Ohio State completed its non-conference schedule Saturday as the Buckeyes beat Tulane 49-6 at Ohio Stadium. With conference play ahead, specifically a primetime matchup against a ranked Penn State team, here are three storylines Ohio State can take from its fourth win of the season.
Urban Meyer is back
After serving a three-game suspension to start the season, Urban Meyer returned to the sideline on Saturday, taking back the head coaching role from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, who served as the acting head coach for the first three games of the season.
Despite Meyer being able to coach during the week after Ohio State’s opening win over Oregon State, redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins said it was good having Meyer back on a Saturday.
“Being able to have him in the locker room and being able to talk to him, we missed not having him there,” Haskins said. “Being with him before we go out on the field together, the excitement he brings, the energy he brings, it was definitely missed.”
In terms of play-calling, Meyer said earlier in the week he wanted to be viewed as a “game manager,” especially with the success Day and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson had on the offensive side of the ball in his absence.
However, Ohio State saw elements of Meyer’s return in the first drive of Saturday’s win over the Green Wave.
After starting with two rushes by sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins and a 35-yard complete to redshirt senior receiver Parris Campbell, Haskins took a read, tucked and ran forward for a 4-yard carry, something he only did once against TCU, a 5-yard touchdown to the left side.
Haskins ran another draw play in the quarter, gaining only two yards. He finished the day with five yards on three rushes.
Although Haskins has never been viewed as a runner and continued to show his effectiveness through the air, completing 21 of 24 pass attempts for 304 yards and five touchdowns, it seems like, no matter who is at quarterback, Meyer will continue to try and use some element of the run-pass option, quarterback-draw offense that former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett used consistently.
However, Meyer does know this is a different offense than one with Barrett at the helm, saying in Tuesday’s Big Ten Teleconference that Haskins is running the offense differently than Barrett did, but an offense that had many of the same ideas.
Running game could not get going
Haskins’ success in the passing game clouded the fact that Ohio State really could not get its running game going against the Green Wave on Saturday. As a team, the Buckeyes rushed for 151 yards, averaging four yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns.
Even with those numbers, no single player really took control of the running game. Dobbins led the team with 55 yards on 11 carries, scoring his second touchdown of the season on an 8-yard rush up the middle in the second quarter.
Redshirt junior running back Mike Weber could not find much daylight either, recording 18 yards on six carries against the Green Wave. Weber left the game in the first half after coming up limping after a hit on the far sideline.
After emerging from the locker room in the second half in street clothes, Meyer said Weber has a strain in his foot, but should be fine heading into next week’s matchup against Penn State.
Even when redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell took the reins of the offense in the second half, Ohio State really did not have much success on the ground. The Buckeyes averaged 3.2 yards per carry in the second half, with Martell recording 22 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
Haskins put the offense in a position to succeed with his arm against Tulane. However, if Ohio State is going to want to be successful against Penn State in Happy Valley next week, all offensive facets are going to need to be working, especially in the hostile environment.
Linebackers shine against Tulane
The Ohio State defensive line did not have much of a chance to prove what it could do without junior defensive end Nick Bosa and redshirt junior defensive lineman Robert Landers on Saturday. Instead, the middle part of the defense stepped up and made an impact.
Ohio State linebackers recorded 7.5 of the 14 total tackles for loss on Saturday, including three of the four total sacks. Redshirt senior linebacker Dante Booker had a big day on the outside, recording three tackles for loss including a sack.
Sophomore middle linebacker Baron Browning also showed off his ability against the Green Wave. Recording three tackles, he recorded a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, teaming up with redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones with a tackle in the backfield.
Facing an offense that Meyer continued to refer to as “wishbone,” the linebackers had their chance to prove its ability, especially after three games in which much of the talk was regarding the play of the second level of the defense, the secondary and the linebackers.
Ohio State will not see a similar offense at Penn State, but Saturday’s win over Tulane may have given the linebackers a boost of confidence moving forward.