COLUMBUS-- The second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes started their pursuit of a national title tonight, opening the 2010 season against the visiting Marshall Thundering Herd and rookie head coach Doc Holliday.
Ohio State takes a 35-7 lead into the locker room at halftime—here is a breakdown of how each unit performed in the first 30 minutes of action.
Terrelle Pryor kicked off his Heisman campaign by throwing for 166 yards and a pair of scores in the first half, although his 10-16 performance actually left something to be desired. Pryor still has a ways to go in decision-making (I have no idea why he tried to heave the ball downfield after a bobbled snap), timing (his second-quarter post route was so late it hit the safety in the hands), and accuracy (the junior missed a wide-open DeVier Posey on a pump-and-go in the first quarter) before he’ll be truly elite. But hey, the numbers look nice.
Running Backs: A-
Brandon Saine stole the show in the first half, nearly matching his career high of 113 rushing yards before intermission. Saine rolled up 103 yards on the ground in only eight carries, including long runs of 40 and 45 yards. The OSU senior found the end zone twice, including the opening score only 78 seconds into the game. Backup Dan Herron wasn’t as effective, carrying three times for 10 yards.
Five different Buckeyes caught Terrelle Pryor passes in the first half, led by veterans DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, who each pulled in touchdown grabs. Credit this group for getting wide open consistently through the first 30 minutes of play…or blame the Marshall defensive backs for not covering anybody. I’ll lean toward the latter.
Offensive Line: B
Not a bad performance here, especially on Saine’s 45-yard touchdown scamper. The hole up front was so big I could have run through it. Really, I could have. Slight deduction on the grade for letting Pryor get sacked by Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry (who promptly and intelligently followed up the four-yard loss with a personal foul penalty for taunting).
Defensive Line: A-
The OSU front four played a solid first half, bottling up the Marshall running backs with impressive regularity. The Thundering Herd’s busiest ballcarrier, Andre Booker, was held to three yards on seven carries (and no, that’s not a typo…it would be nice if a running back could manage at least a HALF yard per carry!).
Ohio State’s vaunted Silver Bullet defenses have always had playmakers in the middle, and it didn’t take long for the Buckeyes’ linebackers to make their presence felt tonight. Brian Rolle was the standout performer, drilling a Marshall receiver over the middle to cause one incompletion and following that up with an interception return for a touchdown to put Ohio State on top 35-7 late in the first half.
Defensive Backs: B+
The OSU corners and safeties were effective in the first half, as Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson was held to a total of 66 yards passing despite 18 attempts. Devon Torrence extended one Herd drive with a pointless third-down pass interference penalty, but it didn’t ultimately cost the home team.
Special Teams: C
Although special teams is usually a strength of the Buckeyes, this unit was a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the first half, which will undoubtedly keep coach Jim Tressel awake at night.
The good: Ohio State’s Nate Oliver recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff to demoralize the visitors before the game’s first snap.
The bad: OSU’s first extra point was tipped before sneaking through the uprights to put the Buckeyes on top 7-0.
The ugly: Ohio State’s 52-yard field goal attempt by Drew Basil was blocked and run back for Marshall’s only points of the half.
Jim Tressel didn’t help his team’s cause by inserting second-team receivers so early in the game (there would have been plenty of time later to get the new guys experience out wide), and the decision to kick a 52-yard field goal that turned into Marshall’s only points was a horrible move (hindsight’s 20-20, right?). However, it’s hard to fault the usually buttoned-down coach with the conservative offense for scoring 35 points before the break. Tressel’s assembled a lot of talent in Columbus, and it’s on full display tonight.