Following a month of off-the-field controversy, resulting in a new head coach for the first three games of the season, there was no certainty in how the Ohio State football team would come out when the season opener arrived.
On Saturday, with help by an impressive performance by redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins in his first collegiate start, the No. 5 Buckeyes put only some of that to rest, beating Oregon State with a 77-31 victory that saw the defense struggle in the second half.
Haskins ended the day with 313 passing yards with five touchdowns and an interception. Completing 22 of 30 pass attempts, Haskins is the first Ohio State quarterback to throw for either 300 yards or five touchdowns in his first collegiate start.
“I thought Dwayne started well, played well, had the one play there that you’d obviously like to have back,” acting head coach Ryan Day said. “But overall a good start for him.”
Redshirt junior running back Mike Weber had a career day, ending with 186 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 20 carries, along with a three-yard reception touchdown.
Weber’s 186 yards and four combined touchdowns are both career highs. He also recorded his first career touchdown reception, a 3-yard pass from Haskins in the second quarter.
With the game tied at seven in the first quarter, the Buckeyes scored 35 unanswered points including three touchdowns by Weber and a fumble recovery by junior defensive end Nick Bosa.
“The turnover is a huge play. Anytime you can create a turnover, that flips it,” Day said. “That was really big for us.”
Ohio State took a comfortable 42-14 lead into halftime before a weather delay lasting more than an hour halted the game. The Buckeyes extended their advantage on the first play of the third quarter when Haskins found redshirt senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin on a 75-yard touchdown.
Down 35, the Beavers put up a fight with back-to-back touchdowns, but Ohio State eventually took over, ending the game with more than 700 total yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I feel like since our offense is so dynamic, not only me, but everyone else, can do a lot of things this year,” Haskins said. “I feel like the fans have something to look forward to.”
After an offseason filled with accolades and watch lists, junior defensive end Nick Bosa made his presence known, coming up with two sacks on four tackles. He also picked recovered two fumbles, one of which resulted in a touchdown.
After holding the Beavers to 14 points and negative-4 rushing yards in the first half, Oregon State came out with two runs of over 75 yards, both by junior running back Artavis Pierce, on its first two drives of the third quarter.
“It’s bad football, there’s no sugarcoating it, that’s not what good defenses do,” co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch said. “It’s demoralizing to a football team, and we were very fortunate today that it didn’t have an impact on the outcome.”
Haskins opened up the scoring with a two-yard pass to McLaurin. McLaurin ended the day with four catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
The Beavers countered with a three-play, 75-yard drive capitalized with a 49-yard touchdown by redshirt sophomore quarterback Conor Blount to junior wide receiver Trevon Bradford.
Blount found a lot of opportunities to open up the passing game with the absence of junior safety Jordan Fuller to a hamstring injury. After Oregon State’s starting quarterback, redshirt senior Jake Luton, went down to injury on the first drive, Blount threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns in a half of play.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell made his Ohio State debut, and found his way into a few drives in the first half, but controlled the offense for much of the fourth quarter. Martell completed three of his four passes for 33 yards, while rushing for four yards on two carries.
“He’s a playmaker,” Day said. “As the season goes he’ll have more and more opportunities to show that.”
Ohio State starts its conference schedule with a home game against Rutgers on Sept. 8.
Updated at 6:04 p.m. to include quotes