My review of the Ohio State-Toledo game did not change much of my opinion about the contest. Overall, the Buckeyes’ effort left something to be desired, but Toledo should get a tip of the cap, too. The Rockets are a good team that will have a good season. They also have a coach with insider knowledge of the Buckeyes’ methods, and there was a natural window for a letdown after the emotional opener against Akron.
As for the evaluations…
Quarterback: Joe Bauserman’s struggles seemed a bit worse live than upon replay, but I had him down for more negative plays than positives. He got off to a good start, obviously, but left too many opportunities on the field, sometimes because he missed open targets but more often because he seemed unwilling to take any chances.
As for the decision not to play Braxton Miller, I thought they were the ones being overly conservative when they chose to hold him out because the game was close in the second quarter, but I can see the sense of keeping him out based on the combination of his still nascent knowledge of the offense, missing practice last week and not being fully healthy.
Running backs: Carlos Hyde showed a nice burst on his touchdown run, and I liked the wiggle he displayed in the flat on a swing pass, but he’s still a work in progress. He said himself he missed some holes and cutback lanes and left some yards on the field.
Rod Smith had one nice run when they gave him the ball in the open field, but I found his fumble far from excusable. Like the one against Akron, he wasn’t hit that hard and the strip was not all that dramatic.
Wide receivers: Verlon Reed is coming on nicely. I liked handing him the ball early in the game, although Ohio State has never seemed to execute that play all that well in the past decade. Reed has good size, catches the ball with his hands and can set up defenders to make them miss. Good also to see Devin Smith solidly in the rotation.
Chris Fields’ had the big impact with the punt return for a touchdown, but he appeared to make a big mistake offensively when Bauserman wanted to throw to him in the slot on a third-down play. Bauserman had to abort at the planned hot route when he started winding to throw to Fields, who was uncovered before the play. It made Bauserman look silly and indecisive, but I don’t blame him here. They would have had an easy first down if he just looked ready to receiver a throw.
Tight end: Jake Stoneburner proved his old wide receivers coach, Darrell Hazell, correct about his speed when he ran through the Rocket secondary to haul in Bauserman’s pass for the first touchdown of the day. He has great acceleration for a young man his size, and he showed he can block, too, especially in the open field. Reid Fragel also proved he’s still an option in the passing game even if he might end up as an offensive lineman eventually.
Offensive line: This group did not have one of its better days. While the Rockets did load the box on the opening drive and for much of the second half, the extra man rarely seemed to have a great effect on the running game aside from a couple of short-yardage situations.
There were a handful of times they appeared crossed up by Rocket blitzes, letting them overload one side or getting someone through unblocked. Communication was a problem on some combo blocks when two players would turn the same guy loose thinking the other man had him with the main culprit being Marcus Hall. He also struggled as the kick-out man on the “power” play. Overall, Hall did not have a good day no matter if he was on the play side or the backside. I’ve seen much better from Hall in the past, so this might be just an anomaly for whatever reason. He did had a hard time establishing himself at any point in the game.
The other starters were not conspicuously good or bad overall, but the unit struggled as a whole.
Defensive line: This may be the one group that looked better from week one to week two. The pass rush improved as the game wore, culminating with Johnny Simon pressuring the Toledo quarterback into an off-target throw on the final defensive snap of the day.
Simon was a monster when he wasn’t battling cramps, showing the ability to get free around the corner and inside. I had him down for seven good or outstanding plays.
He had a greater impact than Johnathan Hankins, but only by a hair. The hefty sophomore earned a fair share of double-teams both in the passing and running game, and he excelled in both areas. He pursued hard down the line on running plays and played to the whistle consistently. The way he dipped his shoulder and powered through a guard’s block with an inside pass rush move was something to see as well.
Garrett Goebel and Adam Bellamy also had solid days, but Michael Bennett flashed more often in his chances to play. He has star written all over him. J.T. Moore never appeared to be a liability, but he failed to do much to stand out in his first college start.
All of the linemen were noticeably effective using their hands to shed blockers, perhaps the influence of Mike Vrabel on the coaching staff.
Linebackers: Andrew Sweat had another exemplary effort. He tied Simon with seven “flashes” in my book, and he got some extra attention from Toledo as several times two blockers were sent out in search of him. He recognizes things quickly and closes with a vengeance.
Etienne Sabino had a couple of minuses, such as a poor effort in taking on a blocker and the ball carrier on Adonis Thomas’ touchdown run, but his performance was much more good than bad. He ran down a couple of those screen passes and had an effective pass rush that resulted in intentional grounding in the fourth quarter.
Storm Klein looked good dropping into coverage for his interception, but he failed to get outside fast enough on some of those bubble screens, and his missed tackle on Thomas in the open field opened the door for one of the Rockets’ scoring drives.
True freshman Ryan Shazier continues to earn more trust from the coaches. He was part of the dime defensive package as a pass rusher. He also laid the last block on Chris Fields’ punt return for a touchdown.
Secondary: Dominic Clarke had another standout day in coverage, but he lost leverage on Eric Page’s 66-yard touchdown catch when he went around a blocker instead of fighting through him. That opened up more room for Page and exacerbated the poor angle C.J. Barnett took to the sideline. Bradley Roby was guilty of the same thing on the other side a couple of times, but this improved as the game went on.
The same can be said of Tyler Moeller, who had a hard time getting off blocks or forcing plays back inside in the first half but stepped it up in the second and started attacking the bubbles better. He wasn’t credited with any tackles, but he probably could have had one that Klein cleaned up, FWIW. One might look a lot better on the stat sheet than zero.
Orhian Johnson made a nice tackle on a screen pass that could have been a bigger play on the same drive Klein snuffed out with his interception, but Johnson still does not really wow you in anything he does. He is not a liability, but he doesn’t come up and make a lot of plays despite being in the box a lot. I’m just not sure he recognizes things very quickly as they are happening. Nonetheless, I had him down for only a couple of bad plays, and he did a good job of avoiding blocks when he had to. More positive than negative.
Christian Bryant did not make an impact until late, but as usual, he was noticeable. He allowed Page’s catch to convert a fourth-and-long on the final drive, but otherwise the plan to bring him in at the end to shadow the Toledo star worked pretty well. He also came up twice to stop screens before they could get started. I still want to see more of what he can do.
Barnett had a good day patrolling the last line of defense. He broke up a couple of deep balls still looks like the biggest playmaker of the four starters back there.
Overall, I still view this game as a perfect storm of circumstances. Hankins said the Buckeyes knew what the Rockets wanted to do, but they were surprised at how well the visitors ran their stuff. That is an indication of a good team, and perhaps a bit of a reminder that Ohio State was not completely dialed in.
The only people who should have become alarmed by this game are those who expect this team to blow through the schedule undefeated. It comes as no surprise that there are many things these young Buckeyes need to do to get better, especially with Nathan Williams and Travis Howard unavailable on defense or Jordan Hall on offense. Williams was replaced by a redshirt freshman while the other two had sophomores starting in their place. There are going to be some growing pains.
Howard and Hall are due back this week and should provide a noticeable lift for a team that needs explosive plays on both sides of the ball to go down to Miami and come out with a win.