It's a good day when your backup quarterback is tossing deep touchdown passes to a walk-on receiver in the second quarter.
To be frank, this wasn't much of a game. The Buckeyes were up 44-7 at the half before all the starters were pulled, and it was probably over even before that. Ohio State sliced up the UNLV defense with relative ease, distributing the ball to its playmakers all over over the field while the Buckeye defensive line lived in the Rebel backfield.
It wasn't a big time opponent, but it was an Ohio State win, and people tell me those are good and certainly not bad.
The Short Story
This went about as expected. Ohio State dispatched UNLV very, very quickly before emptying the bench of second-string, third-string and walk-on players. The Buckeyes went up 44-7 through two quarters and then coasted in the second half. The Rebels outscored the Ohio State bench players 14-10 in the second half, but it hardly mattered.
Ohio State opened up the air attack on Saturday, throwing the ball to – well, everybody. 13 different players caught a pass, racking up a combined 474 yards with a school-record seven different receivers catching a touchdown pass.
The Buckeyes did a great job of getting the ball to their most explosive athletes in space and letting them make plays after the catch. The rushing attack suffered a bit because of this, but J.K. Dobbins still ended with a modest 95 yards on 14 carries.
Ohio State's defensive line ate the UNLV offensive line. The Buckeyes had an absurd 13 tackles for a loss and four sacks – but we already knew that unit was good.
The weak spot for the Buckeye defense against Oklahoma and Indiana was the secondary, and they played quite well against UNLV on Saturday – kind of. See, Ohio State allowed just 88 passing yards through the air, but the Buckeyes struggled to defend when the ball was in the air, giving up a ton of yardage in pass-interference penalties.
Who Earned a Buckeye Leaf?
Offense: Parris Campbell
It's tough to pick against the dude who threw for five touchdowns and 209 yards in less than two quarters, but truthfully he wouldn't have put up those numbers if it weren't for the yards after the catch from his receivers, namely Parris Campbell.
Campbell finished the game with three catches for 105 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. He also had an 82-yard kick return which set up a Johnnie Dixon touchdown (after he fumbled at the goal line on the previous series, but we'll touch on that later).
The Buckeyes seem to be making an effort to get the ball to their playmakers in space, and Campbell is seeing the benefits.
Defense: Nick Bosa
The defensive MVP had to come from the defensive line with the way that unit performed as a whole, and Bosa stood out.
Playing fewer minutes than usual with the substitutes getting reps in the second half, Bosa still managed a career-high three tackles for a loss as well as one sack, four tackles and a tipped pass leading to an interception.
Plays of the GAme
This may have been a mostly inconsequential touchdown, but that doesn't make it any less amazing.
When we talked about Ohio State getting the ball to its playmakers in space, I bet you weren't picturing Rashod Berry.
Alas, here we are.
Berry caught a a short, five-yard ball from Dwayne Haskins and promptly turned on his beast mode, running through four tackles and outrunning a fifth would-be tackler.
How long until people start asking Urban Meyer how many touches Berry needs every game?
It's game four and we already have a candidate for interception of the year.
First off, Denzel Ward played this ball as perfectly as you could play a deep ball, dislodging it with his right hand at the last moment. I'm not going to rule out the possibility of him coming down with the pick himself if nobody else arrives, but he didn't need to.
For the record, I saw the rest of the field. Damon Webb would have absolutely housed that return if we were playing with NFL rules. The only person between him and the end zone with any real chance of making the tackle was Tracy Sprinkle, who came onto the field from the sideline for some reason.
Typically, the talent gap gets even bigger when both teams start to empty their benches in the second half, and the better team starts to dominate even more, but that's not what happened Saturday.
UNLV actually outscored Ohio State in the second half, thanks in no small part to a pick six from backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins. It's not really an issue or even a cause for concern, just not exactly what we're used to seeing.
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment
As he filled his bird feeders early on Saturday morning, Jim Tressel could hardly contain his excitement. After all, his Buckeyes finally got the prime time television spot and he knew the whole nation would be watching. He was so excited for those young men to have this opportunity.
Tressel was under no delusions as he flipped on his television set. With the coveted noon time slot, he knew his Buckeyes would want to put on a show for all the viewers, which would mean fewer punts and kicks than usual – he was okay with that, or so he thought.
Tressel watched Ohio State come up short on third down three-straight times, and elect to go for it on fourth down three-straight times, leaving both the punter and the kicker on the sideline.
At this point, Tressel was visibly upset and his wife, Ellen, took notice.
She walked up behind her husband, wrapped her arms around his neck and calmly said "Maybe they're just trying not to embarrass the other team in front of all those people."
Tressel cracked a relieved smile. That had to be it, he thought. There's no other reason Urban Meyer would consistently leave his top playmakers on the sideline.
Parris Campbell had himself a game on Saturday, but it's important to note that nobody's perfect.
Early in the game, J.T. Barrett found Campbell in space near the goal line and after making the catch, the Buckeye h-back fought to make defenders miss and find the end zone.
Only, he didn't take the ball with him.
To be fair, it was a perfect hit right on the ball and it's not like it hurt the Buckeyes. In fact, you could argue it actually helped them.
See, UNLV's offensive line was getting turnstyled by the Ohio State defensive line, pretty much all game. The Rebels often moved backwards instead of forwards, and when the ball is on the one yard line, you can no longer go backwards.
UNLV went backwards anyway, thanks to Dre'Mont Jones.
That gave Ohio State two points and the ball, and Campbell made up for his blunder by returning the kick 82 yards, setting up a Buckeye score.
TL;DR – Because of the fumble, the Buckeyes ended up with nine points instead of seven. Hooray.
Drue Chrisman is a Boss
So Drue Chrisman has punted 10 times at Ohio State and nine of those punts have been downed inside the 20 yard line, which is absolutely remarkable.
Obviously, props go to the coverage team, as well. It seems the entire units is clicking on all cylinders.
Raise your hand if you expected walk-on receiver C.J. Saunders to finish the game with six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
His one touchdown catch was not an easy one, either. Saunders hauled in a bullet pass from Dwayne Haskins that snaked right between two defenders.
It was Over When
It became very clear on the first drive that UNLV could not block the Buckeye pass rush and then Parris Campbell broke loose, scoring a touchdown on Ohio State's second offensive play.
Biggest Question Going Forward
It's not going to be answered for a while, but the real question is how this team will perform against another top opponent. Obviously, there appear to be signs of improvement – seven touchdown passes don't happen by accident – but it's unclear just how much the team has improved when the quality of the opponent is so low.