Buckeye Breakdown: Ohio State uses big plays to beat Western Michigan

Our weekly Buckeye Breakdown goes over how the Buckeyes beat Western Michigan and which units made progress from last week's close win.

Unit Analysis

Ohio State Run Offense: This was a performance from Ezekiel Elliott that should be encouraging for Ohio State. After shouldering a combined 50 carries in wins against Hawaii and Northern Illinois, Elliott easily eclipsed the 100-yard mark (finishing with 124 yards) while running the ball just 16 times. As Ohio State seeks to preserve him for a daunting stretch at the end of the season, workloads like these that help the offense and give him an opportunity to rest will be crucial. I also thought Ohio State learned something in the fourth quarter when Curtis Samuel busted loose for a 40-yard touchdown and went for 15 yards on his only other carry. Being able to use him at times as more of a traditional running back just adds another dimension to an offense that has been steadily working back to last season’s form. -- Ryan Ginn

Ohio State Pass Offense: It started off about as good as you could start if you were Ohio State. After a week in which Buckeye quarterbacks threw three interceptions, Cardale Jones came out and completed his second pass of the game for a 38-yard score. While Jones uncharacteristically missed on multiple long balls, the good news for Ohio State is there were deep balls open to throw. The Buckeyes had been questioning whether they had someone who could replace Devin Smith as the home run threat, and they finally found that in Jalin Marshall and Corey Smith, according to Urban Meyer. While Smith caught just two passes, Marshall proved that he has the ability to take the lid off a defense as he caught Jones' second long ball for a score and likely would have pulled in another had Jones not severely underthrown the ball. Jones finished the game with a career-high 288 yards, two scores and a pick but had he completed at least two of the five underthrows, he could have finished with close to 400 yards. -- James Grega

Ohio State Run Defense: In general it wasn’t a stellar day from the Ohio State defense, but it wasn’t terrible either. That can apply to the run defense specifically, too, as the Buckeyes allowed 169 rushing yards on the day. But that includes just 93 yards on 23 attempts for the Broncos’ leading running back, Jamauri Bogan, for a pedestrian 4.0 yards per carry. Jarvion Franklin found some more space with 12 carries for 68 yards as the Buckeyes struggled to get off the field on defense, which was largely because of 11 rushing first downs for Western Michigan. Other than two sacks of quarterback Zach Terrell, Ohio State managed just two tackles for loss. -- Tim Moody

Ohio State Pass Defense: The Silver Bullets were decent in the secondary but did not live up to their own lofty expectations. Western Michigan had a lot of success with the back shoulder throw to Corey Davis. Those plays mostly came at the expense of Eli Apple, who was beat on a handful of plays despite tight coverage. Daniel Braverman also got loose for 123 yards on 10 catches, but the shifty slot receiver has done that to a lot of teams early this season. Overall a solid day with the pass defense showing up in key situations, but not quite what the team is capable of. Tip of the cap to Adolphus Washington for his pick-six as well. -- Blake Williams

Ohio State Special Teams: I don't think Western Michigan practiced the kicking game coming in, as the Broncos were a bit of a disaster in those areas. Poor kicker Alex Haldeman missed two field goals -- the latter never had a prayer from 47 yards out after the first was blocked -- and doinked an extra point off the upright. Western Michigan also gave up a blocked punt and a long return, though both were wiped out because of penalties. Cameron Johnston had a good day with a 51.5-yard average and three of four kicks downed inside the 20, and Ohio State's coverage units were solid as usual. The penalties can get cleaned up for the Buckeyes, and if they are, OSU should have a pretty good kicking unit. -- Jeff Svoboda

What We Learned

Ryan Ginn: Urban Meyer made the right choice at quarterback. It would have thrown the team into an interesting situation if Jones had been pulled for a third straight week, but a solid first half from him ended that possibility. Jones himself certainly wasn’t flawless, but in an overall imperfect offense I think his ability to keep plays alive better serves the Buckeyes’ interests. The underthrown balls today were probably frustrating for fans, but that’s something I think can be fixed. You can say whatever you want about the circumstances in which Barrett played, but he still doesn’t look like the quarterback who was so impressive in 2014. For now, there’s stability at the Ohio State quarterback position. 

Jeff Svoboda: The Buckeyes aren't there yet -- and don't have to be. We watched TCU nearly lose, and Michigan State didn't exactly set the world on fire. Right now, it doesn't matter how good you are, it just matters that you win, and Ohio State was never in serious danger of not winning vs. Western Michigan. There is still work to be done -- if you're an optimist, you see the progress the Buckeyes made, and if you're a pessimist, you worry about the run defense or Cardale Jones' missed throws -- but as a realist, you know it could always be worse. Alabama, USC, Auburn and many others who were expected to be national title contenders have a notch in the loss column already but Ohio State does not, and so there's still plenty of time to iron out the kinks.

Blake Williams: The offense took a step today. Were the Buckeyes as explosive as they are capable of being? No, but they were a lot closer to what we all expected entering the season than they had been in two previous home games. Cardale Jones missed a few deep balls that kept this one from really getting out of hand, but every offensive position group showed progress against the Broncos. Jones ability to spread the ball around to eight receivers on his way to a career high in passing yards was certainly more good than bad and that’s a nice change for the Buckeye offense.

Tim Moody: The offense can, in fact, get it done, even when the defense doesn’t quite show up. Sure, Ohio State held Western Michigan to 12 points, but it was a bad day on defense by the Buckeyes’ lofty standards. And that bad day just happened to coincide with a big day from the offense as Ohio State scored 31 points on that side of the ball. The Buckeyes needed such a performance this week after two very lackluster perfromances on offense. And now the defense has an idea of what needs to improve as well.

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