It took a little while for No. 5 Ohio State to gain its bearings offensively, but the Buckeyes found their groove in the second half, surging late for a closer-than-it-looked 34-17 victory over Navy.
Early struggles were expected without Heisman Trophy hopeful Braxton Miller at quarterback. The Buckeyes also faced a tough challenge in defending Navy and its vaunted triple-option attack.
How does Ohio State grade out after its season-opening 17-point victory?
|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis
Pass Offense: J.T. Barrett completed 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. The redshirt freshman made good decisions with the football, completing 80 percent of his throws and averaging 18.8 yards per completion. A bad interception and poor pass protection in the first half hurt the Buckeyes early, but a strong second-half performance salvaged a nice outing.
Run Offense: Much like the passing offense, it took a little while for the rushing attack to get going. The Buckeyes managed only 66 rushing yards in the first half, and starting running back Ezekiel Elliott struggled, carrying the ball just three times for five yards. Things clicked in the fourth quarter, when Ohio State piled up 122 rushing yards.
Pass Defense: It's easy to look good in pass defense against Navy. Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds threw just four passes, completing two of them for 20 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. But Ohio State's pass defense looked fierce, registering two sacks despite Navy dropping back for a pass just six times.
Run Defense: The Buckeyes did a good job limiting Navy's offense in the first half. Reynolds and the Midshipmen went into the locker room at halftime with 138 rushing yards—a modest number for Ken Niumatalolo's squad. Navy exploded in the third quarter, though, rushing for 196 yards in a single quarter. Defensive tackles Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington were really impressive, but giving up 370 rushing yards—even to Navy—is never good.
Special Teams: Dontre Wilson had a solid day returning punts and kicks, and Cameron Johnston looked to be in midseason form in the first quarter when he pinned Navy at the 1-yard line with a 53-yard punt. True freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger stole the show, though, connecting on 46- and 28-yard field goals in his first collegiate action.
Coaching: The Buckeyes offense struggled mightily in the first half, and a lot of that was due to poor play-calling from offensive coordinator Tom Herman. The worst call of the game came in the second quarter when Ohio State needed just two yards inside Navy's 5-yard line for a first down. Instead of pounding the ball inside, the Buckeyes went wide with an option, resulting in a seven-yard loss for Elliott. The play-calling improved greatly in the second half, which produced much better results for the offense.
All stats via NCAA.com.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.