Dwayne Haskins has been nothing short of spectacular in his first two starts for Ohio State.
The redshirt sophomore quarterback combined for 546 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception while completing 79.2 percent of his throws.
These eye-raising statistics came against Oregon State and Rutgers, who held the third- and 55th-worst scoring defenses in the NCAA last season, respectively.
Now, with TCU, the 16th-best scoring defense in 2017, on the horizon, Haskins and the Ohio State offense will be getting their first real test of the season. For Haskins, his first real test as a starter.
Besides the final 20 minutes of the Michigan game last season, Haskins’ experience came at the end of games that were decided well before he ever touched the field.
Haskins will be making his first collegiate start against a ranked opponent at a neutral site 18 miles from TCU’s campus. In doing so, he has an opportunity to build on his already impressive stats.
In the press conference on Monday, acting head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day said he has seen promising decision-making in Haskins’ first two starts under center.
“Whether it’s before or after the snap, he has to make decisions,” Day said. “He has the ability to make a check or in the pass game, he can change the protection and slide it one way or the other. He has a good handle on that.”
Day said that despite the early season success Haskins has found, there are still plenty of mistakes to be corrected, especially with TCU coming up on the schedule.
“I think that, you know, when the games get tighter, every play matters even more. And so the mistakes are still there,” Day said. “The interception in the red zone two games ago, or, you know, a play with false starting or sack on third down; those plays in a big game are going to show up even more.”
To avoid these mistakes, Haskins will have to rely more on the rest of his offense than he has thus far, with sophomore and redshirt junior running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber having the big-game experience to help relieve some of the pressure.
“I think the combination of a great offensive line and J.K. and Mike, you have to account for them,” Day said. “You saw Johnnie [Dixon], you see Terry [McLaurin] down the field, one-on-one situations with cornerbacks and then it’s just a matter of making the throw and catch. So it all starts with running the football, and if we can force that seventh guy in the box, that opens up stuff in the pass game.”
With Haskins working almost strictly through the air, Day said big games from Dobbins and Weber allow for more chances to beat safeties on deep throws “whether it’s with [a run-pass option] or play-action pass,” something made more important in a matchup that’s expected to be closer than the previous two.
It might have been Oregon State. It might have been Rutgers. But Haskins has lived up to the high expectations left behind by former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Breaking the Ohio State record for passing yards and touchdowns in a first start, then completing 87 percent of passes for four touchdowns in his second, Haskins has looked the part of a worthy successor to one of the Buckeyes’ most decorated quarterbacks.
Now, coming into TCU, Haskins has an opportunity to prove his worth against an opponent that seems more fit for the challenge than any he has ever faced.