Ohio State made its way back into the win column with a 41-20 home victory over Tulsa in front of a 75% capacity crowd on Saturday evening. While a win is never a bad thing, the Buckeyes didn’t answer many questions on Saturday and the frustration seems to be growing for Buckeye Nation.
Time for my instant reaction in this not-so-optimistic edition of 10 Observations
- I really can’t wrap my brain around this team. There is just no rhythm to this group. It is a team that has struggled to put consecutive strong quarters together let alone a complete game. The defense has been mostly bad and the offense has been really streaky. I didn’t come away from this game feeling any better about the defense and there was exactly one bright spot on an offense that I thought turned in its worst performance of the season so far.
2. That one bright spot, was of course freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson who smashed the freshman single-game freshman rushing record. Everyone around the program has been buzzing about this kid since the moment he arrived on campus and today he solidified the starting job moving forward. There’s simply no chance they’ll be able to relegate him to backup duty after this performance.
3. Speaking of running backs, the Miyan Williams situation was strange. I’m starting to wonder what the point of the availability report even is at this stage as Williams took home this week’s honorary Sevyn Banks, is he injured? being disciplined? hello? anyone? Award.
4. What if I would have told you before the season that Ohio State would get mostly solid cornerback play? You might not have believed me, but even if you had just humored me and went along with it, you certainly would have thought that would have meant real progress on defense, right? I would have bet a fortune that improved corner play would have meant fielding a good defense this year. That couldn’t be further from the truth at this point. The Buckeyes aren’t getting enough of a pass rush, the linebackers look mostly lost, and the free safety situation continues to be a big problem.
5. Speaking of the free safety position, I posted earlier this week that I was hearing Ryan Watts was at free safety and was hoping folks wouldn’t shoot the messenger that he wasn’t expected to play a big role on Saturday unless the game got out of hand. Well, he didn’t play any role and it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t get him a few series’ out there as he tries to get his feet underneath him at a new position. As I said earlier, this will be at least a multi-week process even if it is a successful one, but I have to feel like not making this game more lopsided cost him some valuable reps if he is to help them back there during Big Ten play.
6. Overall, I’m just not seeing a ton of energy and confidence from this team and it is concerning and it is starting to bleed over to the offense. Maybe I’m overreacting, maybe some of these guys just don’t show their emotions the way we want them to (and how selfish of a comment was that? HA!). But I just don’t see the same type of juice the last couple of times have had from the time the ball is teed up. There are spurts of energy and excitement but this is another week where I felt the team came out of the gates a little lethargic and I was surprised by that coming off last week’s loss.
7. Not even 80,000 in the stands? Yikes. I know Ohio State is making the vast majority of its money elsewhere, but this is a disturbing trend. Did last season show people the light on the wonders of putting your feet up on the couch with a cold beverage and an 80-inch flat screen and not having to pay $20 to park two miles from the stadium? COVID concerns still keeping people away? Perhaps a lack of optimism around the team after the loss to Oregon? Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things, but I thought the announced attendance today of 76,540 was staggering. It will be interesting to see what the school does for next season in terms of its pricing and finding some creative ways to entice people to head back to the stadium and away from the living rooms and man caves.
8. I think it would be fair to say the performance of the entire defensive line has been a disappointment this season, even the defensive tackle position which looked to have a bonafide stud returning in Haskell Garrett. But the Buckeyes haven’t been able to get much disruption from the interior of their D-Line so far, so it was nice to see true freshman Tyliek Williams come through with a big fourth quarter sack. There has been a lot of positive buzz about Williams this off-season but it was generally prefaced with the idea that he would be a Year Two guy and maybe not so much a Year One guy. Well that was one heck of an explosive move late in the game and maybe this type of game can springboard him into a bigger role moving forward.
9. It was nice to see Cameron Martinez come up with that interception at the end of the game. Martinez was one of a few bright spots during the game as he saw a ton of action and was one of the more noticeable guys defensively on Saturday. Martinez has the skill set to be a really good defensive back, between his athleticism and natural football instincts and if he could emerge as a guy they can count on *this* season, that would be welcomed news for a secondary that is still trying to find answers beyond Cam Brown.
10. Next up is Akron and this is the worst team on Ohio State’s schedule so I don’t know what we’re going to be able to really say about next week’s performance. I’d love to sit here and say this team is right on the cusp of clicking, but it just doesn’t feel that way right now. Who would have thought before the season that we’d be looking to the Rutgers game for some signs of improvement? Whew.