Ohio State Second Thoughts: Buffalo

Only so much can be learned from watching a game once, so we took the liberty of breaking things down on a second viewing of Ohio State's season-opening win against Buffalo.

Let's not nitpick here: Overall Ohio State's performance against Buffalo was pretty good.

Braxton Miller came out sharp. He spread the ball around. His various weapons showed their skills – deep threat Devin Smith, all-around reliable Philly Brown and Chris Fields, explosive Dontre Wilson and shifty Jordan Hall.

I did not think the offensive line played a great game. They weren't bad, but they could have been better. I think a lot of what problems they had were more related to the talent of Khalil Mack than anything else, but of you can't write off problems because of ability because there are going to be more Khalil Macks out there on the schedule. The point is he is no average MAC defensive player, so don't let that sound any additional alarms. You'll hear from that guy again, and probably for years to come.

OK, I said we weren't going to nitpick, but I suppose that really is the point of exercises like this one. I felt like on both sides of the ball, Buffalo was a little more committed to leverage than the Buckeyes. And by that I don't mean "leverage" as in containing the ball on defense (a hot term in recent years), but the old-fashioned definition of getting lower than the other guy. Mack did a great job getting under the pads of more than one Ohio State lineman, not only tall, young newcomer Taylor Decker but also powerful veteran Andrew Norwell (once I noticed).

Obviously Ohio State found a way to deal with the scheme, but the Buffalo tackles did a good job of making the Buckeyes work, and they had a couple of linebackers who played with good instincts even if they were sometimes out-talented when they tried to make a play.

To that end, I thought the Buckeye quarterbacks did a good job reading plays inside when they needed to. It's hard to know for sure when a play is a zone read and when it is a designed handoff or keeper, but the majority of the time the right guy seemed to end up with the ball based on how Buffalo was playing it.

Braxton looked more confident and collected as he went about his business. He might have gotten too excited and missed one or both of those touchdown throws last season.

On defense, I think people are being a little too hard on Armani Reeves. Yes, he had a few plays I'm sure he'd like back, but when you play cornerback, you're going to allow catches. Some are concerned about the "soft coverage" the corners played, but against a spread team you can't guard everything. The toughest play for the offense is the long throw to the field, so that's what they choose to give up against the spread. Other than one time Reeves missed a tackle and gave up a gain of a dozen yards or so and a first down, the Buckeyes did a good job of rallying to the ball. They will have to keep doing that all season.

There were a couple of missed tackles, but for the most part that was better than early last season as well. Seems like all the talk about emphasizing fundamentals paid off, at least for one week. That is the type of thing that is easy to let slip as the season wears on, but I would expect this staff to be on alert for it after fit was such a problem last season.

Maybe it is a result of the new targeting rule, but Christian Bryant played noticeably more under control as well. He even had an opportunity to blow up a receiver in the air at one point but went chest-first into the offensive player's midsection instead of head down and blind. That was good to see regardless of the motivation. As for the other safeties, Corey Brown was not too noticeable, which is sometimes not a bad thing for a safety, and Ron Tanner did a nice job being ready to take advantage of an opportunity when he snagged that pick.

Tyvis Powell was solid at the Star. He obviously brings good size to that position. He has the ideal body type, but the key is really making plays there. It is a great spot to do it. Just getting by is not enough for this to be a great defense. He's a freshman of course so there is plenty of room for him to develop.

The talent of Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa as strong-side ends is unmistakeable. Those are big, long guys who just exude ability. Bosa especially seems to play with a certain violence and relentlessness. I was impressed with how Washington set the edge and moved laterally a handful of times, though I think it is still a concern how he handles power runs directly at him. Leverage will be important for him because of how he is built. Noah Spence flashed his talent at "Viper", but he was contained. Jamal Marcus showed some explosiveness when he was in there, but I think he might be a bit small to play non-passing downs.

Inside, Mike Bennett and Joel Hale both looked very good. Hale did a good job tying up an extra blocker on a regular bases and came off the block to get in on a couple of plays, too, while Bennett is a strong guy who can push the pocket and plays with great balance.

Ryan Shazier looked good when he was in there, but I thought Curtis Grant's play left a lot to be desired. He just doesn't play downhill much. One time he did seem to get a running start at the ball carrier, it appeared to be a designed call. He does not seem to recognize immediately so he ends up chasing the play more than making the play.

Other notes:

The Buckeyes probably could have scored 100 out of 100 times they tried the second two-point conversion out of the swinging gate formation. Buffalo only sent five guys with the line and Hall to the hashmark. Four were lined up with the snapper, holder and kicker while another guy was splitting the difference and pretty much out of the play altogether.

Ohio State out schemed the coverage on both of the first two touchdowns, putting defensive players in a bind with too many guys to cover, and Miller took advantage by reading it and making the throw.

Cam Burrows showed up on a couple of kickoffs early, and Jamal Marcus and Vonn Bell were consistently involved in the action there.

One potentially important development that could have gone noticed: A nice intermediate throw by Miller to Philly Brown, who found a spot in a zone and sat down for his quarterback to find him. That is the type of thing that can make this offense really unstoppable. We already know they can make big plays thanks to their raw talent alone.

On the pick-six, it looked like Mack just felt the cut block coming and read the screen. Very instinctual play. Then he showed great wheels to finish the play.

Among the times Hale showed up was third-and-goal in the fourth quarter. He not only occupied two blockers but got a hit on the ball carrier, who was finished off by Shazier and Bryant.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories