I re-watched the Buckeyes’ 17-7 win over the Fighting Illini so you didn’t have to…
The game ball certainly goes to the tailbacks. I counted at least four times Boom Herron or Jordan Hall were dead in the sights of a defensive player but made him miss, either turning a potential loss into a positive play or stretching a short gain into something longer. Both of them have impressive vision, quickness and agility. Zach Boren was his usual destructive self leading the way. He had a heck of a battle with Illinois’ Jonathan Brown, who I think proved himself to be a stud.
I think I owe Jim Bollman an apology for asking why there were no counters. I believe they tried to run one in the first quarter but Miller and Herron ran into each other. Hard to tell who was at fault on that play, but it seems more likely it was the freshman quarterback who made the mistake. They also went with a couple of counter trey’s while running out the clock at the end of the game.
Big shoutout also to the tight ends, who all had really effective moments blocking on the edge. Jake Stoneburner not only showed off his receiving and route running skills on his touchdown catch, he also continues to improve as a blocker.
Both tackles had some problems with the quickness of the Illinois defensive ends, but they also did good things when they could get their hands on those guys. That is particularly true of Mike Adams, who has become more of a road grader than I expected him to because I thought his game was more about athleticism until late last season. Andrew Norwell did not have the best day inside. I think those two are still working on getting on the same page, and he is still getting used to the different angles at guard. Very different style from Illinois than he saw last week against Nebraska. At the other guard, Jack Mewhort had a big challenge against Akeem Spence and did a pretty good job overall.
Not sure if any wide receivers actually took the field. They certainly had no impact. Stoneburner lined up in the slot a lot, and Boren was out there a few times as well. Boren said he played 55 plays, which would be all of them for OSU.
Defensively, you have to take your hat off to Johnny Simon. I marked down 11 plays he had a noticeably positive impact on the play, which is a pretty ridiculously high number for a defensive lineman. He is a stud whose effort was never in question but seems to be gaining skill every week.
Johnathan Hankins was nearly flawless, too. His strength and agility are ridiculous and he makes plays whether the ball is run his way or not.
Really, the whole defensive front played well aside from Solomon Thomas, who made a couple of appearances at Leo or “viper” in the dime defense and looked out of place. Good things from Adam Bellamy and Michael Bennett, however.
The linebackers were much better against the Fighting Illini than the Cornhuskers. Andrew Sweat and Storm Klein were solid while Etienne Sabino had the best game I’ve seen him play. He tackled better and was in better position most of the day.
Illinois definitely a defense built for speed, although there are a handful of guys on the team that seem to have bulked up, too, including both of those ends.
Barnett was almost exclusively the safety in the box while Bryant played deep when he wasn’t at Star. I am interested to know why they did this. I think Barnett is suitably skilled to play both positions, and I wonder if they dropped Bryant to the back to get him to see more of the field and force him to play more under control. Be interesting to see if that was some kind of lesson or if that is a permanent move.
Travis Howard was knocked during the game for giving up a handful of catches, but I think generally that was a result of having to bail in coverage. He looked good pressing A.J. Jenkins a few times and was there for the interception in the fourth quarter. You already know Bradley Roby had a big day.
Finally, I was surprised at how uncomfortable Braxton Miller looked in the pocket, although the pass rush obviously had an effect. I think the lack of opportunities ruined any chance he had of getting into any kind of rhythm. The coaches were wise to respect the wind, as evidenced by Roby’s interception that took off on Nathan Scheelhaase, but I still think a handful of short passes to get Miller going would have been a good idea.