The Ohio State Buckeyes’ last loss at home to a non-power conference team came 65 years ago to SMU in 1950. That streak continued today as the Buckeyes won 38-0 over the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii in their home opener.
Credit the Rainbow Warriors as they played extremely hard, trailing the number one ranked Buckeyes 17-0 heading into the final quarter, giving the Rainbow Warriors’ faithful a glimpse of hope for an all time upset. A few dropped interception opportunities by the Rainbow Warriors defense in the first and third quarters could have changed the tide.
Despite the final score, Hawaii Head Coach Norm Chow was proud of the way his team played.
“I thought we played very well," Chow told media following the game. "We played very hard. I’m proud of that.”
Defensive coordinator Tom Mason will be proud of his unit, as his defense played outstanding accumulating 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles. His defense kept the highly touted Ohio State quarterbacks out of rhythm throughout the course of the game.
Junior defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii anchored the middle of the defensive line. His play in the trenches was a huge reason the defense held the usually explosive Buckeye offense in check.
“We keyed on the quarterback [Cardale Jones] the most because of his run game.” Tulimasealii said. “He likes to run a lot.” Tulimasealii was quick off the ball, and showed that he is a force in the trenches.
Senior linebacker Benneton Fonua led the team with 12 tackles while senior safety Marrell Jackson added 11 tackles of his own.
Senior defensive back Ne’Quan Phillips also displayed his toughness and his ability to make open field tackles against the bigger and faster skill players of the Buckeyes. Phillips finished with 8 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass break up. The Rainbow Warrior defensive unit had a great showing against a heralded Buckeyes offense, allowing 366 total yards.
The Buckeyes’ junior All-American running back Ezekiel Elliot was still too much, rushing for 3 touchdowns. Elliot led all rushers with 101 yards on 27 carries, extending his 100-yard game streak to 7 consecutive games.
Perhaps a short week, minimal rest and only 2 days of practice for the Buckeyes played a role in their sloppy offensive start. Multiple false starts and a missed field goal opportunity on their first drive had the football world thinking maybe the Rainbow Warriors had a chance. The Buckeyes scored first with an 11-play 77-yard drive capped off by 1-yard plunge into the end zone by Elliot at the 3:25 mark in the opening quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Rainbow Warriors punting out of their own end zone gladly accepted a roughing the punter penalty, extending their drive. With a new set of downs, however, Hawaii’s senior quarterback Max Wittek was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Gareon Conley at the 7:53 minute mark in the second quarter swaying the momentum back in the Buckeyes’ favor.
In the ensuing possession, Coach Meyer opted to give sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett his first opportunity to command the Buckeyes’ offense. Barrett led a 9-play 35-yard scoring drive capped off by another 3-yard Elliot rushing touchdown giving the Buckeyes’ a 14-0 lead with 4:03 remaining in the first half.
An uncharacteristically non-explosive Buckeye’s offense in the first half was due to their quarterback struggles. Neither quarterback looked sharp, as Jones and Barrett combined to go 11-of-23 for 123 yards with no touchdowns in the first hal, leaving Ohio State fans wondering who would start under center after halftime. It was Jones who started the first offensive series coming out of the half, but failed to make anything happen, going three-and-out. Jones would be the guy for the remainder of the game.
The Buckeyes’ offense failed to take advantage of a forced fumble on a big hit on Wittek, allowing their offense to take over on Hawaii’s 6-yard line 5 minutes into the second half. The Rainbow Warrior’s defense came up with a great red zone stop, forcing the Buckeyes to settle for a field goal, which extended their lead 17-0 with 8:34 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Jones finished 12-for-18, 111 yards and no touchdowns.
With the offense sputtering early in today’s game, a quarterback controversy may be brewing in Columbus. “I still have to evaluate how we're doing that and what's the best opportunity to go down the field and score.” Coach Meyer said. “This is -- I can't recall in major college football history when I remember witnessing something like that, where you have two good guys. I have to self-evaluate too and make sure we're doing the right thing by those guys.”
The return of All American defensive end Joey Bosa from his 1 game suspension provided the Buckeye defense with constant pressure off of the edge, as the defense dominated the Rainbow Warrior’s offense for all four quarters. A projected top-10 pick, at 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, Bosa was the catalyst for the stout Ohio State defense, holding Hawaii to 166 yards of total offense and an abysmal 2-of-14 on third down. The defensive unit flexed their dominance by accumulating 4 sacks, 5 tackles for loss while forcing 4 turnovers and surrendering only 12 first downs. Hawaii’s offense failed to even move the ball into the red zone.
Wittek finished a dreadful 7-24 for 67 yards, with 2 interceptions and 2 fumbles, although his receiving corps did not aid him in the effort.
“We had way too many drops. You know the windows aren’t going to be very big when you play a good football team” Chow said. “The numbers don’t look good. We dropped a ton of balls and we can’t keep doing that. We talked about it before the game – every opportunity that we had to make a play we had to because we’re playing the No. 1 team in the country.”
Hawaii’s leading receiver was freshman Dylan Collie who had 1 catch for 29 yards, which came in the first drive of the game. Junior running back Paul Harris led the Rainbow Warriors with 46 yards on 14 carries.
A Wittek fumbled exchange resulted in a scoop and score by junior safety Vonn Bell at the 7:48 minute mark in the last quarter finally put the game out of reach at 31-0. A late 5 yard rushing touchdown by Buckeyes junior running back Bri’onte Dunn put the final score at 38-0.
The Ohio State Buckeyes move to 2-0 on their quest to defend their title, and the Rainbow Warriors fall to 1-1. Hawaii will host UC Davis of the Big Sky Conference at 6 p.m. next Saturday. The Rainbow Warriors last faced the Aggies in 2011, winning big at home 56-14.