouldn't have to.
In all seriousness, however, Miller needs to follow his blocks, which we have said all season long. Elliott is one of the best blockers in the nation, but if there's nothing there, then there's nothing there. Second-and-9 is much better than second-and-13. Trust in Zeke and let him lead you to the promised land, even if it's just three yards at a time.
5. Buckeye linebackers and safeties held up well in coverage.
Against the Michigan Wolverines a week ago, Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner attacked the linebackers and safeties in coverage with several successes. He attempted the same thing against the Buckeyes, but the Silver Bullets held up much better than the Maize and Blue did.
Linebacker Joshua Perry said the Gophers tried to run the wheel route on him several times, and everybody saw how often they tried to pit slot receiver K.J. Maye on the linebackers and safeties. Maye had his successes, but so did free safety Vonn Bell, who picked off a slightly-errant pass that was intended for Maye and returned it for a touchdown.
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6. The pass protection needs to get better against speed rushers.
This has been a bit of an issue all season long, but it showed again during periods of Saturday night's contest. Cardale Jones was sacked four times, and most of the time it came from a speed rush around the edge. Jones certainly could have helped things by getting rid of the ball quicker, but there were instances when he simply didn't have the time.
Perhaps this offensive line can get away with a few "lookout" blocks with J.T. Barrett in the game, but that's not a custom that an offensive line wants to be incorporating. The Buckeyes are in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in sacks allowed per game, which isn't a good number considering they have thrown the ball less than any other Big Ten team.
Michigan State and Michigan are coming. The pass blocking needs to step up as the schedule steps up.
7. These wide receivers enjoy blocking.
If you get a chance, go back and watch Ezekiel Elliott's 15-yard touchdown to get an idea of the mentality that it takes to be an Ohio State wide receiver. Once Elliott breaks free of the tackle box, just look at the three receivers out to the right who seek out defenders to block like antibodies searching out viruses. They immediately find defenders to connect with and it leads to an Elliott touchdown.
It's really a thing of beauty to watch. It is what every coach loves to see from his receivers, but not every coaches gets to. Nobody became a spectator on the play. They were all working for the same goal of getting Elliott into that end zone. It's that same tenacity that the Buckeyes saw at the end of the season last year when Elliott was rushing for 7,000 yards per game.
8. Joshua Perry had a tremendous night as a blitzer.
Linebacker Joshua Perry was asked to blitz a few times on Saturday night, and even though he didn't land any sacks, he did put a couple of hits on quarterback Mitch Leidner that left a mark. One blitz in particular led to Vonn Bell's pick six, as Perry hurried Leidner's throw, causing it to be just inaccurate enough to be intercepted.
Perry also had a fantastic run blitz that left a running back devastated. After the game Perry said he sought out Leidner on the field because the Gopher quarterback took a bunch of big hits and kept on getting up. "That guy was getting hit today," he said. "I even said so after the game. I went up and shook his hand. You've got to give a lot of respect to a guy like that."
With a quarterback like Leidner who isn't always able to take advantage of a defense's blitzes, Perry's size, speed and athleticism make him a tremendously effective blitzer.
9. It’s time to get Braxton Miller involved in the passing game and let others run the ball.
I could write this every week — and I think I have, but Braxton Miller's effectiveness is out in open space as a wide receiver, not in the confines of nine defenders keying on him solely. I don't care if running Miller out of the wildcat does give you an extra blocker, it's clearly not enough. I'm not sure how many extra blockers Miller would need at wildcat, but one isn't cutting it.
Miller rushed for 11 yards on five carries against the Gophers, and in Big Ten play has rushed for 82 yards on 14 carries. He does have rushes of 14, 15, 16, and 13 yards in that stretch, but he is just as capable of being stopped for a big loss behind the line of scrimmage.
If there is going to be an insistence on keep Miller at wildcat — and I won't call it quarterback until he throws the ball overhand — then he has to at least hand the ball off on some reads in order to keep defenses honest.
Instead of all of that, however, why not just continue to throw the ball to him down the field with safeties and No. 3 cornerbacks in coverage? That seems so much easier and more productive. It borders on stubborn not to do it, doesn't it?
10. You shouldn't get too upset about the pass defense.
Yes, the Ohio State defense gave up some passing yards in this game — 281, to be exact. But 195 of those yards came in the fourth quarter alone. No, that's not a good statistic for the Buckeyes, but it did come with them already up 21-0 and the game essentially over. They did let down, and that is unacceptable, but there was clearly a reason for that let down.
It also didn't help that the Buckeyes were only able to rush for 32 yards on 10 carries in the fourth quarter prior to the 38-yard touchdown run by Cardale Jones. And it also was not beneficial that Jones was only 1 for 5 passing in the quarter, and just 1 for 4 on third downs. If the Buckeyes complete those third down passes, then there are obviously fewer opportunities for the Minnesota offense.
Over the first three quarters of play, the Gophers managed just 110 yards of total offense. In the fourth quarter, however, they put up 204 yards. The fourth quarter, while unacceptable, is the outlier here, so don't lose too much sleep over it. This defense is still pretty good.

Ezekiel Elliott leads No. 1 Ohio State over Minnesota 28-14

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The quarterback switch? Not so smooth. Everything else? Just good enough to keep Ohio State unbeaten.
And now, coach Urban Meyer has to decide whether to switch passers again.
Ezekiel Elliott weaved 15 yards for a touchdown on Ohio State's only lengthy drive, and the top-ranked Buckeyes weathered Minnesota's two fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 28-14 victory Saturday night.
Elliott ran for 114 yards - his 14th straight 100-yard game - and Vonn Bell returned an interception 16 yards for his first career touchdown for a 21-0 lead that held up despite the Gophers' late surge.
The Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) struggled to move the ball most of the game with Cardale Jones back at quarterback for one game because J.T. Barrett was suspended. Meyer said after the game that Barrett will return to practice next week and could get the job back.
''Offensively we were sloppy and not executing at a high level,'' Meyer said. ''It's not what we expect. We expect to play better.''
Jones knows it. Asked for his assessment of the offense, he said: ''Below average.''
Up next for the Buckeyes: A game at Illinois followed by the two teams from the state up north - No. 6 Michigan State and No. 16 Michigan.
Minnesota (4-5, 1-4) managed only 110 yards through three quarters before finally getting Mitch Leidner's two TD passes, the last with 2:10 to go. The onside kick went out of bounds, and Jones ran 38 yards untouched off a fake handoff for a clinching touchdown, catching the Gophers off-guard.
''It was a grind,'' Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry said. ''Tough game. We thought they were going to run the ball on us, and they did some other things.''
The Gophers have dropped their last two under interim coach Tracy Claeys, hanging in there until the end against Michigan and Ohio State.
The Buckeyes' latest quarterback switch ran into problems right away.
Jones completed Ohio State's surge to the national title last season after Barrett got hurt against Michigan, and he kept the job for the first seven games this season. With the offense inconsistent, Meyer switched back to Barrett, who had three touchdown passes and two scoring runs in a 49-7 victory at Rutgers.
Barrett was cited for impaired driving during the Buckeyes' off week, drawing a one-game suspension from the school. So Jones was back at quarterback Saturday, but he wasn't effective throwing it. He went 12 of 22 for 187 yards with a touchdown, four sacks and a fumble at the Minnesota 21. He also ran 12 times for 65 yards.
Jones' 44-yard completion set up a weaving, 15-yard touchdown run by Elliott with 54 seconds left in the half for a 14-0 lead. Ohio State had more yards in that drive (77) than the rest of the half (55).
Braxton Miller - the other quarterback on the Buckeye roster - took five snaps and ran each time. He also caught a 45-yard pass. His head hit the ground hard as he was tackled after the catch, and he had to be helped off the field.
Bell got Ohio State's first score on a 16-yard interception return that initially was nullified by a targeting penalty. A review indicated there was no targeting and the score stood.
The Gophers played their second game since coach Jerry Kill retired Oct. 28 because of health issues. In the closing seconds against Michigan last week, Claeys decided to go for it instead of taking a tying field goal, and Leidner was stopped at the 1 to preserve the Wolverines' 29-26 win.
Leidner made this one tight at the end, too.
He led a 77-yard touchdown drive that culminated in his 4-yard pass to K.J. Maye with 10:25 left, cutting it to 21-7. He then hit Maye with a 57-yard pass that set up his 4-yard touchdown to Rashad Still that gave the Gophers a chance until their onside kick dribbled out of bounds.
He finished 27 of 44 for 281 yards with the one interception.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
TDMitch Leidner pass intended for KJ Maye INTERCEPTED by Vonn Bell and returned for 16 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. (Jack Willoughby extra point is GOOD.)07
TDEzekiel Elliott rush for 15 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. (Jack Willoughby extra point is GOOD.)014
TDCardale Jones pass to Michael Thomas for 6 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. (Jack Willoughby extra point is GOOD.)021
TDMitch Leidner pass to KJ Maye for 4 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. (Ryan Santoso extra point is GOOD.)721
TDMitch Leidner pass to Rashad Still for 10 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. (Ryan Santoso extra point is GOOD.)1421
TDCardale Jones rush to the middle for 38 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. (Jack Willoughby extra point is GOOD.)1428

Team Comparison

13First Downs18
7/19Third Down Efficiency7/16
7Third Down Made7
19Third Down Attempts16
37Third Down Percentage44
50% (1 / 2)Fourth Down Efficiency0% (0 / 0)
1Fourth Down Made0
2Fourth Down Attempts0
50Fourth Down Percentage-
314Total Net Yards376
71Total Offensive Plays66
4.4Average Gain per Play5.7
33Net Yards Rushing189
1.3Average Gain per Rush4.3
281Net Yards Passing187
6.24Average Gain per Pass Play8.50
1Times Sacked4
1Sacked Yards Lost27
281Gross Yards Passing187
44.0Punting Average40.3
352Total Yards282
59Return Yards101
1Punt Return Attempts5
11Punt Return Yards64
3Kickoff Return Attempts1
48Kickoff Return Yards21
0Interception Return Attempts1
0Interception Return Yards16
0Fumbles Lost1
31:28Time Of Possession28:32

AP Top 25 Poll 
1. Clemson
3. Alabama
4. Baylor
5. Oklahoma State
8. Iowa
9. LSU
10. Utah
11. Florida
12. Oklahoma
13. TCU
15. Michigan
16. Houston
18. UCLA
21. Temple
22. Navy
23. Wisconsin
25. Memphis

Without J.T. Barrett, Ohio State survives late scare from Minnesota

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The perfect record will survive another week. That goes for both Ohio State and Cardale Jones.
Pressed back into the starting lineup at quarterback due to the suspension of J.T. Barrett, Jones once again rode to the rescue for the Buckeyes off the bench. He protected the undefeated mark for the defending national champions and extended his career-long win streak with a 28-14 win over Minnesota on Saturday at the Horseshoe. The redshirt junior wasn't as impressive as he was during last year's championship run, but the No. 3 Buckeyes won’t complain about the result.
Jones wasn’t perfect as a passer, and he appeared to need some time to settle into a groove after some early rough patches. But once the Buckeyes cut him loose as a rushing threat and let him throw some deep balls, the attack showed some sparks that were missing when he was the starter for the first seven games.
Ohio State still didn’t catch fire the way it did with Barrett under center, though, and wound up sweating out the victory late. As such, Jones' staying unbeaten in 11 outings as the starter probably won’t be enough to keep the job next week at Illinois, but once again, the Buckeyes can rest easy knowing they have a talented option with a track record of success waiting in the wings.
What the win means for Ohio State: Once again, the reigning national champions won without their best effort, which to some extent can be blamed on the absence of Barrett. But the result remains unchanged for Urban Meyer’s program, which is still undefeated, still hasn’t lost in the past 22 games and still appears firmly in control of its destiny to defend the College Football Playoff title. The Buckeyes will get Barrett back next week against Illinois, but if the Silver Bullets can keep rolling on defense, either quarterback would be in good shape.
What the loss means for Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have been competitive against two of the best teams in the Big Ten since Tracy Claeys was pressed into duty in place of Jerry Kill, but Minnesota doesn’t have a victory to point to as evidence that his interim tag should be removed. A hard-hitting, physical defense continues to keep the Gophers in games and gave them a shot to knock off Michigan last week and Ohio State on Saturday, but without a bit more support from the offense, making a push for a bowl bid is looking increasingly like a long shot.
Player of the game: The best friend of any quarterback is a reliable tailback and consistent rushing attack, and Ezekiel Elliott continues to be the model of consistency. The junior running back churned out yet another 100-yard performance, as he has in each of his past 14 games, and his impressive 15-yard touchdown in the first half provided the winning score for the Buckeyes. For a top-five Heisman Trophy contender, Elliott seemingly hasn’t generated much buzz as a potential winner, but he has been invaluable for Ohio State all season, regardless of who has been at quarterback.
The game turned when: Neither team had gained an edge midway through the second quarter, but an official review was destined to tip the scales. Either Ohio State was going to capitalize on safety Vonn Bell's athletic interception and dazzling return for a touchdown, or Minnesota was going to have its drive extended, thanks to a targeting penalty that would also leave the Buckeyes without linebacker Joshua Perry for the rest of the game. Eventually, the officials ruled in favor of Ohio State, which kept both points on the scoreboard and the captain in the lineup.

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