Five Things: Passing game lights it up as Ohio State crosses Arkansas State in the shoe
A day No. 1 Alabama nearly lost to unranked Texas while No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 25 Houston all lost to unranked enemies. that perfect 45-12 win over Arkansas State probably feels a little better this morning than yesterday afternoon.
Ohio State‘s offense sputtered again at times, totaling four 3s and strikeouts on 12 total possessions, but the passing game certainly bounced back from a lackluster performance in Game 1 against Notre Dame.
Despite missing wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba again, quarterback CJ Stroud had a big day throwing for 351 yards and four touchdowns as the Buckeyes racked up 538 total rushing yards.
The 33-point margin still had its share of fits and starts, but Ryan Day and company will be happy to take a 2-0 record next weekend, especially against the backdrop of a 2007 matchday. for a host of other big name seven-team programs. ranked in the AP Top 25 woke up this morning with L’s.
With that, let’s move on to Five Things from yesterday’s win over the Red Wolves.
LEAVING THE PITCH
Jim Knowles’ defense had a strong flavor of folding but not breaking yesterday afternoon. That was certainly true on third down, as the Buckeyes held the Red Wolves to 5 of 20 on third down conversion attempts. Two of those five came in the final three minutes against second- and third-string defenders.
The Red Wolves managed just one conversion from nine tries in the first half.
For the game, Ohio State held their opponent to 3.6 yards per third play, which came in handy as the Red Wolves needed seven yards on average to move sticks.
The strong showing came on the heels of Ohio State holding Notre Dame just 3 of 13 in third place a week ago. As a result, in the first two outings, the Buckeye defense gave up just eight third conversions in 33 tries.
That 24.2% third save rate plays great against last year’s defense when the Buckeyes ranked No. 100 in the nation, allowing teams to move chains 42.1% of the time.
RED ZONE REVENGE
If you’ve read any of my offseason stuff, you probably know how shitty Ohio State was defending the red zone last year. The Buckeyes ranked No. 124 in the nation, allowing touchdowns once teams hit the red zone 74% of the time.
After holding Notre Dame to one field goal and one red-zone touchdown last week, the Buckeyes were even better yesterday by holding the Red Wolves to zero touchdowns and three field goals in four trips inside the 20. Arkansas State ended the game at the OSU 6-yard line as time ticked away, giving the Buckeye defense its first donut inside the red zone this season.
Similar to their third efficiency, it was bent wide but didn’t break in the red zone. On Arkansas State’s first trip, facing an OSU 12 3rd-and-5, Tanner McCalister forced an incompleteness leading to a 29-yard field goal, cutting Ohio State’s lead to 7-3.
The Red Wolves were 1-and-10 at OSU 12 on their second trip to the red zone, but JT Tuimoloau blew up the series, forcing an incompleteness with a QB pressed on first down before a 3-yard tackle for loss on 2nd and 15 backed Arkansas State even further. Two plays later, another Dominic Zvada field goal reduced Ohio State’s cushion to 17-6 with 13:33 left before halftime.
After the OSU offense went to 3 and out, Arkansas State went back to work and had 1 and 10 at OSU 15 before Mike Hall destroyed a 2nd-and-4 game for a 4-yard loss leading to another field goal, closing Ohio State’s lead at 17-9.
In two games, Ohio State allowed runs on five of the opponent’s six trips to the red zone, but only allowed one touchdown, good for touchdown allowance rate by 17%. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but it beats the hell out of allowing 74% of red zone trips to find the end zone.
2 + 18 = 302
Ohio State’s passing game looked a bit scrappy last week without Smith-Njigba, but that was a different story yesterday as Stroud used Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka to carve out the secondary from Arkansas State.
Harrison was the star of the game with seven grabs for 184 yards – or 26.3 yards per catch – including three touchdowns on 11 targets. Last weekend, he had just five catches for 56 yards (11.2 ypc) on 11 targets.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder made his presence known as soon as he caught a pass from Stroud on a passing route and ran 42 yards for six on Ohio State’s first possession.
On Ohio State’s next offensive possession, Harrison joined Stroud for 45 yards to the Arkansas State 23-yard line. Two plays later, TreVeyon Henderson’s 8-yard touchdown gave the Buckeyes a 14-3 lead.
After back-to-back ASU field goals cut Ohio State’s lead to 17-9, Harrison returned to work, this time firing a 42-yard penny from Stroud putting the Buckeyes ahead 24- 9.
Harrison capped the game’s score late in the third quarter via a 30-yard touchdown connection with Stroud on a 3-and-5 snap. This one was a beauty.
Route Man Marv’s THIRD touchdown of the day was a beauty.pic.twitter.com/49JgvQ5oEy
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 10, 2022
After leading the Buckeyes with nine catches for 90 yards last week, Egbuka did his thing against the Red Wolves with four catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. The Washington State sophomore did most of his damage in the third quarter as he rocked a throw from Stroud on a 44-yard rollout to set up a touchdown run from Henderson before taking a short pass from CJ and rushing 51 yards for his own score to make Ohio State 38-9. He also added a 27-yard drive on the drive, capped by Harrison’s ridiculous 30-yard touchdown catch.
Together, the duo’s 11 catches accounted for 58% of the afternoon’s receiving body production while their 302 yards accounted for 82%.
Probably the most frustrating aspect of yesterday’s win came as Ohio State racked up nine penalties for 95 yards.
Two came on offense with Harrison’s illegal roster taking Ohio State from a 1st-and-goal on the ASU 8-yard line at 13. The schedule overshoot proved problematic as the Buckeyes settled for a field goal and a 17-3 lead.
Seven flags came against the defense/special teams with Teradja Mitchell’s illegal jump attempt over the ASU punt protectors turning a defensive stoppage into an extended possession and eventual field goal. A disallowed penalty on the same play combined to erase a 78-yard punt return touchdown from Egbuka.
Denzel Burke, among his other issues on the day, was flagged for pass interference on a 3rd and 11 snap, Taron Vincent committed a personal foul on the way to the locker room at halftime and four different Buckeyes – Jerron Cage, Zach Harrison, Jack Sawyer and Tyleik Williams – jumped offside due to hard counts by James Blackman.
In two games, Day’s team racked up 16 accepted penalties for 170 yards. Not great.
A week after destroying Notre Dame’s offensive line, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Mike Hall Jr. was back in action yesterday, recording three tackles for loss and a sack along with a handful of other disruptive penetrations that n haven’t done the stats sheet.
He broke through on a snap of 2nd-and-8 early to register a 4-yard tackle for the loss, forcing ASU to a 3rd-and-12 he couldn’t convert leading to a field goal.
His biggest play of the day, however, came 4th-and-1 at OSU 40 as he destroyed his man again and offered an 8-yard sack, toppling Arkansas State and ensuring the Buckeyes wouldn’t take any worse than a 24-9 lead at intermission.
In two games this season, Hall has seven saves, five tackles for loss and two sacks.
The rest of the combined defensive line has five tackles for the loss so far and no one but Hall along the front four has a sack. Hell, Zach Harrison paced the 2021 defensive line with eight tackles for loss…in 12 games.