Coming off a grueling 31-16 loss in its home opener to Oklahoma, Ohio State needed a statement in its game against Army. And while a 38-7 victory over the Black Knights is not quite the blowout victory some were expecting, it certainly was a much-needed bounceback performance for the Buckeyes. Here are a couple stats in Ohio State’s victory that warrant a deeper look.
7 – carries by running back J.K. Dobbins in the first half. Almost without a doubt the most consistent offensive performer for the Buckeyes this season, Dobbins did not seem to receive the carries he probably deserved in the first half. The freshman running back attempted just seven rushes in the first half despite making every rush count as he averaged nine yards per carry (63 yards total) and contributed one of Ohio State’s two touchdowns in the half.
That trend did not change all that much in the second half either as he received only six carries after halftime as well. He received the football on Ohio State’s first two offensive plays, and again made the most of his touches, turning those two plays into a 22-yard rush and a 52-yard rush that gave the Buckeyes their third touchdown of the game.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was asked after the game why Dobbins did not receive as many carries as he might have deserved, and the coach said it is not as simple as just running the ball on every play.
“What makes the inside run game open up is when you start hitting all those bubble screens and a lot of the horizontal pass plays, too, or eventually they just get in tighter and tighter,” Meyer said. “So you have to be very balanced. And I thought we were very balanced today, like 300-300. Yeah, 316 passing and 300, what was it, 270 rushing. That’s about what we need to be.”
3 – number of Army players with more than 50 rushing yards. It’s not called the triple-option for nothing. As expected, the Black Knights’ offense almost solely ran through the team’s three primary rushing options: quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw and fullbacks Darnell Woolfolk and Andy Davidson. The three backs finished with 50, 74 and 54 rushing yards, respectively, leading their team to a total of 259 yards on the ground.
Ordinarily, the 259 rushing yards allowed would be looked at as a concern for the Ohio State defense. However against a team like Army, the high yardage total should not be viewed as much of a concern. Nor, for that matter, should the 19 passing yards allowed be considered a sign the passing defense has improved. The offensive style of Army is vastly different from the majority of teams in college football, and a team’s performance against them should not be used as a standard for comparison to how a defense would fare against other opponents.
36:57 – number of minutes Army maintained possession of the ball. That aforementioned triple-option did exactly what it was built to do: eat minutes off the clock. Though the Army offense was outscored by 31 points and outgained 586 to 278 in total yards, the Black Knights maintained a constant, slow-moving pace that kept Ohio State’s defense on the field and its offense away from it.
No quarter better exemplified this than the second quarter in which Army capped off a 9:37 long drive — 8:34 of that coming in the second quarter alone — that traveled 99 yards and provided Army with its only score of the game. After the drive was over, Ohio State was able to make one drive that lasted just 3:13 and ended with a field goal. That would be the last time the Buckeyes had possession of the ball in the first half as Army drained the remaining three minutes from the clock to end the second quarter.
Redshirt senior defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle said spending that much time out on the field can siphon away a defense’s energy quickly, but that the rotation on the defensive line aided the Buckeyes in helping to keep everyone fresh throughout the game.
“It’s a grind, but that’s why we rotate a lot on defensive line,” Sprinkle said. “We’re trying to go as hard as we can every play. I would rather get back on the field if we’re scoring than us not scoring. Us scoring in two plays to get us back on the field, that’s just what we’re going to do.”
0 – three-and-outs by the Ohio State offense. For an offense that stalled after three plays twice against Oklahoma and four times against Indiana, this stat indicated a major improvement for Ohio State in its ability to maintain longer drives against Army. The only drives that lasted under six plays all went for touchdowns, and the offense was able to make the most of nearly every opportunity it had to put points up on the board.
The ability for the Buckeyes to extend drives limited the amount of punts (two) the team was forced to make and gave the defense more opportunities to rest without having to be back on the field after three plays and a punt. Facing a team like Army, it would be critical for Ohio State to milk the clock as much as possible when it had possession of the football so it could work on tiring out the opposition’s defense as well as provide rest to its own defense. Ensuring that only three drives lasted less than two minutes (two of those drives went for touchdowns) went a long way to providing the team with a boost.
4 – red zone touchdowns. Not only was it critical to Ohio State’s success to avoid three-and-outs during the game, but the Buckeyes’ offense also made the most of every trip to the red zone. The Buckeyes were within the 20-yard line six times. Only once did they not come away with points, and that was because it was the final drive of the game and the offense just let time expire. The other trip to the red zone resulted in a field goal.
The week prior, Ohio State reached the red zone four times and came away with a touchdown just once. The other three trips brought back a trio of field goals. If Ohio State’s offense is going to have a championship-caliber season, it will need to prove capable of converting red zone opportunities into seven points. Games are not won with field goals; they are won with touchdowns. And today, Ohio State won the game by dominating its time spent in the red zone.