Buckeye Breakdown Week 2: Major Scare Survived Against Toledo in 27-22 Escape
AT OHIO STATE 27
The Ohio State Buckeyes won on Saturday against Toledo to start their season off with two wins and no losses. Those are pretty much the only positives to be taken away from the Buckeyes’ performance in this game.
Toledo took Ohio State absolutely to the wire, with the game’s outcome still in doubt until there were 48 seconds remaining, when the Buckeyes stopped Toledo on a fourth-and-6 to put an end to a drive that went all the way to the 17-yard line.
The Buckeyes never established control of this game, and considering that they were playing against another MAC school, this is a huge concern. Yes, the Toledo Rockets are a much tougher opponent than were the Akron Zips.
But that said, while the Rockets are a challenging team that should not be overlooked, they still pale in comparison to the competition that Ohio State will face within conference play in the Big Ten, and even this upcoming week against Miami.
In preparation for this upcoming game, the Buckeyes will have to make some serious improvements to remain undefeated.
In the opener against Akron, the quarterback play from both senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller was fantastic. In this game, the quarterback play was horrible.
With the Buckeyes never able to separate with a lead from the Rockets, it became very clear that the coaching staff does not yet have faith in Miller to play in important game action, for Bauserman played the entirety of the game.
After a very encouraging performance from the senior in his first start, this game came as a major disappointment. Bauserman showed an inability to make big throws, especially with putting touch on his deep ball.
On numerous occasions, Bauserman missed wide-open receivers downfield, being unable to accurately place his deep passes.
As much as Bauserman’s play was disappointing, the more disappointing fact was that Luke Fickell and the coaching staff did not give Braxton Miller a chance. Braxton has the ability to make the big plays that Bauserman does not, and his skill set as a dual-threat quarterback always makes him dangerous to opposing defenses.
Miller could have been the spark plug that the Buckeyes offense needed to put up points and yards against the Toledo defense (they only had 301 yards of total offense, and with a special-teams touchdown scored, the offense only accounted for 20 points). By not inserting him into the game, Miller never got the chance to be that guy.
The play of the Ohio State running backs was also a big disappointment. While sophomore Jaamal Berry was the Buckeyes’ lead kick returner in this game, he played very sparingly on offense.
Sophomore Carlos Hyde had a decent game, scoring two touchdowns, but prior to a 36-yard rushing touchdown, he had performed very quietly, and did not do anything spectacular aside from that, only gaining 76 yards from 20 carries.
As for freshman Rod Smith, who had a bad fumble on the 4-yard line in the opener against Akron, he had an equally bad, but more damaging fumble against Toledo. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, and the Buckeyes trying to extend a 5-point lead, Smith fumbled the ball again, setting up the potential game-winning drive that Toledo came close to converting.
Smith has an impressive combination of size and speed, clearly giving him potential, but until he can solve his issues with keeping care of the football, he should not see any more action on the field for the Buckeyes. His fumbling could easily cost the Buckeyes a game.
As for the wide receivers, it is difficult to critique their gameplay, for the poor quarterback play made it difficult to gauge their ability. However, the offensive line did not perform particularly well in this game.
Notably, the most-lauded member of the Ohio State offensive line, center Mike Brewster, did not have a good game. Brewster has the potential to be the best center in the nation, but he has yet to live up to it on the field this season.
He has not been the dominant force in the middle he is supposed to be, for he has failed to get significant push up front, and has missed too many blocks. For the Buckeyes’ offense, especially their run game, to get going, they need Brewster to start performing up to his ability.
Early on, the Buckeyes’ defense and special teams also really struggled. The Buckeyes got the game off to a good start, scoring on their opening drive and then surviving the first Toledo drive after their kicker, Ryan Casano, missed a 45-yard field goal.
However, the Rockets would then score on their next two drives. First, after the Toledo defense forced a three-and-out, Kishon Wilcher came up with a huge punt block, which T.J. Fatinikun ran all the way back to a 1-yard line, setting up an easy touchdown for the offense.
The big plays would continue on Toledo’s next drive, when sophomore Terrance Owens, one of two quarterbacks to play in the game for the Rockets, completed a pass to Eric Page, and Page broke down the defense to take the ball all the way to the house for a 66-yard touchdown.
Page would be the star of the Toledo offense on this day, but after picking up 102 yards on 5 receptions in the Rockets’ first three drives, he only caught 7 passes for 43 yards over the rest of the game, meaning the Buckeyes’ secondary was able to slow him down.
A key player in that effort was sophomore cornerback Dominic Clarke, who for the second straight week was the star of the Ohio State defense. In an otherwise disappointing season to this point, Clarke has been the breakout player of the Buckeyes.
He is emerging into a shutdown cornerback who can make big plays, and with the return of junior cornerback Travis Howard from suspension this week, the Buckeyes could be in line to have one of the nation’s best starting cornerback duos.
Overall, the run defense in this game was fantastic, holding the Rockets to only 46 yards on the ground. A huge factor in that success by the Buckeyes defense was defensive lineman John Simon.
Simon is the team’s most complete and versatile defensive lineman, with the ability to be anything from a tough run stopper in the middle to a pass rusher at defensive end.
Simon went out for a portion of the second half with cramps, but showing his toughness and resolve, he came back into the game late when the Buckeyes needed him most. He became the star up front once again, bringing pressure and making stops to help the Buckeyes finally shut down the Rockets on their final drive and escape with a win.
As a whole, it was neither a great nor horrible performance from the Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes came up with the big stop when they needed to, and held the Rockets to only 338 total yards of offense and 22 points.
However, this did come against an offense with poor quarterback play (that sounds all too familiar) from the Mid-American Conference.
Special teams is where the Buckeyes may have had both their best and worst moment. The good came in the third quarter, when Chris Fields returned a low line-drive punt 69 yards for the touchdown.
The bad came in the first quarter, with the aforementioned Toledo punt block, returned to the 1-yard line by T.J. Fatinikun, which set up the Rockets’ first score.
The Ohio State Buckeyes may have won this game, and had a few bright spots between Clarke, Simon, and Fields’s punt return, but overall, this was a horrible showing.
For a team whose Big Ten schedule includes Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State, and Penn State, playing at the level at which they did in this game simply will not suffice. The Buckeyes are going to have a really tough test this upcoming Saturday when they play Miami.
This game will certainly generate headlines, for both programs are dealing with major scandals. Fortunately for both teams, many of their suspended players return for this game. For the Buckeyes, they will finally be able to re-integrate running back Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard, and safety Corey Brown back into their lineups.
For Miami, they return many key players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris, top wide receiver Travis Benjamin, star outside linebacker Sean Spence, defensive end Adewale Ojomo, and defensive tackle Marcus Forston...all five players are starters.
At home, with the return of those players, and having lost to Maryland in their opener, the Hurricanes will be hungry for a victory to knock the Buckeyes for their first loss.
The Buckeyes are going to have to play much better, especially offensively, to win this game. Senior quarterback Joe Bauserman has to step up his play. In my opinion, the coaching staff should turn to Braxton Miller early to take over the offense if Bauserman is unable to make the plays they need him to.
The return of Jordan Hall should add a spark to the backfield, although the Buckeyes will be without wide receiver Corey Brown this week, lost to an ankle injury.
Defensively, the Buckeyes will be leaning heavily on the strength of their secondary, led by returning Howard, Dominic Clarke, and safety C.J. Barnett, to shut down the Hurricanes’ athletic wide receivers.
Additionally, the Buckeyes will really need strong showings from defensive linemen John Simon and freshman J.T. Moore, for Moore is starting in place of the team’s best pass rusher, Nathan Williams, who is missing his second straight game.
I believe that the Buckeyes will bounce back with a vengeance, and take this game by a score of 31-23. The Hurricanes will certainly challenge for the victory, and I would not be at all surprised if they make this game closer, or even get the upset win.
Coach Fickell has a real job on his hands this week, getting the Buckeyes prepared to step up their games and get a crucial non-conference victory to keep their undefeated start alive.