Dwayne Haskins Strengthens Heisman Campaign, Leads Ohio State Past Minnesota

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistOctober 13, 2018

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6:  Quarterback Dwayne Haskins #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes passes against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Ohio State overcame a slow start to keep its undefeated season alive with a 30-14 victory against Minnesota. 

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins helped his Heisman campaign by propping up a defense that was getting pushed around early. The sophomore superstar threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns in the win. 

Already facing defensive questions coming into Saturday's game, the Buckeyes were without defensive end Jonathon Cooper and linebacker Malik Harrison because of injuries. They got pushed around by Minnesota's offense, allowing 397 yards in defeat. 

The Golden Gophers are still seeking their first win in Big Ten play this season. They allowed a combined 852 yards and 90 points in back-to-back losses against Maryland and Iowa coming into the Horseshoe.

  

Haskins Strengthens Heisman Status

There's been a clear hierarchy in the 2018 Heisman race, starting with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. 

Haskins is ranked second in the latest betting odds released by OddsShark. His performance against Minnesota was the definition of a one-man show. 

The Buckeyes offense racked up 504 total yards, with Haskins completing 33 of his 44 attempts and accounting for 418 yards on his own. He also showed off incredible arm talent on this 41-yard pass to Terry McLaurin:

Haskins became just the second Ohio State quarterback to break the 400-yard barrier in back-to-back games:

Minnesota's defense has done a solid job this season considering that group has had to pick up an offense that entered this week ranked 83rd in scoring, tied for 102nd in turnovers and 110th in total yards. 

The Gophers front seven contained Ohio State's ground game. J.K. Dobbins had a season-low 35 yards, and Mike Weber was held to 51. 

When things seemed to be going wrong for the Buckeyes in the first half, Weber was stopped behind the line of scrimmage on a 4th-and-1 attempt to give Minnesota possession at its own 17-yard line with a 14-10 lead. 

Haskins was under pressure throughout the game. He was sacked three times and pressured nine times, yet he still found a way to put Ohio State's offense on his back for an ugly win. 

The Buckeyes are still trying to find a groove. Haskins has given them the ability to piece things together heading into the season's final stretch. 

   

Defensive Woes Will Ruin Buckeyes' Title Hopes

Among the list of concerns for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is getting his defense to play at a high level. 

The injuries to Bosa, Cooper and Harrison are a significant factor, but their absence doesn't explain everything. A hallmark of Meyer's tenure with the program has been depth at virtually every position on the field: 

Ohio State's entire starting linebacker corps didn't record a tackle in a Sept. 22 win over Tulane. The secondary has struggled all season, ranking 37th in marginal efficiency and 103rd in marginal explosiveness entering Saturday. Those categories measure a team's success rate allowed and expected success rate based on the opponent's down, distance and yard line.

Minnesota was able to move the ball up and down the field against Ohio State throughout the game. The final score doesn't indicate how close the Gophers kept things—it would have been a three-point difference with three minutes to play if Emmit Carpenter made his two field-goal attempts. 

One big advantage for the Buckeyes is playing in the Big Ten. They survived their first big conference test of the season against Penn State and likely won't play another ranked opponent until Michigan in the regular-season finale. 

Urban Meyer Must Develop OSU Running Game

The best thing Meyer could do for his defense is find a consistent running game. He highlighted that as an area in need of improvement during the lead-up to Saturday's contest. 

"We haven't had the big play in the run game like we have had in the past," Meyer said during his weekly radio show on Thursday (h/t Jim Naveau of LimaOhio.com). "We're working on that and we have the right people to do it.”

Just looking at the numbers, Ohio State entered this game averaging 201 rushing yards per game. A deeper dive shows the problems are significant. The Buckeyes haven't had a 100-yard rusher since Dobbins on Sept. 15 against TCU. 

Weber and Haskins tied for Ohio State's longest run against Minnesota with 11 yards. They averaged 2.9 yards per carry on 32 attempts as a team. The last time the Buckeyes didn't have a 1,000-yard rusher was in 2011. 

Since Meyer can't trust his running game to consistently eat up yards, his offense is becoming one-dimensional. It's a great dimension thanks to Haskins' passing talent, but the Buckeyes will need a better running game to win a national title. 

   

What's Next?

Ohio State will take its act on the road for a Big Ten clash with Purdue next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Minnesota will attempt to secure its first conference win of the season at Nebraska next Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. 

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