5 Answers: Navy at Ohio State

The Navy triple option proved to be just the thorn in the side many thought it could be, while the Ohio State running game left a few things to be desired, particularly between the tackles. We look at those issues as well as three more in the season's first "Five Answers" feature.

1. Can the newest edition of the Ohio State defense contain Navy's option attack?

The Midshipman certainly had their moments in their first return to Ohio Stadium since 1931. They put together a pair of 15-play touchdown drives, the first covering 80 yards on their first possession of the game and the second a 99-yarder in the third quarter when they seemed to be on the ropes. Both times they had adjustments for what the Buckeyes tried to do to stop them, but the biggest factor was the tough running and good decision making of Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs. Several times he was able to finish runs strong and stretch 2-yard gains into ones of four or five, and he proved arm tackles were not sufficient to stop him.

"We knew he was a great runner and we kind of knew he was a great passer, but he showed today he is very proficient and a double threat for them," said linebacker Ross Homan.

"We have to get better as a defense. The coaches know that and we know that so we have to get to work on it this week."

Said defensive tackle Doug Worthington, "I give Dobbs a lot of credit. He's a great leader. I looked in the huddle and saw him focusing up and making sure he got his guys ready. He was a very focused guy, read the defense and made a lot of checks. The couple plays that he had he got through the holes and made great plays. He's a great player and great athlete, so much respect to him."


2. How will the retooled Buckeye offensive line perform?

Given the optimism head coach Jim Tressel and several of his players expressed in the week leading up to the game, the performance of the line can be considered disappointing, particularly when considering a late fourth-and-1 the Buckeyes were not able to convert prior to the Midshipmen's late comeback attempt.

"The run game was so-so," Jim Cordle said. "The short yardage situation where we got stuffed was the biggest disappointment for me in the game."

Pass protection was generally not an issue. In his debut as starting right tackle, Cordle was noticeably beaten on one play that resulted quarterback Terrelle Pryor being forced to dump the ball to Dan Herron in the flat, but most of the other pressure the Mids were able to produce looked more attributable to the backs or a tight end.


3. How will the Buckeyes run without Chris Wells at tailback?

In the first half, Ohio State tried often to run the ball between the tackles with Herron and Brandon Saine, both of whom have strength but not in the abundance of Wells, a first-round draft choice of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL in April.

Herron and Saine had some success, combining for 53 yards on 12 first-half attempts, but the power running game looked far from intimidating as Navy disrupted things with an active-but-undersized front.

Tressel's response was to open things up in the second half, opting for more three-receiver sets and more shotgun from which the Buckeyes had success with a simple speed option involving quarterback Terrelle Pryor and either Saine or Herron, both of whom enjoyed a couple of long runs after taking pitches from Pryor.

"We came out and were running zone, and they were kind of blitzing into it and stretching things, and so we just came back and ran the option," Cordle explained. "We did a good job executing, and that's a hard play to defend no matter what, so that will be a big play for us all year."

The Buckeyes finished with 153 yards rushing on 38 attempts counting a sack of backup quarterback Joe Bauserman that cost the team eight yards.

"I think the option really opened it up," said Herron. "Navy played their safeties down and kept them in the box so we kind of had to open up a little bit with the pass and with the option. I think the option was a pretty good call."


4. How has the Ohio State passing game progressed?

Pryor completed 14 of 21 passes for 174 yards, including a touchdown, and was proficient at spreading the ball around. Seven different teammates caught his passes, including both Herron and Saine as well as tight ends Jake Ballard and Jake Stoneburner along with receivers DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher and Duron Carter.

"You want to get the ball to the guys that can do it in the open field," Pryor said. "The running backs can get the ball and do what they do, which is good because usually when they get the ball they've got to run through lanes and everybody is all over the place, but when you get the ball to them with some room they can make something happen. With the big tight ends, you can throw it to them high in the air and they can grab it, so we're just trying to hit everybody and get everybody in the game plan."

Tressel generally gave his quarterback good marks, even passing on a chance to dwell on the interception that helped Navy make things interesting in the fourth quarter.

"I thought all in all Terrelle did some very good things," Tressel said. "It's going to be fun to study his footwork. It's going to be fun to study all of the various things that are part of playing the position and the decisions you make and so forth, but I thought he threw the ball well and I thought he made good decisions."


5. Just what will the Ohio State defense look like?

The Buckeyes came out with a defense that more resembled a 3-4 or 5-2, but they eventually moved back to their base four-man front as Navy found success inside with the dive part of the option.

Ohio State also had to adjust to an unbalanced line from the Midshipmen.

"It was just the formation they were giving us," said linebacker Austin Spitler. "They were bringing a tackle over so we had to come down on the tackle and play more of a base look."

"We wanted to simplify it a little bit and make sure we played our positions," Worthington said. "A couple times we left some holes open and they made us pay. Going base is great. It keeps us focused and keeps our minds on the game, but we've got to make sure we're versatile as well and just execute whatever play is called."


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