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Football: Five takeaways ahead of Urban Meyer’s return

Ohio State acting head coach Ryan Day prepares to lead the Buckeyes onto the field prior to the game against Oregon State game on Sept. 1 in Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 77-31. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

For Ryan Day, Saturday’s season debut was different.

The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Ohio State served as a head coach for the first time in his coaching career, continuing his role as the acting head coach for the Buckeyes while Urban Meyer serves his three-game suspension.

However, Day’s time as acting head coach, at least during the week, is complete. Per the suspension, Meyer is allowed to coach Ohio State for practices starting Sept. 3 despite not being allowed to coach in games.

After Saturday’s 77-31 win over Oregon State, Day said he will be excited to bring Meyer back into the fold.

“When Coach gets back, we’re looking forward to getting him back and looking forward to those meetings and kind of building as we go to Rutgers,” Day said. “It will be business as usual for us. We’ll look at the film, make corrections, go from there.”

Here are five things Meyer will see when he returns to his head coaching role.

Dwayne Haskins with a start under his belt

Coming into the 2018 season without a collegiate start, redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins had expectations to be successful without a lot of experience to back it up. On Saturday, the Buckeyes caught a glimpse of what the Ohio State offense could be with Haskins at the helm.

Completing 73.3 percent of his passes, Haskins threw for 313 yards, becoming the first quarterback in Ohio State history to throw for more than 300 yards in his first collegiate start. That was not it for the redshirt sophomore. He also threw five touchdown passes, the most in Ohio State history for a quarterback in his first start.

Haskins did have the help of Ohio State’s veteran wide receiver room, throwing 21 of his 30 total pass attempts to redshirt junior K.J. Hill, junior Austin Mack, redshirt senior Parris Campbell, who recorded a touchdown reception, and redshirt senior Terry McLaurin, who brought in four catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Like McLaurin said in his postgame interview, the older receivers seemed to help Haskins feel more comfortable as the starter and, therefore, increasing his confidence as the game continued. Now, with one game started and completed, Haskins goes into the Big Ten opener with that in-game experience as the starting quarterback at Ohio State.

A “two-headed monster” running game

Haskins was not the only player helping move the ball for the Ohio State offense. Both running backs, sophomore J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior Mike Weber, helped outrush Oregon State 375 to 196 in Saturday’s 46-point win.

Against the Beavers, even though both backs split carries, Weber took control. Leading the way with 20 carries, the Detroit, Michigan native recorded 186 yards on the ground, a career-high, and four touchdowns, including the first touchdown reception of his collegiate career.

With 15 carries, Dobbins got his share of playing time as well. But, the sophomore back averaged 4.9 yards per carry compared to Weber’s 9.3, with his longest rush going for 10 yards.

However, as Day said in the Big Ten Coaches Teleconference prior to the season opener on Saturday, Ohio State has a “two-headed monster” at running back. The Ohio State coaching staff has been known to give the ball to the hot hand, especially in the running game, but dispersed carries pretty evenly in the first game of the season.

In Saturday’s opener, Day even used both Dobbins and Weber in the same backfield, using the sophomore to block for the redshirt junior as he received a 3-yard shovel pass from Haskins to score in the second quarter.

It’s that balance, that belief that no matter who’s in the game, Dobbins or Weber, that the offense will continue to run efficiently, that Ohio State wants.

An as-advertised defensive line

From the moment Ohio State’s defensive line took the field for the first time, opposing offenses began to feel its effects.

After driving to the Ohio State 39-yard line to start the first drive of the game, Oregon State senior quarterback Jake Luton dropped back to pass and was instantly met by junior defensive end Nick Bosa, who brought him to the ground, recording his first forced fumble of the day and giving the offense good field position to start the day.

In Saturday’s win, the Ohio State defensive line recorded five of the six total tackles for loss, including two sacks by Bosa and two sacks by redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, who had one career sack heading into Saturday’s game.

Bosa also forced and recovered two fumbles including one in the end zone for an Ohio State touchdown.

Even from the other side of the line from Bosa, defensive linemen were making the quarterback feel uncomfortable. Sophomore defensive end Chase Young recorded two of Ohio State’s three total quarterback hits in the season opener.

A secondary with work to do

Behind the defensive line, Ohio State struggled to stop Oregon State in both stopping the pass and stopping the run at the second level of the defense.

When taking over for Luton after the first drive of the game, redshirt sophomore quarterback Conor Blount completed 12 of 19 passes for 169 yards and two touchdown passes, including a 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

In the running game, when junior running back Artavis Pierce passed the defensive line, he could not be stopped, recording an 80-yard touchdown run and a 78-yard touchdown run, giving him 168 yards on 11 rushes.

With the loss of junior safety and team captain Jordan Fuller to a hamstring injury, co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch called it a “game-time decision,” the Ohio State secondary, specifically sophomore safeties Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint, had more responsibility in the defense as a whole.

At times on Saturday, the Buckeyes struggled to stop an offense that struggled to score one year ago. With Fuller, supposedly, on the verge of returning against Rutgers, the Ohio State secondary will likely be glad to have him back.

However, he is just one player. Ohio State could have some work to do in the defensive backfield.

Freshmen impacting early

The 26-member 2018 recruiting class has already made an impact in the first game of the season. Nine true freshman made their college debut against Oregon State on Saturday.

Both running backs, Master Teague and Brian Snead, each took snaps in the Ohio State offense. They combined for 81 yards on 13 rushes, each recording their first rushing touchdown of their careers.

In the passing game, wide receiver Chris Olave recorded his first career reception, taking in a 5-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell in the second quarter.

Defensive linemen Tommy Togiai, Tyler Friday, Taron Vincent and Tyreke Smith each received playing time, with Togiai leading the way with two solo tackles. Linebackers K’Vaughan Pope and Dallas Gant each got playing time in special teams along with safety Josh Proctor.

Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson also made his debut for the Buckeyes after coming in as the No. 3 JUCO prospect in the country heading into the season.

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