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Buckeyes Back at the Shoe: Ohio State Week 2 Recap

Columbus, Ohio- Miscues, mistakes, and a “mugging” that never happened. It's always good to be back in the Shoe, but the Buckeye faithful came away less than impressed in the home opener. The Buckeyes were supposed to demolish the Youngstown State Penguins utterly. Beating an FCS opponent by 28 was never going to be enough to answer the multitude of questions surrounding an Ohio State team still trying to put it all together.


Bucking common sense, the Scarlet and Gray won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball as opposed to the normal deferring to the second half. Clearly, Ryan Day was looking to set the tone by sending his fledgling offense out first. Sure enough, three plays later, Marvin Harrison Jr. caught a 71-yard touchdown on what looked to be an overwhelmed Penguin secondary. While the flash of superb offense was great, it would lead to more questions than answers. The Penguins would respond with a long drive of their own and scoring their lone points of the game. Youngstown State appeared to take a page out of Indiana’s playbook by eating up a chunk of time and demoralizing the fans.


Throughout most of the game, the Buckeyes appeared to do just fine, handling the Penguins’ rushing attack with a stout performance and speed to cover man to man. The offense, on the other hand, appeared intermittently lackluster. Cade Stover had a great week against Indiana but was nonexistent this week. Perhaps his role was to help the offensive line as it continued to struggle in their protection of quarterback Kyle McCord and later Devin Brown.


In the end, Ohio State scored 28 unanswered points and managed an FCS opponent who came into Columbus with a chip on their shoulder. Everyone will give Ohio State their best game; that’s to be expected. However, the Buckeyes' response (or lack thereof) raises concerns. Western Kentucky comes in next, and the Silver Bullets must be even more aggressive to stop the Hilltopper passing attack. These pedestrian performances will continue to send the Bucks further down the rankings. However, I still believe anyone sleeping on the boys from Columbus will learn to regret it.


Takeaways:


New Rules v. Expected Results

Scoring on five of nine possessions sounds rather mediocre for a Buckeye offense, about as bad as only having nine possessions total. The offense in previous years was expected to have between 12-15 possessions each game, which isn’t happening anymore. Ryan Day has hopped on his soapbox to educate everyone on the new running clock's hardships on his offensive strategy. Unfortunately, when fans see what Oregon did to Portland State (another FCS school), they question whether he’s trying to cover up for something. I expect Ryan Day to churn out unbeatable offensive matchups consistently, but overwhelming offensive horsepower doesn’t seem to be in the cards, at least not yet. There is a phrase in football, “Jimmy’s and Joes over X’s and O’s.” The Buckeyes' offense is stacked with first-round talent, and that will save them in almost every game this season, but eventually, McCord needs to be given the green light to lead and execute the game plan.


The Slobs Look Sloppy:

In 2013, the Buckeye offensive line rebranded their identity as “The Slobs.” They wanted to set the tone for the offense, as the line is probably the most physically and mentally demanding position in football. Former tackle Andrew Norwell knew this when he coined the phrase, and for nearly ten years, this was the standard in Columbus. Breed the toughest men for the toughest trenches in college football. What happened? Like any of the skill positions in college football, it could just be a matter of too much talent leaving and needing to rebuild, or it could be a lack of focus and preparation. Either way, the new pieces on this offensive line need to show up, and they need to do it soon if they’re going to be able to free up Cade Stover and keep either QB healthy and upright this season.


Harrison Jr. is HIM:

There wouldn’t be a Buckeye article if there weren’t at least a mention of Marvin Harrison Jr. and his generational talents at wide receiver. His seven receptions, two touchdowns, and 160 yards of receiving make it clear that he is the best player on either side of the ball. Stat lines are one thing, but how easy Harrison Jr. makes these receptions look is ridiculous. He skirted around defensive backs, getting wide open several times, and found the ball in the endzone in what can only be described as a masterclass of route running (especially considering his quarterbacks still don’t seem confident). Zone 6 will continue to thrive as the season progresses, and number 18 will be at the forefront.


Defense Demands More:

Tommy Eichenberg and Denzel Burke have emerged as the clear leaders on this team. Eichenberg reminds Buckeye fans of the hard-hitting and intelligent gameplay that had become synonymous with their linebacker group throughout the 21st century. Six tackles may not seem dominant, but if you watch where number 35 is at the start and the end of every play, you start to realize how much of a football IQ Eichenberg has. Burke has become the vocal leader on defense. He expects more from himself, his unit, his defense, his team, and he lets everyone know. Burke expected his team to rout the Penguins. After Saturday, he expressed his disappointment, demanding a better performance as they prepare for Western Kentucky next week.


Up Next:


(5) Ohio State (2-0) will welcome the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (2-0) to the Horseshoe next Saturday, 9/16/23, at 4 PM Eastern.


Youngstown State (1-1) will host Robert Morris (1-1) next Saturday, 9/16/23, at 2 PM Eastern.


(Cover Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images)


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