Offense Knows It Has Work To Do

It's fair to say the Ohio State offense earned an incomplete grade Saturday afternoon against Youngstown State. Sure, the Buckeyes scored 38 points and racked up more than 400 yards, but those associated with Ohio State's running game afterward know that improvement is necessary if the Buckeyes are going to have a successful season.

Thirty-eight points, more than 400 yards of offense and just two punts isn't that bad for a season opener, but the Ohio State football team sure didn't make it sound that good either after Saturday's win over Youngstown State.

A lot of that had to do with some first-half drives that didn't look that good near the goal line. Also included was a disappointing performance from the team's expected stalwart at tailback in Chris Wells – just ask him.

All in all, the Buckeyes (1-0) left Ohio Stadium with a 38-6 win against the Penguins (0-1) that was never really in doubt. But for those wondering just what the offense would look like, the answer was like a rickety Oldsmobile, instead of the high performance look of the past two seasons. It moved in fits and starts, never quite looked stylish, but it got the job done.

"We have to get better," coordinator Jim Bollman said. "We weren't real smooth in the first half, didn't get much rhythm. We saw more consistency in the second half, but we have to get a few more points on the board."

OSU took a 21-3 lead into the half but it was not always pretty. The team's two punts in the game came during the first 30 minutes. Wells had just nine carries for 10 yards and a touchdown during the half, and wasn't pleased with it afterward.

"I'm not satisfied at all," the sophomore from Akron said. "It took me too long to get into the mode of the game. By the second half, it's basically too late to try to kick it in. I did terrible. I did a bad job."

He had been battling various injuries, including an ankle injury and a reported stinger, during the preseason, but did not use that or the opposition as an excuse.

"I was full go," he said. "I think my mind was just somewhere else, not focused on the game. I couldn't tell you why at all."

Much of the frustration had to come from his shortcomings in the short-yardage situations at which he excelled in 2006. On OSU's first possession of the season, it took the Buckeyes just three plays, all passes to Brian Robiskie, to gain 64 yards and earn a second-and-3 from YSU's 6-yard line. From there, Wells twice ran the ball up the middle and gained a total of two yards to set up fourth-and-1.

Quarterback Todd Boeckman ran a sneak up the middle to earn a fresh set of downs at the 2, but two more runs by Beanie lost a combined 1 yard. On third down, Boeckman found freshman Dane Sanzenbacher for a 3-yard score.

Two possessions later, OSU moved to a first down at the 3, but a run apiece by freshman Brandon Saine and Wells could not net a score. Finally, on third down, Wells bulled into the end zone for his first touchdown on the year. Later, Wells could not score again on a first-and-goal from the 1, leading to a Saine score a play later.

Some of the blame falls on an offensive line that didn't quite hit its top gear and looked like it was replacing two senior starters with sophomore center Jimmy Cordle and junior right guard Ben Person.

Captain Kirk Barton, OSU's right tackle, said Youngstown State used a different formation than the Buckeyes thought they would in goal-line situations, shifting the end down and moving the strong-side linebacker up.

"They gave us a couple different looks that we needed to do a little bit better job adjusting early," Bollman said. "It's one of those things where they did a good job. They had a good idea what they thought we would run and did a good job playing us."

The Buckeyes also looked a bit rusty at times; Ohio State was whistled for five false starts and two substitution infractions. The final numbers in the rushing game included 41 attempts for 166 yards, an average of just 3.6 yards per carry. In the first half, 16 rushes by the tailbacks netted 41 yards, a 2.6-yard average. According to YSU head coach Jon Heacock, that was by design.

"We felt like that was something we had to try to stop," Heacock said. "We just felt like we were going to try to take something away as best we could and I thought our guys did an admirable job on defense up front on the run."

Not everything went against the Buckeye offense. Boeckman, in his first starting nod, completed 17 of 23 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. His top target, Robiskie, pulled in nine balls for 153 yards. Three true freshmen – Saine, Sanzenbacher and wideout Taurian Washington – scored touchdowns in their first career games, while redshirt freshman Antonio Henton's first drive as a Buckeye ended in six points.

Still, against a team not even in Division I-A and in a game many treated as though it would be something approximating a scrimmage, the team knows it needs to do better.

"We need to come out with more intensity," Barton said. "We didn't come out the way we need to. You really want to go after a team from the get-go and it seemed like we just kind of trudged through the first half. We really needed to pick it up and put more points on the board."

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