For the past eight months, and for some dating all the way back to last year, Ohio State football fans have been clamoring to see Dwayne Haskins start at quarterback.
In his first career start for the Buckeyes against Oregon State on Saturday, Haskins showed why.
Haskins completed 22 of 30 passing attempts for 313 yards and five touchdowns – both the highest totals ever for an Ohio State quarterback making his first start – and led the Buckeyes to touchdowns on each of his first seven drives, and on eight drives total, in their 77-31 season-opening win over Oregon State on Saturday.
For people who don’t follow Ohio State closely, that might have come as a surprise, considering that he had only played one half of meaningful snaps – in leading the Buckeyes to a comeback win at Michigan last season – before Saturday.
It didn’t come as a surprise to Haskins, however, who answered without hesitation what he would have said if someone had told him that he would be the first Ohio State quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns in his first start.
"I’d probably have told them they’d be right,” Haskins said.
Haskins said he wasn’t nervous going into Saturday’s game, and his confidence showed in his play. The Buckeyes’ new quarterback made several big downfield throws – highlighted by a 75-yard connection with Terry McLaurin on the first play of the second half – and very few mistakes, with the exception of an interception in the third quarter, when he was hit while throwing and sailed a ball over Johnnie Dixon into the hands of Oregon State safety Shawn Wilson.
“The first thing that really stood out was the interception,” Haskins said when asked if there was anything he wanted to do better on Saturday. “Should have thrown it away, got hit by the tackle while throwing the ball. But otherwise than that, it was a great job by the offense today. I’m really proud of everybody.”
“He wasn’t nervous, he didn’t show any sense of edginess. He just came in this game ready to make plays, and he told us on the outside, ‘Just be ready. The ball could come to you at any time.’"– Terry McLaurin on Dwayne Haskins
Acting head coach Ryan Day, who is also the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, was pleased with how Haskins played. While he acknowledged that he would give Haskins a hard time about the interception, he had also said earlier this week that he expected Haskins to make some mistakes because it was his first start.
“We laughed about it afterwards,” Day said. “He knows I'm going to be all over him for that third-down throw down in the red zone. But, yeah, I thought it was a good start. We'll look at the film, see what happens. Sometimes you have a vision what it was like on the field. Then you look at it, go from there. But I thought it was a good start for him.”
McLaurin, who caught four passes from Haskins for a team-high 121 receiving yards and two touchdowns, said he was impressed with the poise Haskins showed for a quarterback making his first start.
“The thing that took me back was just how poised he was,” McLaurin said. “He wasn’t nervous, he didn’t show any sense of edginess. He just came in this game ready to make plays, and he told us on the outside, ‘Just be ready. The ball could come to you at any time.’
"The O-line did a great job opening holes up and that put stress on them in the pass game as well," McLaurin continued. "So just the poise that he came in with, the quiet confidence that he had today. From a guy who’s making his first start, that was really impressive.”
The one thing Haskins didn’t do much on Saturday was run the ball, as he only kept the ball and carried it himself twice. He gained a combined 24 yards between those two runs, but he said he didn’t feel like he needed to run the ball any more than that because of his passing ability and the talent he has around him.
“I don’t feel like I need to run the ball, just being able to do what we did today,” Haskins said. “I got running backs like Mike (Weber) and J.K. (Dobbins) that can handle it.”
Haskins certainly wasn’t the only star for Ohio State’s offense on Saturday, as Weber ran for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, while also adding a three-yard receiving touchdown on a pop pass from Haskins. Dobbins ran for 74 yards on 15 carries, and true freshman running backs Brian Snead and Master Teague also got in on the action, with Teague rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown on six carries and Snead rushing for 25 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Ohio State’s offensive line also had an excellent showing on Saturday, paving the way for those running backs to rush for 375 total yards – on 7.1 yards per carry – while allowing no sacks.
The Buckeyes finished the game with 721 total yards of offense, the second-most in any game in school history behind the Buckeyes’ 2016 season opener against Bowling Green, in which they also scored 77 points, now tied for the most in a season opener in school history.
Aside from a defensive touchdown scored when Nick Bosa recovered a fumble in the end zone, Ohio State's offense accounted for the other 70 points. Haskins led the Buckeyes on each of their first eight touchdown drives, while Tate Martell was in at quarterback for the last two.
Day said after the game that Weber, McLaurin and left guard Malcolm Pridgeon were all recognized in the locker room postgame for how well they performed on Saturday.
“Those three guys have arguably been three of the best practice players we had,” Day said. “And they had really big days for us today. So that was great.”
As the starting quarterback – and specifically, a quarterback who had a record-setting day in his first career start – Haskins was the star of the show on Saturday. But he made it clear after the game that felt he only deserved part of the credit for the great day Ohio State’s offense had.
“Our offense is so dynamic,” Haskins said. “Not only me, but everybody else can do a lot of things this year. And I feel like you guys have a lot of stuff to look forward to.”