The Buckeyes started the 2014 season yesterday with a lot of questions, particularly in the wake of Braxton Miller’s season-ending shoulder injury.
Playing an unorthodox team like Navy is never going to answer those questions, but at least there is now we’ve got one game in the books and have seen the team on the field. Indeed, the 2009 team needed rescuing by Brian Rolle on a two-point conversion to fend off the Midshipmen, so it was great to just get out of Baltimore with a 17-point win against a very good group of Middies, led by quarterback Keenan Reynolds.
Navy’s offense averaged around 350 rushing yards last year and the talented Reynolds has been heralded as the team’s best quarterback of the modern era. This was a concern for Buckeye fans, who remember a pretty good signal caller in the person of Ricky Dobbs five years ago. The rebuilt pass defense would practically have the week off but the rush defense was in for a battle all day long.
Would the Buckeye run defense shut down Reynolds and the running attack? Could redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett stay poised and distribute the rock accurately? Would the inexperienced offensive line get the job done? Would we see exciting young players getting a chance to shine in Tom Herman’s offense?
Not really, yes, mostly, and indeed. Reynolds and his backs rolled up yards but only two touchdowns, and one of those came on a controversial play that was upheld by replay. Barrett was solid in his first start behind a line that struggled a bit in pass protection, especially early, but mostly took over in the run game after halftime. And we got a healthy dose of Curtis Samuel and Jalin Marshall on offense and Darron Lee on defense.
Here are your talking points:
Water Cooler prep (Everything you need to know…in one paragraph)
The Buckeyes looked shaky at times, especially in the first half, when Navy took a 7-6 halftime lead that could have been 10-6 if not for a missed field goal. Lee turned the game around with a 61-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery and Barrett calmly led the offense to three touchdown drives after the break in the 34-17 win. The defense bent a lot, but rarely broke under the Navy ground attack and dominated the few passing plays they saw. Frosh Sean Nuernberger was 2/2 on field goals. #DasBoot
Talk before the game
“What channel are the Buckeyes on today?”
“This is the only time I’ll ever root against the U.S. Navy.”
Checking in on the enemy:
I'm way more optimistic than I have any business being. #GoNavy— Michael James (@navybirddog) August 30, 2014
How about the talk about the pregame crowd?
OSU is a 6.5 hour's drive from Baltimore, while Navy is less than an hour ... but pretty sure this'll mimic a Buckeyes' home game.— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) August 30, 2014
Just about everyone had a pre-game prediction. Here’s one from an old friend.
I'll say 30-20 Ohio State. Navy good, Barrett and O-line will have some mistakes. Should be exciting game.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) August 30, 2014
Talk in the aftermath
“25 straight regular season wins!”
“J.T. Barrett looked better when they opened up the offense.”
“I don’t think we’ll have a 1,000-yard back this year. Too many weapons. Samuel, Marshall and Elliott all look good.”
I wish there was more I could take away from the game. Navy is a sui generis opponent, but, at the end of the day, it got done.— Vico (@ourhonordefend) August 30, 2014
Give that man a buckeye leaf (Player of the game)
A lot of guys made individual plays, but it’s hard to ignore what Barrett was able to do in his first start. The Wichita Falls, TX, product was 12/15 for 226 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His 80-yarder to Devin Smith gave the Buckeyes the lead for good with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter, and he added a 9-yard scoring toss to Michael Thomas late in the game to provide the exclamation point. Barrett also carried nine times for 50 yards.
Slobber Knocker of the Game
This was about to be a crushing hit by Armani Reeves on a Demond Brown kickoff return, just after Ohio State had gone ahead 13-7 on Lee’s fumble return touchdown. NOPE, then this happened:
Honorable mention for an Elliott pancake block on a linebacker to spring Barrett for a first down.
Did you see that?! (Play of the game)
Reynolds had Navy driving at the start of the third quarter. With the ball on Ohio State’s 36, he ran the option right and faced the imposing form of Joey Bosa, who pressured Reynolds into a bad pitch. Lee scooped up the resulting fumble and raced 61 yards to the end zone. It started a 28-10 final scoring run for the Buckeyes.
Unfortunately, CBS Sports Network announcer Verne Lundquist kept making a mess of his first name an his mother took to Twitter at the injustice.
@CBSSportsNet #43 for ohio state..his name is Darron (darren, like the Darren in bewitched) tell Verne they r messing with my sons name— candice (@candicenbc4) August 30, 2014
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the game
James Patrick Tressel was out in his driveway, raining three-pointers into the hoop above his garage door. He had the game on the radio so he could listen while tuning up his game in an effort to join the Cavs later this season. When Ohio State ran the option on third-and-1 near the goal line, Tressel spiked his Rawlings basketball in disgust. “Why would you call that play,” he wondered. "Running wide like that moves the ball to the wrong hash for your field goal kicker!” When the play lost yardage, Tressel was so fired up he reverse tomahawk jammed the ball and shattered the backboard. RIP backboard.
When you sank into your chair (The moment Buckeye football disgraced your family)
Same play as Jim Tressel’s least favorite moment. Had the Buckeyes run north/south on the third-and-1 play, even if they didn’t get the yard, they may have been close enough to opt to go for it on fourth down. By failing spectacularly on a wide run [/flashes back to Big Ten championship game play calling.] [/Drinks heavily], the resulting loss of yardage forced a field goal try. It likely prevented Ohio State from leading at the half.
What you texted your friend at the end of each quarter
First: “Das Boot for three, but I *hate* this triple option.”
Second: “Freshman gonna freshman, but what was that play call on 3rd-and-1?”
Third: “Offense is starting to pick it up.”
Fourth: “J.T. done good and will only get better.”
It was over when
Elliott burst up the gut for a 10-yard touchdown on first-and-goal from the Navy 10 with 8:54 to play. The Buckeyes went ahead 27-17 and Navy had used all of its timeouts—two of them to give replay time to try to overturn close plays. By going ahead by two scores against a passing-challenged team out of timeouts, Ohio State effectively seized control at that point.
Next up, the Buckeyes will open their home slate with a night banger against Virginia Tech (1-0) out of the ACC. Frank Beamer's Hokies opened their season yesterday with a 34-9 win at home over William & Mary.