Buckeye offense really clicking and defense remains solid
After each Ohio State game during the 2021 football season, LGHL will offer its market analysis of the Buckeyes’ performance. Using a standard bond rating system, we’ll evaluate the offense, the defense, and the special teams, according to this formula:
AA (yeah, I may also use + and -): Very Strong
BB: Facing Major Uncertainty
Then, we’ll take a look at any individual players whose performance stood out (in one way or another!) and assign them a stock rating: Blue Chip, Solid Performance, Penny Stock (akin to a junk bond, dangerously high risk).
66 points. Nearly 600 total yards. No punts. Ohio State’s offense is quickly evolving into an unstoppable force. Granted, the competition hasn’t been first rate, but things are very nicely going the right way.
Maryland actually led (briefly) in this game, 3-0. Then, the Terps cut the lead to 11, when their second-quarter touchdown made the score 21-10. But the Bucks scored 35 unanswered points, and, when, Maryland next crossed the goal line, they trailed 56-10. It was that kind of game. It was over early, as the Buckeyes totally dominated and played nearly flawlessly. No turnovers. And only four penalties for 40 yards. Efficient.
Where to start? With C.J. Stroud, of course. The young quarterback picked up where he left off when he exited the Rutgers game last week. Yesterday, he threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns. The line protected him magnificently, and he had plenty of time for any kind of throw he wanted to make. Whether the Terrapins were in zone or man, Buck receivers got free and were open the whole game.
Freshman star running back TreVeyon Henderson started slowly. Fox announcers were indicating that Henderson had returned to earth after averaging ten yards a carry. And, in fact, at the end of the first half, Henderson had only 17 rushing yards on nine carries for a pedestrian 1.9 yard per rush average. By game’s end, however, Henderson had gained 102 yards on his 16 rushes for a 6.4-yard average. (Yes, in the second half, he gained 85 on seven carries – an average of 12.1! That’s more like it.) The Bucks gained 166 yards on the ground for the game and never really broke any long runs. Henderson’s longest run was 17 yards, Teague’s 11.
OSU’s last drive of the game was the only series where the offense did not score (yes, I’m excluding the one play where Stroud took a knee to end the first half); and, to be honest, the Buckeyes were simply running the clock at this point. Their other nine drives resulted in eight touchdowns and a field goal. Unstoppable.
Overall rating: AA+ Very Strong
After such strong defensive performances against Akron and Rutgers, we were all disappointed to see Maryland take the opening kickoff and march down the field to score. Yet, on the crucial third and three play, the OSU defensive line, led by Haskell Garrett, sacked Tauila Tagovailoa, and the Terps had to settle for a 48-yard field goal. Maryland would be forced to punt on their next two possessions. The defense was back.
The defensive stats are a bit of a mixed bag. Maryland got 22 first downs, gained 279 yards through the air, and had the ball for 34:44. All are too high. On the other hand, their total yardage was only 334 yards, many of them coming later in the game when backups were playing for Ohio State. The Terps converted only five of fifteen third-down attempts, and, after subtracting sacks (5) and negative scrambling yards, they had only 55 yards rushing.
Make no mistake: Tagovailoa is a good quarterback. He’s nimble enough to avoid a rush and can throw a good ball. But the Buckeyes were on him the whole game. Relentless. He didn’t have time for long balls or to go through his progressions. Instead, he was limited to screen plays and passes in the flat. He was forced to hurry many passes, and he threw two interceptions.
All in all, the defense played well, especially the starters. As the second half moved along, it seemed that there was a decline in the quality of OSU’s defense, with quite few missed tackles and overrunning plays.
Overall rating: A Strong
At last, something to say about the Buckeyes special teams. It didn’t quite happen, but Emeka Egbuka came close – a couple of times – to breaking a kickoff return for a touchdown. He returned four for 166 yards (41.5 average). And, man, is he exciting to watch. He finds a seam and bursts. His longest return was 67 yards. Close. Maybe next game. Garrett Wilson also had a good day returning kicks. As a punt returner, Wilson brought back three for 36 yards, including a 23-yard return. The Bucks did a good job on coverage, and Noah Ruggles made all of his kicks. A strong performance, but I’m still looking for a return touchdown or a blocked kick. Something spectacular.
Overall rating: A Strong
C.J. Stroud: Not the first week that I’ve included Stroud here, and I’m confident that it won’t be last. He’s putting up Heisman-like numbers. In five games, he’s completed 66% of his passes for almost 1700 yards and 18 touchdowns. I realize that Stroud is surrounded by offensive weapons, but he’s developed so fast in being able to spot receivers, anticipate their moves, and put the ball in their hands. Against Maryland, Stroud played his best game so far. I’d still like to see some quarterback run calls, but I’m not complaining. This guy is fast becoming a star, like the Buckeye quarterbacks that we’ve seen in the last decade, or so. Ryan Day thinks so. In the third quarter, the Bucks had fourth and one at the Maryland 29-yard line. The defense bunches for a Master Teague run, and Stroud throws a touchdown pass downfield to Chris Olave. 4th and 1! That’s confidence.
Chris Olave: Yes, another repeat performer. Seven catches. 120 yards. 17.1 average. Two touchdowns. How did he come down with that ball in the end zone? We’ve come to expect miracles from Chris Olave, and he delivers them. Game after game.
Steele Chambers: Like everyone else, I suppose, I wondered about the move from running back to linebacker. Playing linebacker for Ohio State is a far cry from playing the position in high school. And I thought that the coaches were just trying to find a spot for Chambers since, as a back, he wasn’t going to get many carries on this team. But he’s emerged, now, as perhaps the best of the Buckeye linebackers – and getting better by the game. Against the Terps, Chambers collected a team-high seven tackles and recorded a sack. He’s fast and hits hard. A sure tackler. Good move, coaches.
Craig Young: As I said last week, if you get a pick-six, you earn a “Blue Chip” rating. And Craig Young got a 70-yard one. So, here’s to you, Craig. And the Buckeyes see an interception returned for a touchdown for the fourth straight game.
Garrett Wilson: As part of the trio of All-American-caliber wide receivers, Wilson’s ability to get a step (or more) on his defender is one skill that makes it impossible for teams to defend the Ohio State passing game. Yesterday, Wilson, in addition to his punt-returning (discussed above), caught five passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. So smooth. So sure-handed. And, like all the Buckeye receivers, Wilson can run after the catch.
Emeka Egbuka: Egbuka has shown breakaway speed on his kick returns and has provided plenty of evidence that he’ll be ready to step up next season and fill the shoes of Olave and Wilson. He caught three balls for 31 yards against Maryland. The only play that kept me from assigning Egbuka a “Blue Chip” rating is the holding call he got that negated Marcus Crowley’s sweet, 12-yard touchdown run. Egbuka’s hold was followed by a sack of Kyle McCord and a Ruggles field goal, breaking a streak of eight touchdowns on eight possessions.
Jack Sawye:. I like his motor and his determination. Nice sack, Jack!
The starting offensive line: This line is really starting to assert itself. Maybe the Maryland pass rush wasn’t much, but Stroud had all day to throw. The run blocking seemed to start off a bit sluggish, but the line came to life on running plays when Master Teague entered the game. And then they stayed that way.
When you win a game 66-17, there aren’t many slackers out there. The season still has a way to go, and, no doubt, we’ll see some sloppy play along the way. But for the Maryland game, no penny stocks in the market.
A bye week ahead and then at Indiana. The Hoosiers may not provide the test that we thought they would, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the Buckeyes perform with an extra week of practice.