Five Answers: Ohio State-Akron

How did the Buckeyes do in regards to running the ball, getting after the passer, forcing turnovers and combating that unique Akron defense? Read on for those answers and more as we take another look at Ohio State's 20-2 win over the Zips.

1. Will the Buckeyes untrack the running game?

For the second week in a row, the numbers don't look bad but fail to tell the full story.

It's likely Ohio State will take 196 yards rushing every week but would rather have more than 71 in the first half.

The start was certainly not what the Buckeyes wanted.

Chris "Beanie" Wells stumbled and was stopped for no gain on the Buckeyes' first offensive play then saw the next drive get off to an even worse start. That time Wells took a handoff in his own end zone and never made it out.

Zip linebacker Brion Stokes shot past trapping guard Steve Rehring and behind fullback Dionte Johnson to smack Wells in the backfield. Though officials first ruled the Buckeye stretched the ball over the goal line before going down but an official replay overturned the call and awarded two points to the Zips.

The unit went on to show some signs of life in the third quarter before breaking out in the fourth when, on the game's decisive drive, Wells finally broke free.

First he cut back for a nice six-yard gain, then he burst through a hole on the right side for 25. With the Akron defense reeling, a trap up the middle sprung Wells for 40 yards and a first down at the Akron 12.

Two plays later, a bootleg produced the 13-yard touchdown pass from Todd Boeckman to Brian Robiskie that finally gave the Buckeyes some breathing room.

"The first half to the second half, we basically were calling the same plays," left guard Steve Rehring said. "We just started blocking better. Execution was better and better as the game went on. You want to have a little faster start to keep getting better, but I thought we did alright."

Kirk Barton was decidedly less accepting of the overall outcome.

The late life was not enough to prevent the co-captain and right tackle from voicing his displeasure over the performance on his side of the ball.

"There are some guys that need to look in the mirror and see what they're all about this week because it's disheartening today," Barton said. "We didn't come out the way we needed to. We finished better than we started, but we need more, earlier. As an offense, we felt down. I mean, that's the thing I love about being here. We can win 38-6 and feel terrible the next day. That's Ohio State. It's not good enough yet. You don't want to have any missed assignments. No poor technique. No missed mans. You want to do it perfectly. If we don't do that, it's not good enough."

When asked if he shared Barton's sour mood, offensive coordinator and line coach Jim Bollman said wholeheartedly, "That's probably a reflection of a reaction by me, so I'm not very happy about it either. We have to go back to work and get some things done.

"I think the whole second half just kind of was in a little bit better tempo, a little bit better sync," Bollman said. "Still not what we need, but it was closer."

2. Will the 3-3-5 Akron defense cause the Buckeyes problems?

Whether it was really the scheme itself or something else was up for debate, but Akron certainly was able to disrupt the Buckeye offense for a large part of the contest.

"It was a different scheme," Rehring said. "They're always going to bring four, guaranteed, and you never know where that fourth guy is going to come from, so you know as the game went on we got a little better at it.

"We got a better idea of what the flow was going to be, where the safety was going to be. Just recognition was a little better."

Receiver Brian Hartline said there were no problems after a bit of a feeling out period, though he generally enters any contest with the same approach.

"The first quarter sometimes is rough because I like to read a lot to see what they're doing in the first quarter," he said. "(I want to) make some plays but really get a feel for what they're doing defensively. That usually pays big dividends in the end and I can feel myself get in more of a groove when I start to feel it out.

"You can see it on film but until you really start to feel it and how they're moving, it's really hard to get a feel for it."

Barton credited the coaching staff for preparing the team for the unique look and said there were no extra problems created by the 3-3-5.

"We were able to read their whole defense but we just didn't execute the way we needed to," he said.

3. Will a No. 2 receiver emerge?

While Robiskie led the team in receiving yardage for a second week in a row, Hartline finished with a team-high six grabs.

He accumulated just 43 yards on those catches while Robiskie gained 82 yards on his four catches. Robiskie's total was enhanced greatly by a 39-yarder.

Boeckman also hit tight end Rory Nicol three times and threw a short touchdown pass to backup running back Brandon Saine.

Counting a bit of garbage time late, eight different Buckeyes caught passes after nine did so in the opener.

"I think that's just kinda how we're set up," Hartline said. "You never know what you're gonna get. If you kinda focus on one guy, another guy might come open. I think it's just a lot based on the kind of defense we're seeing that week. Anybody can have any kind of day any week, so we'll see what happens."

4. Can the Buckeyes ratchet up the pass rush?


With freshman Cameron Heyward appearing to be the main beneficiary of the misfortune of Lawrence Wilson's broken leg, Ohio State was able to get solid pressure on both Akron quarterbacks. Of the Buckeyes' three sacks, two came when they were rushing just three men. First Heyward tossed Chris Jacquemain to the turf with one hand in the second quarter, then Vernon Gholston steamrolled in to take down Jacquemain to end Akron's first drive of the third quarter.

"I saw (Heyward) go out and get one and I said, ‘I can't let a freshman outdo me,' so I had to go out and get one," Gholston said. "That's Ohio State defense. We have to be able to get pressure with three or four."

Gholston's sack came one play after middle linebacker James Laurinaitis came free up the middle on a blitz and dropped the Akron signal caller himself.

"If you get pressure with three, it makes life easier," OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said.

He added that he felt the front four played with more intensity this week than against Youngstown State.

"I thought we played a little bit hesitant last week and I thought they cut loose and played a little more aggressive and I was really happy to see that," he said. "We're not going to be a very good defense if we can't get a front four that's going to get up the field and be disruptive. I think we made a step in the right direction today."

5. Is this the week OSU's turnover drought ends?

Jamario O'Neal saved the Buckeyes from a fourth straight game without a takeaway when he forced and recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter. That ended Ohio State's turnover drought at 16 quarters.

As to why they have been so elusive, Heacock didn't know.

"I wish you could tell me," he said to one reporter who broached the subject. "I don't know. I think we haven't really preached it because a lot of time you start worrying about it and maybe you start missing more, but maybe we should have preached it because we missed two more today and one last week."

Reserve linebacker Thaddeus Gibson missed out on a sure touchdown when he dropped a ball in the flats and both Anderson Russell and Malcolm Jenkins got their hands on balls they could not reel in.

Had Jenkins made his play it would have been a spectacular diving interception, but he was still hard on himself and the group as a whole after the game.

"We've got to get on the JUGS machine or something because everybody's dropping balls," he said. "That's one thing we've definitely got to improve upon as a team."

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