Five Answers: Ohio State-Kent State

The Buckeye offense had just a one-half cameo to work on its consistency, while the defense saw a few issues with tackling surface that left its coordinator less than thrilled. We look at those items plus turnovers, big plays and the effect of a noon start after back-to-back night games in this edition of Five Answers.

1. Will the OSU offense continue to progress?

Kinda, sorta, almost.

Ohio State marched 69 yards in eight plays for a touchdown to open the game, and that was thanks mostly to a sharp Todd Boeckman. The junior quarterback completed 5 of 5 passes on the drive, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hartline. That play was the result of something more often seen last season with Troy Smith at the controls: a five-wide, empty backfield set. It was one of several new wrinkles implemented on the day along with a new off-set I formation with both Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine sharing the backfield and a bigger emphasis on screens to both running backs and wide receivers.

In part because of a pair of return touchdowns, the offense had limited opportunities in the first half. After the opening drive, the No. 1 offense had just four more possessions, yielding two punts and two touchdowns. Both scores, while encouraging that they were six-pointers after the Buckeyes settled for field goals three times at Purdue, came on short fields.

Those involved seemed to come away with a lukewarm feeling about their performance. Both right tackle Kirk Barton and fullback Dionte Johnson said they would like to see the offense execute better in short-yardage situations, and neither were happy with the 22 yards rushing the Buckeyes accumulated on 11 first-half attempts.

"The offense played good for these past couple of games but we need to play great," Johnson said. "I'm not sure how we're going to grade out, but I saw a lot of pluses and minuses."

2. Can the Buckeyes clean up those turnovers?

Ohio State played its first giveaway-free game of the season and forced two Golden Flash turnovers to improve to 35-3 under Tressel when coming out on the plus side of the turnover battle.

The Golden Flashes have lived and died by turnovers all season, and when Ohio State turned both of its takeaways into touchdowns in the second quarter any chance Kent State had to save face was effectively gone.

Starting running back Eugene Jarvis was still in the game late in the second quarter, and it was his fumble that let the Buckeyes set up shop at the KSU 36-yard line with 1:05 to go in the first half. Three plays later Boeckman hit Maurice Wells for a 15-yard touchdown that put Ohio State up 35-0 and prompted both coaches to make some key substitutions beginning at the start of the third quarter.

3. Can Kent State's quarterback-running back duo do any damage?

Jarvis had by far the best day any one at his position has had against Ohio State this season, and he did so almost entirely in the first half. Used mostly in draws, traps and misdirection plays, the 5-5 waterbug darted and dashed for 83 yards on 15 carries in the first half then carried just once for 1 yard after halftime.

He gave more than one Buckeye the slip, both in the open field and in close quarters, a development that did not escape the eye of OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.

"I thought they did a good job running it," Heacock said. "We had guys in the hole and we had two or three guys in the hole, and you just have to be able to make a tackle and make a play. We needed to bounce him a little more.

"I don't think we played our best game on defense."

Edelman, meanwhile, did a lot of moving around in the pocket but rarely escaped. He ran just eight times on the day, a number inflated by five OSU sacks. His longest run was nine yards and he had little success throwing it, either (4 of 10 for 49 yards and an interception).

4. Will the Buckeyes come out sharp?

The offense came out hot, but perhaps the defense was napping a bit early.

Three of Kent State's first four plays went for first downs, and the Golden Flashes advance to the Ohio State 25 before an incomplete pass and then a holding penalty gave them a second-and-20 back at the 35. After a short run by Jarvis, Robert Rose sacked Edelman on third down and thoughts of even a field goal dissolved.

OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman took a long pause before saying he had a hard time gauging the sharpness of his team.

He judged the mental state of his team adequate and added that although the coaches talked during the week about the possibility of a hangover from two night games, no disadvantage seemed to materialize.

"I don't think the change of time had any kind of deal to go with. We just had a football game to play and got ready to play a football game," Bollman said.

"It's a tough part of the season to not have a Big Ten game. We're right in the middle of everything, you know? But it's something that we had to do."

5. Could a broken play or two aid the underdogs?

Edelman has sparked the Golden Flashes earlier in the season with long runs after finding no one open or by flinging the ball down field to receivers who were able to get open thanks to his scrambling ability.

None of that was true against the Buckeyes. His longest run was nine yards on an option keeper that converted a third-and-3 to a first down two plays before Donald Washington's 70-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Ultimately Edelman's scrambling just earned him some bigger bruises to tend to today. On more than one occasion he got out of the pocket, then reversed his field before stopping to plant to throw and get crushed by a still-pursuing Buckeye defender.

Jarvis broke some tackles but did not really have any dynamic runs on the day. When he dodged one silver helmet, two or three more were generally not far away to clean up.

"We knew they were slippery," said James Laurinaitis. "We knew we had to rally the ball, that they would be able to make some guys miss but if we rallied to the ball we'd be ok."

"I think we did OK. Obviously, we need to get better at tackling. It's just something that's very, very important that we take a lot of pride in with the defense."

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