Florida Atlantic’s Chris Tooley sprawled onto his stomach, the victim of a vicious block by Ohio State’s Josh Myers that sprung Justin Fields 51 yards for a touchdown.
Explosive is a good word to describe Ohio State’s first quarter offense against FAU Saturday, symbolized by the redshirt sophomore center’s throwdown of the senior cornerback. The Buckeyes scored 28 points, and the sophomore Fields found enough time at quarterback to complete five of his first six passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
Stagnant is a good word to describe Ohio State’s second quarter offense. In six possessions, Ohio State failed to score, with FAU mounting four pressures against Fields.
“We’re going to address that this week,” head coach Ryan Day said. “It’s a great start. But we’ve gotta keep going. We’ve gotta keep pushing.”
Many factors can determine whether an offense stagnates, but it always starts up front.
Fields was demolished by a blitzing linebacker late in the first quarter, flattened in a manner reminiscent of Tooley. That play opened the trend of pressure tripping up the Ohio State offense, a hit Fields said he “had to get used to.”
FAU’s odd defensive front was starting to confuse the Buckeyes, redshirt senior tackle Branden Bowen said after the game. They’d worked against the look in camp, but with four new starters on the offensive line, chemistry in pass protection is something the Utah native said the line will have to develop.
“Our assignments, really, understanding sometimes teams throw stuff at us that we haven’t seen on film,” Bowen said. “But it’s just coming over to the sideline, not panicking and working out what happened on that last drive to help us with the next one.”
Day said in the previous week that Ohio State would rotate linemen, which could carry negative effects on chemistry. Substitutes in the trenches were rare, however, against the Owls. Redshirt senior tackle Joshua Alabi entered for junior tackle Thayer Munford during one or two first-half series, and redshirt freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere tagged Bowen later.
Mostly, though, it was the same five until the second team came on in the fourth quarter.
“It’s ultimately the coach’s decision,” Bowen said. “I’m just gonna go out there every time I’m in the huddle and play as hard as I can.”
Myers is one newcomer to Ohio State’s front at center. Center is a key position for pass protections, often responsible for calling out blitzes and aligning the designated protection. Myers felt comfortable in his new role.
“We had done so much preparation for the game and saw all their looks so many times that it was easy to make the calls and call the front,” Myers said. “We get every team’s best, and every team looks to knock us off. So I’m sure they’ll be extremely jacked.”
Fields faced fewer pressures after the second quarter, so it could have been a shock factor after the Owls countered the initial Buckeye surge, Myers said.
“I think their defense did a good job adjusting to what we were doing, and we kind of slowed up a little bit,” Myers said.
Day also said that Fields needs to do a better job designating the correct protection in the first place.
Regardless, the amount of second-quarter pressures Fields faced is troublesome for the Buckeyes, considering the defensive caliber. FAU ranked No. 93 in scoring defense in 2018, while Ohio State’s Week 2 opponent, Cincinnati, ranked No. 9.
The Bearcats held Power Five UCLA to 14 points in a Week 1 victory and accumulated eight more sacks than the Owls in 2018.