Buckeye Breakdown: Virginia Tech

What can be learned from the loss to Virginia Tech? Team BSB takes a look in this week's Buckeye Breakdown.

Ohio State run offense: Ohio State finished the night with 108 yards rushing, the fewest for the Buckeyes since Urban Meyer became the head coach in 2012 and their lowest total since a loss to Michigan State in 2011 (35). The problems were not hard to figure out – Virginia Tech often lined up with eight in the box and jammed up the inside of the line with defensive players. The Buckeyes tried to run laterally and had some success, but they were not able to sustain anything. Of course, the rushing total was dragged down by seven sacks of quarterback J.T. Barrett, but the 187 gross yards are still fewer than Ohio State's net total of any game last season. Barrett has been the leading rusher in both of Ohio State's games so far this season, something that is probably not part of the plan or a good sign about the state of the offense. – Marcus Hartman

Ohio State pass offense: Well that could have gone better. Facing a secondary ranked by college football analyst Phil Steele as the best in the country, the Ohio State passing game never got going. Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who fared much better in his debut, finished 9 for 29 for 219 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Certainly not all of that was on Barrett, as the inexperienced offensive line yielded seven sacks (six in the fourth quarter) against a defensive look that the Buckeyes said they weren’t quite expecting. While those sacks obviously didn’t contribute to the passing woes, the many other times the Hokies found the Ohio State backfield did.

It was surprising to see the lack of looks in the direction of hybrid players Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall, and the downfield passing game didn’t really develop outside of a pair of big completions to Wilson and receiver Devin Smith. Urban Meyer singled out the wide receivers after the game, saying he didn’t think they played well. He’s right – there were some critical drops. When it came to Ohio State’s passing attack, though, the wideouts weren’t the only ones who had a rough day. – Ryan Ginn

Ohio State run defense: For the most part, it was a solid effort out of Ohio State, but the Buckeyes got gashed at inopportune times. Virginia Tech finished with just 3.0 yards per carry on 40 tries but the Hokies had some big runs on their second TD drive as well as their winning drive. The reverse call there was simply perfect by the Tech offensive brain trust and they were also able to crease the Buckeyes for a 24-yard run by Deon Newsome. At the end of the day, Virginia Tech did enough here to turn in a winning performance. – Jeff Svoboda

Ohio State pass defense: The first-look at a revamped defensive secondary produced mixed results. Ohio State got big plays from Eli Apple and Vonn Bell, who both recorded picks, and a strip sack from Joey Bosa, but an inability to get off the field on third down plagued the unit. The Buckeyes had some success pass-rushing with their four down lineman, but Michael Brewer consistently escaped pressure long enough to find open receivers. The Hokies converted nine third downs in all and a bulk of them came through the air. Ohio State frequently pulled a defensive tackle to bring on Armani Reeves, running a 3-3-5 formation and sending a linebacker on the blitz. Those blitzes rarely hit home. The Hokies seemed to consistently confuse the pass defense by lining up three receivers on one side, forcing either a linebacker into coverage or the scheme to be abandoned entirely. The Buckeyes did make the big plays in pass coverage and managed to hold Virginia Tech to 199 passing yards, but the failure to make too many of the routine plays made it feel like more. – Blake Williams

What We Learned…

Ryan Ginn: Ohio State may have one of the best coaching staffs in the country, but the Buckeyes appear to be short on miracle workers. I still expect this to be one of the best teams in the country by December, but it was always going to be too much to ask the team to answer all its questions so quickly. The inexperienced offensive line looked like a quintet of matadors out there, and a redshirt freshman quarterback making his second-ever start isn’t quite an adequate replacement for the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year. Ohio State has too much talent to not be a good team by the end of the year … but it also has too much youth to be an immediate top-flight squad.

Jeff Svoboda: That replacing half your team and the two-time defending Big Ten Player of the Year is a tall order. Speaking mostly on offense, a performance like this was likely coming against a team that had the talent to challenge the Buckeyes and force them to deal with pressure, and Virginia Tech did just that. The offensive line remains a work in progress – as expected given the loss of four starters – and Urban Meyer wasn’t pleased after the game the way the skill position players weren’t able to help quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett turned in a gutsy performance but as a redshirt freshman without freakish athleticism, he’s just not able to make something out of nothing quite at the level of Braxton Miller. At the end of the day, it’s hard for the Buckeyes to sustain drives given the lack of experience and identity, which we probably should have expected before the season started.

Blake Williams: To say that special teams play lost the game for Ohio State would be unfair to the other facets of the game that fell short, but the unit certainly performed well below my expectations. Two missed field goals, one from just 27 yards out, meant that the Buckeye’s two biggest plays of the first half – catches of 40 and 58 yards from Dontre Wilson and Devin Smith, respectively – resulted in zero points. A 24-yard first-half punt set up the Hokies’ first score while a kick off out of bounds gave momentum right back to Virginia Tech after Ohio State had evened the score at 21. Overall, a surprisingly poor special teams performance.

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