There's not much you can learn about your team from a game against Army, particularly from a defensive standpoint, but a win is a win, and it's undoubtably a refreshing feeling after what happened last week.
The Buckeyes bounced back, showed off some new tricks on offensive, held Army in check on defense and came away with a 38-7 win.
The Short Story
The Buckeyes were looking for a bounce-back performance after a disappointing loss to Oklahoma last weekend, and they got it. Ohio State showed improvements offensively, racking up 38 points despite Army having possession nearly twice as long. On the other side of the ball, the Silver Bullets held Army to just seven points and few chunk plays, giving the team a 38-7 win.
It's going to be easy for fans to complain about what they saw from the offense on Saturday if they were hoping for Ohio State to hit some long, downfield passes. That didn't happen, but that doesn't mean the offense was bad.
The Buckeyes showed a heavy dose of run-pass option plays, and executed them to perfection. An RPO play allows J.T. Barrett to roll out and read the defenders to decide what to do with the football. If the defender comes up, Barrett dishes the ball to his receiver on a short pass. If the defender stays with the receiver, Barrett keeps the ball and goes up field.
RPO plays maximize the strengths of both Barrett and the receivers. Barrett excels at decision making and reading a defense while his speedy, agile receivers do well with the ball in space after the catch.
Ohio State used these RPOs and a huge game from J.K. Dobbins to put up 38 points despite only having the ball for 23 minutes, as Army's triple option ate a ton of time.
It's hard to get an accurate idea of where the Ohio State defense stands a week after Baker Mayfield lit the Buckeyes up because Army doesn't run anything close to an offense they've seen before or will see again this season.
Still, there were some highlights. Ohio State held Army to just one score in the game, 19 yards passing and limited chunk plays, all while being on the field nearly two-thirds of the game. That's a pretty good day.
Who Earned a Buckeye Leaf?
Offense: J.K. Dobbins
It seems Ohio State has its next star running back.
Two games after his record-breaking debut against Indiana, J.K. Dobbins had another eye-popping performance against Army, rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
The guy is nearly impossible to tackle in space.
Through three games, the freshman phenom has 425 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries, good for 7.7 yards per carry. That's pretty good, I hear.
Defense: Tuf Borland
With fifth-year senior captain Chris Worley ahead of him on the depth chart, Tuf Borland probably didn't even expect to play meaningful minutes this weekend. But when Worley left the game with a sprained ankle in the first half, Borland's number was called, and he came through.
Borland was the team's most consistent linebacker throughout the second half, filling gaps and disrupting Army's triple-option attack. Playing fewer snaps than any of the other defensive starters, Borland led the team in total tackles with 12, and tied for the team lead in tackles for loss and quarterback hurries with one in each category.
Plays of the Game
We mentioned J.K. Dobbins had 172 yards rushing, and numbers like that don't usually happen without some chunk plays. Well, Dobbins sure got a chunk.
Midway through the third quarter, Dobbins ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run, breaking the game open.
Dobbins combined his vision, shiftiness and breakaway speed on that rush. The end result – a huge house call.
Erick Smith did his best Malik Hooker impression in the second quarter.
Army quarterback Ahmed Bradshaw appeared to have a deep receiver open for a touchdown, but Smith flew in at the last moment and dove in front of the ball, saving a sure touchdown.
Smith didn't get the interception – the ball hit the turf when he came to the ground – but it was a huge, touchdown-saving play nonetheless.
Despite having arguably the best defensive line in the country, Ohio State had just five tackles for a loss.
This isn't really an indictment on the Buckeye defensive front, it just speaks to how disciplined and consistent Army was on Saturday. They didn't really get many chunk plays, but they rarely lost yards either. They just consistently got about 2-6 yards each play.
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment
After back-to-back night games, Jim Tressel was exceptionally pleased at this week's 4:30 p.m. start.
It really was the perfect time. It allowed him a full morning of apple picking, some early-afternoon solitaire outside on the patio and and a delicious dinner of beef stroganoff, all before dinner kick off.
Better yet, if all went according to plan, he would be in bed by 8:30, getting a full nine hours of rest.
Pleased with how the timing worked out, Tressel flicked on his television set and patiently waited to see his new favorite player – Drue Chrisman – in action.
Unfortunately, things did not exactly go according to plan. See, Chrisman did not even have a punt of over 50 yards and only downed one of his two punts inside the 20 yard line, allowing the other to bounce into the end zone for a touchback.
"They're giving away free yards," Tressel groaned, to nobody in particular.
To make matters worse, walk-on kicker Bryan Kristan shanked a kickoff about 15 yards out of bounds and the Buckeyes allowed a 43-yard return. Ohio State's kickoff and punting game was in shambles.
Meanwhile, Army had two punts downed inside the 20 and one 67-yard boot. Tressel was hot with envy.
"How'd the game go?" his wife, Ellen, asked as she walked past her husband sitting quietly in the living room.
"We won, but got outclassed where it mattered," Tressel said disappointedly.
Ohio State is typically very disciplined on kickoff coverage, but they had a breakdown on Saturday.
It starts with a great kick from freshman Blake Haubeil, putting the ball at the goal line right in the corner. Army fielded it, and took the ball outside to the field.
It looked like the Buckeyes were going to make the tackle inside the five yard line, but the returner got loose. Austin Mack appeared to have compress/contain duties, but went for the hit and missed, springing the return.
Ultimately, it didn't lead to points, but it wasn't exactly a shining moment.
Supporting the Troops
The coolest part about Ohio State facing a service academy is all the pageantry that comes with the game. Saturday's matchup with Army was no exception.
We saw soldiers parachuting onto the field before the game, a helicopter flyover after the national anthem, the entire stadium cheering as Army took the field and both teams coming together to sing Carmen Ohio after the game.
Barrett Breaks Another Record
J.T. Barrett broke Drew Brees' Big Ten record for total touchdowns on Saturday when he hit Austin Mack for his 107th career touchdown.
Barrett has broken so many records in his time at Ohio State it's almost like Buckeye fans have become numb to it, which is why it's here in "Underrated Things."
Urban Meyer honored Barrett with the game ball after the game.
J.T. Barrett gets a lot of flack for not being an accurate passer, but this touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin could not have been more perfect.
The timing was perfect and he fit it in a pretty tight window at the perfect height. That is not an easy throw.
It Was Over When
Ohio State scored to make it 24-7 in the third quarter. Sure, Army could have come back, but it took them 10 minutes to find the end zone the only time they scored all game. There just wasn't enough time, even if their offense was clicking.
Biggest Question Going Forward
We saw how Ohio State is addressing last week's offensive struggles, but with Army's unique offense, we didn't really see how the Buckeyes plan to address the concerns on the other side of the ball. Against UNLV, we'll see what adjustments the defense has made as the Rebels will throw the ball much more often than Army.