Buckeye Breakdown: OSU Runs Away From VPI

Ohio State scored 28 consecutive points to begin the second half and pull away from Virginia Tech. What are our assessments of the way the Buckeyes played in the romp? We break it all down inside.

Ohio State run offense: After Ezekiel Elliott busted free for an 80-yard score on his first carry, the Buckeyes seemed to ignore their Heisman front runner at least for a while as Elliott went into halftime with just four carries. He ended the night with 11 carries for 122 yards and the touchdown. Last season against the Hokies, Elliott carries just eight times. Part of the reason Elliott didn’t get many carries was because Jones was moving the ball on the Lane Stadium grass. Jones’ 99 rushing yards was a career high and even though he didn’t look particularly graceful running the read option, he was effecting when scrambling and made plays when he needed to, especially when the Buckeye offense became stagnant. Just because Elliott didn’t get his carries tonight, don’t expect that to be the norm going forward. -- James Grega

Ohio State pass offense: Here I sit looked at numbers that include a 9-for-18 performance from the starter and I can't help but see a lot of good things. @Cardale Jones was excellent for the most part against Virginia Tech. He forced the interception but he also turned about five or six plays that could have been disasters thanks to VT's aggressive defense and made things happen. He also distributed the ball nicely, finding six different receivers and letting them do their thing with big plays. Jones threw for two key scores and then @J.T. Barrett came in and hit @Michael Thomas on a straight-up dirty move for a TD on his lone pass. The offensive line will have to get better (though they won't face many if any more defenses that are this aggressive the rest of the season) but the pieces are there for the Buckeyes to do even better in the weeks going forward. -- Jeff Svoboda

Ohio State run defense: If given the choice to allow opponents to rush for 128 yards over 44 attempts, Ohio State would take those numbers just about every time they were offered. As a team, the Hokies averaged less than three yards per carry, a deficiency that became an even bigger problem once starting quarterback Michael Brewer left with a collarbone injury. Virginia Tech’s leading rusher J.C. Coleman amassed 43 yards on 12 carries, which qualifies as a pretty successful day at the office for the Ohio State front seven. Perhaps most importantly, the Silver Bullets’ success against the run came while rotating the defensive line much more frequently than they did last season. -- Ryan Ginn

Ohio State pass defense: A simple look at the stat sheet tells you the Ohio State pass defense had a decent day, holding the Hokies to fewer than 200 yards through the air with an interception to balance out three touchdowns. The actual performance goes deeper than that. Before Michael Brewer was forced to leave the game with a shoulder injury, Virginia Tech completed 68.8 percent of its passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Most of that damage was done in the short-to-intermediate passing game with much of that blame falling to the linebackers. The Buckeye backers were consistently lost on the throwback plays that Brewer is so adept at executing and it cost them. The pass rush was solid, as Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes all played well in their first real action. The secondary was typically solid, but the linebackers can build on their pass defense going forward. -- Blake Williams

Ohio State special teams: Ohio State’s special units were uncharacteristically poor against the Hokies. Junior punter Cameron Johnston was only called on three times, but he averaged just 38.7 yards per boot and put only one kick inside Virginia Tech’s 20-yard line. Duke transfer Jack Willoughby was just as underwhelming, missing his only field goal attempt — a 43 yarder — and putting one kickoff firmly out of bounds, although he managed two touchbacks as well. But the biggest problem on special teams came in the return game, where a muffed punt by Ezekiel Elliott allowed the Hokies to score just before the half and turn the momentum firmly in their favor. Overall it was a small sample size, especially considering Ohio State returned just two punts and no kickoffs, but the Buckeyes certainly have room to improve in the kicking game going forward. -- Tim Moody

What We Learned:

Ryan Ginn: When it comes to choosing a starter and allotting playing time, that decision is going to be solely up to Urban Meyer. The Ohio State head coach said he sought the counsel of his assistants during training camp, but he added tonight that any changes to the current formula will come directly from him. “You can’t have too many people’s input, because all it does is confuse the situation,” Meyer said. Meyer noted that he considered inserted Barrett sooner. Instead, he stayed with Jones because of his ability to use his frame to shake off the pressure Virginia Tech was creating in the pass rush. That’s a decision that will continue to come up – albeit with different variables every game – and it’s a choice Meyer is content to make himself.

James Grega: Outside of Miller, the takeaway has to be Cardale Jones starting over a team captain in J.T. Barrett. Jones showed why he earned that spot early, completing a touchdown drive with an off-balance toss to Curtis Samuel in the corner of the end zone to open the scoring. The big-armed quarterback also carried 13 times for 99 yards but seemed to struggle with the read option. Barrett came in late with the game in hand, and executed a speed option to perfection with a 40-yard gain and followed it up with a 26 yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. It’s really no wonder why coach Urban Meyer had a tough time deciding between the two.

Tim Moody: There’s still work to be done. Not a lot of work, but some. The Ohio State offensive line was poor for much of the game, although Cardale Jones showed great poise under pressure. But even poise wasn’t quite enough, as the Buckeyes did turn the ball over three times, two of which directly led to the Hokies’ halftime lead. There’s plenty of reason to celebrate for the Ohio State faithful, and a 42-24 win is highly impressive considering the way the game started. Now with a reasonably easy schedule over the coming weeks the Buckeyes need to build on a solid start and correct mistakes to make sure they make it back to the playoffs for the second year running. 

Jeff Svoboda: Ohio State's offense is as terrifying as we had hoped. The quarterback completed just half his passes. The Heisman candidate running back ran it just 11 times. There were two key turnovers, the offensive line was overwhelmed at times, and the team finished with just 10 completed passes. And the numbers are incredible. OSU piled up 360 rushing yards and 572 total yards -- including a simply ridiculous 10.2 yards per play -- against one of the best, most sound defenses in the nation. Yes, Virginia Tech's high-risk, high-reward defense led to some big plays, but holy cow. The Buckeyes were dominant -- and that's without three key contributors and some others in their first-ever action in their spots. The ceiling simply doesn't exist for this offense.

Blake Williams: This team can get better, and that’s scary. Much of the talk in pos-game interviews was of OK play and plays left on the table. Considering the team racked up 572 total yards of offense and 42 points against what is thought to be a pretty good Virginia Tech defense, that’s nuts. But I think it’s also true. The Buckeyes gave the ball away twice, once on a bad decision by Cardale Jones and again on an unforced error by Ezekiel Elliott on a punt return. There is room for growth here. All I can do is think about how much Ohio State improved from Week 1 to November last season, remember that the Buckeyes return four players from suspension next week and wonder how much better can they get.


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