After a resounding 45-24 victory for the Ohio State football team, the Buckeyes seem to have solidified themselves among the elite teams this season. While OSU climbed to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll, there is still plenty to be done this season to remain within the top few positions.
Here are five takeaways from OSU’s victory over the then-No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners, who dropped to No. 25 following the Buckeyes defeat.
The secondary can survive without Gareon Conley
The leadership redshirt junior cornerback Gareon Conley brings to the field and the secondary has been a key to the success for the first few weeks of the 2016 season.
Against Oklahoma, the Buckeyes had to play without that leadership for over half of the game. After a hard collision, Conley was knocked out of the game with an upper body injury.
Conley’s status will remain up in the air until Monday, but OSU coach Urban Meyer said as far as he knew, his No. 1 cornerback would be okay.
Even without their leader in the secondary, the Silver Bullets performed better in the second half. In the first two quarters combined, the Buckeyes gave up 257 yards and 17 points. In the second half, the defense surrendered just 146 yards and seven points.
Oklahoma redshirt junior quarterback Baker Mayfield threw his two interceptions of the game in the first half, but the secondary limited long passes and allowed just one touchdown in the second half.
On top of limiting the passing game of Oklahoma, the secondary was responsible for stopping multiple would-be touchdown runs. Junior safety Damon Webb led all defensive backs with eight total tackles, while redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore recorded five tackles along with an interception.
Although the potential loss of Conley may sting, the defensive backfield for OSU is still capable of steering the game in the favor of the Buckeyes.
Noah Brown is healthy again
Breaking a leg as a wide receiver can ruin an entire career. Apparently, that isn’t the case with redshirt sophomore Noah Brown.
Hauling in four touchdowns and tying an OSU single-game record, Brown torched the Sooner secondary after the OSU coaching staff fielded multiple questions about the health of Brown following a one reception outing against Tulsa.
Brown pinned one of his touchdown receptions against the back of the defender who was face-guarding him. According to the 6-foot-2 wide receiver, he knew exactly what he was doing even with the defender blanketing him.
“I did see it when I caught it,” Brown said. “When I had it behind his back, I was just thinking I needed to hold on and try to get to the ground and try to make this play.”
Touchdown receptions with a defender are hard enough. But instances where watching the ball by pinning it against his back is the only option are crazy. Try pairing that with the fact he had four touchdowns to tie a school record.
Brown is healthy, and he is a force at wide receiver for the Buckeyes.
J.T. Barrett leadership more than just stats
Asking someone who watched OSU’s game against Oklahoma passively how many yards redshirt junior J.T. Barrett had, you might get a response somewhere around 250 to 300 yards.
Barrett, however, was only able to produce 152 yards passing on the day, albeit with four touchdowns. He also added 74 yards on the ground.
While the contributions of Barrett have had a direct impact on the performance of the team thus far, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native provides more of a boost in terms of his leadership and knowledge.
According to Meyer, Barrett changes plays throughout the game. With the OSU offense producing at such a high level, it would appear that most of those decisions by Barrett have been positive.
With Barrett leading the offense, the Buckeyes have meshed well thus far. The proverbial keys to the car are still in his hands, and for good reason.
OSU is depending on a running back by committee
Although redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber was named the lead man in the backfield this season, the Buckeyes have been splitting his touches throughout the first three games with junior H-back Curtis Samuel.
Samuel was highly talked about by the coaching staff during camp, and even received the nod from Meyer as the team’s No. 1 playmaker.
Sure enough, the junior has lived up to the role he was placed in, compiling 260 yards rushing and 259 yards receiving. The balanced output by Samuel has earned him a large chunk of carries against Oklahoma.
The combination of Weber and Samuel earned 221 yards against the Sooners, and the duo will have a bye week to rest before Big Ten play opens up.
The two-headed beast attack used by OSU through the first few weeks might become one of the best in college football.
The young Buckeyes have crossed ‘the Edge’
It was the mantra used by the OSU coaching staff throughout offseason camp. ‘The Edge’ is the point where average stops, and elite play begins.
After commanding the game against the Sooners from the opening kickoff, it’s safe to say the once unproven unit has now proven themselves as a quality team.
Struggling to produce anything in terms of offense against Tulsa in the first half, OSU was firing on all cylinders. Powered by the grinding run game of Weber and leadership of Barrett, the Buckeyes never trailed in the contest.
Defensively, the Silver Bullets contained Mayfield in the pocket, and prevented the running back duo of redshirt sophomore Joe Mixon and junior Samaje Perine from rattling off big gains.
In all, the entire OSU team performed at a high level. In a way, the game against Oklahoma marked a point of maturity for a team considered to be young to start the year.
“The Edge” was all about young players maturing. But after the way OSU played Saturday, the entire team grew up quickly after Tulsa.