With the lethargic Hawai’i game out of the way, there was no way Ohio State was going to come out and play sluggishly on offense and turn the ball over a lot, right? I mean, we were told the team had two great days of practice this week and everything.
Northern Illinois had allowed 30 points to UNLV and 26 to Murray State, so it seemed like the perfect opponent against which to get well on offense. The questions we heard all week were whether the defense could repeat what they did against the Rainbow Warriors against a prolific dual-threat quarterback like Drew Hare.
Would Ohio State get its offense on track? Could starting quarterback Cardale Jones keep #TeamJT fans quiet this week? Would the Buckeyes get back to the power running game and use it to set up deep passes downfield? Could the defense duplicate its performance of a week ago and shut down the Huskies?
No, no, not really, and absolutely yes. The Buckeyes had far too many turnovers (5), penalties (6-39) and three-and-outs (5). I think one of those penalties was on the kickoff team but the bulk was on the offense. Jones went just five series’ before giving way to Barrett for the remainder of the game. The power run game never got on track with NIU playing eight in the box and, despite Ezekiel Elliott being around five yards per carry much of the game, the Buckeyes went away from him for long stretches. But the defense was amazing, holding its second straight opponent under 100 passing yards (80).
Here are your talking points from the Northern Illinois game.
WATER COOLER PREP (EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW…IN ONE PARAGRAPH)
The offense? Awful. Five turnovers, five 3-and-outs, two failures on fourth down conversion attempts. The only thing that went really right was a perfectly thrown and caught ball from J.T. Barrett to Michael Thomas for Ohio State’s first touchdown. Barrett was 11/19 for 97 yards with one touchdown and one pick in relief of Jones (4/9 for 36 yards and two picks). Darron Lee put Ohio State up two scores with a pick six that provided the final margin of victory. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 108 yards on 23 carries but did not score. Jack Willoughby went 2/2 on field goals, though, so there’s that.
GIVE THAT MAN A BUCKEYE LEAF (PLAYER OF THE GAME)
For the second week in a row, we’re going defense. It would be easy to give it to any number of players: Vonn Bell, Darron Lee, Tyquan Lewis, Adolphus Washington were all worthy. I’m going to go with Joey Bosa, who made life miserable for NIU’s offensive line all game long. Bosa finished with six tackles, four of which were solo stops, three quarterback hurries, half a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. One of those TFLs was on the Huskies’ punter on fourth down. In a game where a lot of Silver Bullets played well, Bosa stood out to me.
DID YOU SEE THAT?! (PLAY OF THE GAME)
This couldn’t be anything but Lee’s third-quarter pick six. It provided the winning margin and came one play after J.T. Barrett threw an interception from the NIU 40. That pick killed momentum but Lee stole it right back on the next play. Hare dropped back and tossed a wide receiver screen and Lee simply read it perfectly, beat his man to the spot, and then ran away from one of the fastest Huskies on the field to the end zone. Take a look:
Honorable mention to Michael Thomas getting up, high-pointing the ball and getting a foot in bounds for the tying score to make it 10-10 in the first half.
SLOBBER KNOCKER OF THE GAME
With just under four minutes to play in the third quarter, Hare dropped back and softly dropped a screen pass to running back Joel Bouagnon. Tyquan Lewis sniffed it out and planted him into the turf for one of the game’s biggest hits. Lewis had a solid outing and his hit on Bouagnon was one of the highlights and helped force a 3-and-out.
TALK IN THE AFTERMATH
These pretty much speak for themselves:
Smh— Boom Herron (@BOOMHERRON1) September 19, 2015
That was absolutely disgusting. We should never talk of this game again.— Brett (@BLeez17) September 19, 2015
That whole game just felt like Amir Williams. I'm thrilled it's over.— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) September 19, 2015
Ohio State fans filing out looking like they lost. Which is kind of true, bc they're never getting this time back.— Ryan Ginn (@RyanGinnBSB) September 19, 2015
If they win out, theyll be in the playoff. Style points dont matter right now like they did in 2014.— Tom Orr (@TomOrr4) September 19, 2015
Urban's wrath will be unloaded on his offense this week, but OSU survives thanks to defense. Should remain No. 1, but nowhere near consensus— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) September 19, 2015
JIM TRESSEL'S LEAST FAVORITE MOMENT OF THE GAME
Tressel was actually there for this game. He went out onto the field after the first drive and was honored in the Horseshoe for his induction into the Ohio State Hall of Fame. While on the field, accepting his honor and getting rained on, he smiled and acknowledged the crowd. Afterward, he walked off the field and as he reached the sideline, the rain stopped. “Oh sure, NOW it stops,” muttered the former OSU head coach.
But that wasn’t his least favorite moment. That came later when Cam Johnston booted a 63-yard punt. The problem was the ball was only 62 yards from the end zone at the time. Despite a heroic effort from Corey Smith to down it inside the 5-yard line, the ball broke the plane and went in for a touchback. Tressel threw his Diet Coke in disgust.
WHEN YOU SANK INTO YOUR CHAIR (THE MOMENT BUCKEYE FOOTBALL DISGRACED YOUR FAMILY)
If someone can please explain why this team won’t stop turning the ball over, I’d appreciate the knowledge. The Buckeye offense again was overly generous and I sank in my chair ALL OF THE TIMES. The normally heady J.T. Barrett stared down his receivers all game, and even though he was more efficient than Cardale Jones on this day, you just knew that was eventually going to catch up with him. It finally did in the third quarter.
With the Buckeyes starting a drive at their own 41, they had a chance to seize control. After picking up a first down, Barrett stared down his man and threw a pick to linebacker Sean Folliard, who read the quarterback and dropped into the proper spot. Luckily, Lee intervened on the next play.
WHAT YOU TEXTED YOUR FRIEND AT THE END OF EACH QUARTER
First: “I miss Tom Herman.”
Second: “We are not good at football today. Except Mike Thomas.”
Third: “Darron Lee is the truth.”
Fourth: “2014 > 2015.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN
When Cam Burrows knocked a fourth-down pass away from an NIU receiver to turn the ball over on downs with just over a minute remaining, we could finally breathe easily. It was ugly, stupid and yet, a win. The defense played lights out but the offense has a lot of work to do and might not reach the heights it did last season.
Next up is Western Michigan (1-2) out of the Mid-American Conference, which has started the season with losses to Michigan State (37-24) and Georgia Southern (43-17), followed by yesterday's 52-20 win over Murray State. I would suggest the Broncos will be more of a MAC snack than Northern Illinois, but not if the OSU offense doesn’t get it together.