Ohio State had some things to prove in its first game against a ranked opponent.
It had to prove whether it could get past a TCU offensive line that did not allow a sack through the first two games, allowing sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson to utilize both his legs and his arm equally.
The Buckeyes also had to prove redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins would continue his momentum he had built at quarterback over the first two games against a highly-touted defense.
Even with what Ohio State acting head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day called “ebbs and flows” during the game, the Buckeyes defeated TCU 40-28, bringing the team to a perfect 3-0 record just before head coach Urban Meyer returns to the sideline against Tulane on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s win that Ohio State can take with it back to Ohio Stadium against the Green Wave.
Dwayne Haskins can run … if he wants to
Over the first three games of the season, Haskins has shown what he can do with his arm, throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 12-point win over TCU. What he has failed to show is something that Ohio State lost when quarterback J.T. Barrett ended his collegiate career last year: his running ability.
Through this, Haskins has still been running similar sets, lining up in shotgun formations, running run-pass option offenses, giving opposing defenses that potential look if he keeps it and carries it.
In the fourth quarter, with Ohio State leading 33-28, Haskins utilized his running ability. He held out the ball to sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins, eventually pulling it away and running it in himself from five yards out for his first career rushing touchdown.
Haskins said, after the game, the play call on that run was actually a traditional read, where many of the offensive plays prior were designed runs made to look like an option.
Day said Haskins has the ability to use his legs, saying it’s not the main part of his offense, but it’s something he can utilize.
With a successful tuck and run by the redshirt sophomore quarterback, Haskins might feel more comfortable in future games running the ball on the option than passing or handing it off to either Dobbins or redshirt junior back Mike Weber.
K.J. Hill stays consistent
While junior wide receiver Austin Mack struggled to keep the ball in his hands, recording four drops in Ohio State’s win against TCU, redshirt junior wide receiver K.J. Hill continued to be one of the more consistent options for Haskins and the Buckeye offense on Saturday.
Hill led the team in receptions, hauling in six catches for a team-leading 94 yards. He also brought in his first touchdown of the year, a 24-yard pass from Haskins in the third quarter to give Ohio State a 33-21 lead.
Hill has been one of Haskins’ main connections through the first three games, recording at least five receptions in each of his first three games, with six catches against both Oregon State and TCU.
With his short-yardage approach and speed in the open field, Hill provides a different look than Mack or redshirt senior receiver Terry McLaurin give in the passing game. With the combination of Hill and redshirt senior receiver Parris Campbell, the short-yardage, quick speed, tempo passing game has become a weapon for Haskins early on this season.
Ohio State still has work to do in its rush defense
TCU junior running back Darius Anderson found a way to beat the Ohio State defense much like Oregon State running back Artavis Pierce did in the season opener: beating the second-level of the defense.
With a better offensive line than anything Ohio State had faced this season, TCU provided ample amounts of room for Anderson to run through. When he got to the second-level of the defense, the Richmond, Texas, native beat the Buckeye defense with his feet.
Anderson, after bursting through the left side of the offensive line, beat the Ohio State secondary, out-stepping them in the open field as he scored one of two touchdowns on the day on a 93-yard run.
The 93-yard run was the longest play from scrimmage in TCU history, beating out 89-yard runs by former Horned Frog running back LaDainian Tomlinson. However, for Ohio State, it was the longest run every allowed in school history by the Ohio State defense.
With a continued rotation at safety and middle linebacker, Ohio State showed it can be beat with the lack of stability it has in those positions. If the defensive line is not working, especially if junior defensive end Nick Bosa is out with an injury for a significant amount of time, the second-level of the Ohio State defense will have to step up in all facets of the game.