The No. 10 Ohio State football team (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) took care of business Saturday, putting away UNLV (1-2) 54-21 in blowout fashion. Almost everything seemed to click for the Buckeyes in their victory. Here are a couple stats in Ohio State’s win that warrant a deeper look.
41.6 – percentage of Barrett completions that went for touchdowns. Ohio State made it clear early it was going to try to fix the passing game against the Rebels. On the Buckeyes’ second offensive play of the day, quarterback J.T. Barrett found wide receiver Parris Campbell behind a bubble screen, and Campbell raced 69 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. The next drive, Ohio State again quickly turned to the pass, airing it out four straight times until Barrett found wide receiver Johnnie Dixon in the end zone for a touchdown. By the time Barrett was pulled from the game, he had completed 12-of-17 total passes, five of which were for touchdowns.
Whether it be the result of prime field position coming off a turnover or moving down the field in chunks on the ground, the Buckeyes began drives beyond their own 40-yard line three times before Barrett subbed out. Nearly every time Barrett marched his team down the field, he completed passes into the end zone. For the first time all season, the Buckeyes went away from its offensive backbone: running the football. Instead, it seemingly went out with something to prove and scored all its touchdowns through the air.
Barrett is unlikely to be quite this efficient moving forward, but demonstrating the ability to find his target in the red zone for touchdowns will be important for the Ohio State offense if it is going to prove it can do more than just have success running it against opponents.
4 – successful deep ball passes by Ohio State (20-plus yards through the air). The biggest question mark during the offseason was whether Ohio State would be able to channel the deep ball in its offense. After the first three games, the answer seemed to be a resounding ‘No’ as Barrett either missed his targets or saw one of his receivers drop the pass on a majority of deep ball attempts. Against UNLV, Ohio State tried to force the deep ball a little more into the offense and managed to complete four — one from Barrett and three from redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins.
That last stat should be telling as to the direction the Buckeye offense will be heading in. Barrett completed only one 20-yard pass through the air to K.J. Hill, and the other two passes of more than 20 yards came on short passes that just turned into yards after the catch — a 69-yard touchdown pass on a bubble screen to Campbell and a 22-yard pass to Hill. Haskins was able to find his targets down field on a more consistent basis and proved that he has it in him to be a deep-passing quarterback. But as long as Barrett is the starter, the majority of plays that gain yards in bulk on passes will likely be ones that come from a run-pass option or on short passes to receivers that turn into yards after the catch.
6 – wide receivers who caught a touchdown. Entering this game, Ohio State wide receivers had hauled in a total of five touchdowns over the team’s first three games. Before the UNLV game, H-back Campbell and wideouts Dixon, Binjimen Victor, Terry McLaurin and Austin Mack each had one touchdown reception apiece. Against the Rebels, each of those receivers — except Mack — brought down a touchdown, as did Hill and walk-on C.J. Saunders. This set an Ohio State record for most receivers with touchdowns in a single game at seven after tight end Rashod Berry caught a touchdown later in the game.
With the game seemingly evolving into a blowout out of the gate and Ohio State beginning to turn to its second- and third-string players, a multitude of wideouts were sure to be involved in the passing game. Ohio State, which has listed six starting wide receivers each week, was able to spread the ball out between just about everyone on the roster, giving each player a chance to get in on the action. By the end of the game, not only did six wideouts record touchdowns, but 13 different receivers had caught passes. Giving all those players experience and having the chance to boost their confidence by getting them involved in the plays could be vital in providing depth to the team the rest of the season.
“Let’s go do it against a team that’s equally matched,” Meyer said. “So that’s our challenge is Big Ten Conference officially starts and — but we also understand you’re seeing a bunch of receivers, six of them — seven different people caught touchdown passes and that’s pretty neat to see that happen.”
27.2 – percent of the time OSU converted on third down. For all the success Ohio State had Saturday, it struggled to convert on third-down attempts. It wasn’t until the last drive of the second quarter that the Buckeyes managed to convert on a third-down play, and overall they were successful in only 3-of-11 tries. Ohio State managed to balance out its inefficiency on third down by converting on 3-of-4 fourth-down attempts, two of which were for touchdowns.
Against a better team, Ohio State’s lackluster play on third downs could have stifled the overall offensive production and dimmed its chances of winning.
13 – tackles for loss by Ohio State. It’s not exactly breaking news to say Ohio State’s defensive line is potent. But against UNLV, the Buckeyes tore through the opposition’s offensive line with ease, sacking the quarterback four times, hitting him twice, tipping a pass for an interception and tackling opposing players 13 times for losses.
Throughout the game, UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers felt pressure, and though he occasionally managed to escape and take off down the field, more often than not it seemed he had nowhere to go and simply took the lost yardage. The starters on the defensive line stifled both Rogers and the running game as long as they were out there, holding the opposition to just 54 rushing yards on 13 carries during the first half. The secondary still looked questionable at times because even though it allowed only 88 total passing yards, it gave up 55 penalty yards on three pass interference calls and a holding penalty.
Coach Urban Meyer said he was displeased with the performance of the secondary again, particularly as it pertained to the penalties.
“Very concerned, terrible. It’s awful,” Meyer said.
Until the secondary begins to pick up its play against higher quality opponents, the line will be counted on to apply ample pressure on the offense to prevent opponents from settling in and having time to make big plays.