With "big plays" being defined as gains of 20 yards or more, the Buckeyes showed some improvement in this area during a 29-15 win over UAB on Saturday, but they left plenty of progress to be made.
The Blazers had three plays of 20 yards or more, down from the five Cal recorded in a 35-28 OSU win a week earlier, but there were 10 more plays that went for at least 10 yards.
Tackling continued to be a problem, but better leverage on the ball meant fewer home runs, something senior linebacker Etienne Sabino took as a small victory – but not much more.
"I guess you could say it's a positive if we didn't lose leverage, but still too many missed tackles," Sabino said. :When it all comes down to it, we have guys in position and we have to make the tackle."
2. Can the Buckeyes cut down on penalties?
Although the Blazers were worse in this regard, it continued to be a problem for head coach Urban Meyer's team.
Ohio State had seven penalties accepted against it for 60 yards, including a running into the kicker foul that extended UAB's first drive and 15-yard personal foul on safety Christian Bryant for taunting later in the game.
"I think what hurt us was the penalties, guys being offside and getting personal fouls," defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "We're going to get that straightened out and get ready to play."
Fullback Zach Boren also had a false start penalty that turned a third-and-4 into third-and-9 on the Buckeyes' last possession of the third quarter. They were not able to pick up the yardage and had to punt despite starting with good field position at their own 38.
3. How will the Ohio State passing game continue to evolve?
Braxton Miller completed 12 of 20 passes for 143 yards without a touchdown or an interception, pedestrian numbers for a player facing one of the worst pass defenses in the nation this season and last.
He was victimized again by a couple of dropped passes, including one by Devin Smith that would have gone for a 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Smith caught four passes for 39 yards while Philly Brown led the Buckeyes with 67 yards on four grabs.
4. Will production continue to grow from the defensive line?
Hankins, the two-time team defensive player of the week, had another banner day as he made 10 tackles, including a half that went for loss. The junior tackle was too tough for the Blazer line to handle inside, and a tweak to the regular alignment helped make the run defense more effective.
"We set our front to the boundary. I think it turned out pretty well," Hankins said. "I would prefer they run it to me than to somebody else."
End Nathan Williams also had a solid day as he notched five tackles, including one for loss with Hankins. Nose tackle Garrett Goeble logged four tackles, same as end John Simon, who also knocked down a pass.
5. Will there be any personnel changes?
There were new faces in the defensive lineup as a result of health problems for the Buckeyes.
Grant had a memorable starting debut with seven tackles, including a sack, and an interception. He also recovered a fumble.
"I think the kids rose up," co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "Orhian rose up. Doran Grant had an interception. It looks like they did fine. We'll find out any issues when we look at the film.
"I think we had a lot of competition and this week gave us an opportunity to see if we had some depth at that position. I think we do."
The moves trickled down to the punt unit with a negative result as well. Meyer attributed the first quarter blocked punt to a missed assignment by someone new to the lineup.