Ohio State replaced roughly 49 starters after The Great 2015 Exodus and against all odds, appears to have improved.
I hesitate to put much stock in a September win over a MAC team with a new quarterback, running back, receiver and head coach. At the same time, it's hard not to compare this 77 point, 776 yard pillage of Bowling Green to last season's more creative early-season wins over Hawai'i and Northern Illinois.
In any case, Saturday was a lot of fun. We got to see an unusual number of true freshmen, a brand new starting running back, an arsenal of talented receivers, the debut of Nick Bosa and the emergence of ballhawk Malik Hooker.
Ohio State was never going to lose this game, but I think the performance exceeded just about everyone's expectations. Here are your talking points from Saturday's season opener.
The Short Story
Despite an early pick six thrown by J.T. Barrett, Ohio State absolutely obliterated Bowling Green in virtually every facet of the game. The Buckeyes broke a school record in total offense with 776 yards and Barrett set a new record for touchdowns responsible for with seven. The starters were pulled midway through the third quarter allowing for 10 true-freshmen to make their Buckeye debuts.
Who Earned a Buckeye Leaf?
- Offense: Curtis Samuel
I will admit, I was skeptical when Curtis Samuel was announced as the co-starter at two different positions. Since his arrival on campus, I've been intrigued to see where he would fit in the offense. Saturday, I finally got my answer – wherever he wants to.
Samuel carried the ball 13 times for 84 rushing yards and tallied 177 yards on nine catches with three total touchdowns. He accounted for 34 percent of the team's total yardage, which is good.
- Defense: Malik Hooker
We're one game into the season and I'm mostly sure Malik Hooker is going to lead the nation in interceptions. On both his picks, he made a beeline to to the ball's destination almost before the quarterback even threw it, then unapologetically took it from everyone else in the vicinity.
So is this new ballhawk dimension to the defense a result of new defensive coordinator Greg Schiano's scheme or just Hooker's ability? I had no idea, so I asked someone who did. Turns out, it's a little bit of both.
He'll have more on this during his Monday film study, but here's a candid quote from our resident scheme expert Kyle Jones (which he had no idea I would be sharing):
"It's a very different look for OSU. They're playing tons of cover-1 where he's basically playing center fielder as free safety while everyone else is in man. He's just reading the quarterback's eyes."
Let me remind you, Hooker also had two interceptions in the spring game. So given the data we have, we can very reasonably project at least 24 interceptions this season.
Plays of the Game
When you put up 77 points and break a school record for total offense, this one is basically multiple choice with no wrong answer. So I will make full use of that creative freedom and choose this:
I find it hilarious that basically the only receiver not listed as a starter on the pregame depth chart was the first to catch a touchdown pass.
Let's make this clear – Hooker's leaping one-handed tipped interception was absolutely the defensive play of the game, but we already talked about that so we're going to give somebody else some love.
Rodjay Burns may have had the most forgetful pick-sixes in college football history, but he also scored more points than Bowling Green's offense, and it's not every day a true freshman houses an interception in their college debut.
77 points enough?September 3, 2016
You have to admire the pursuit by that quarterback. He felt Burns letting up at the end and legitimately thought he was going to run him down. Bless his heart.
Ohio State played 10(!) true freshmen. To put that in perspective, the Buckeyes played four freshmen the entire season in 2015, and those players made little to no meaningful contributions. Saturday, we saw Michael Jordan start on the offensive line, a sack from Nick Bosa, 100 total yards and two touchdowns from Demario McCall and a pick-six from three-star cornerback Rodjay Burns.
J.T. Barrett – the captain, the Heisman hopeful, the most stable part of this totally revamped offense – was the source of the team's only major blunder, Saturday.
Early in the first quarter, Barrett fired a ball to Noah Brown without locating the lurking outside linebacker first. Bowling Green's Brandon Harris snagged the pass and took it 63 yards the other way for the Falcons' only touchdown of the day.
The best description of that play came from the ref, who notes that it literally was not possible for an Ohio State receiver to catch it.— Ryan Ginn (@rmginn) September 3, 2016
Barrett responded by breaking the school record for touchdowns responsible for in just 2.5 quarters. You could say all is forgiven.
- "We're in 33A!" said a heavily intoxicated student to his friend during a phone call, waving his arms furiously while standing in section 37A.
- "I'm not convinced J.T. Barrett will ever throw an incompletion."
- "Guys, the line for Panera is so long!" exclaimed an inebriated student. "I don't believe you. Go take a picture," responded his sober friend. He did not return until well after halftime.
- "What position does Curtis Samuel actually play? All of them?"
- "I wonder what goes through J.T. Barrett's head when he sees Samuel being covered man-to-man by a linebacker. It has to feel like Christmas."
- "I honestly don't want to be here anymore, but I'm going to stay anyway," said a fifth year senior. "That sentence perfectly describes my college career."
- "Oh, they're playing literally everybody. I would like to try."
- "If this walk-on kicker shanks this extra point on purpose, I'm buying his jersey from Ali Express the moment I get home," said a student after Ohio State scored to go up 69-10.
- "I've spent the past three minutes internally contemplating whether I would prefer 1,000 total yards or 100 points and I just cannot decide."
It Was Over When
Curtis Samuel turned a five yard dump pass into a 79-yard touchdown to put the Buckeyes up 21-7 late in the first quarter. At that point, it became clear Bowling Green could not move the ball and Ohio State was going to have little problem finding the endzone on offense.
For the Falcons, the bleeding got much, much worse from there.
This tweet has since been deleted, but it was an all-timer. pic.twitter.com/WXB6peLyfx— Kevin Harrish (@Kevinish) September 4, 2016
Biggest Question Going Forward
After Tracy Sprinke's season-ending injury, what will the already inexperienced interior defensive line look like? Will we see more Nick Bosa inside to help mend the hole, or will the burden fall exclusively on redshirt freshmen Davon Hamilton and Dre'Mont Jones?
Next up, the Buckeyes host Tulsa, who trounced San Jose State 45-10 in its 2016 opener. It'll be Ohio State's final tune-up game before a prime-time clash with Oklahoma in Norman.