The Rewind: What We Learned From 11 Plays In Ohio State's 45-21 Win Against Florida Atlantic

By Colin Hass-Hill on September 4, 2019 at 10:31 am
Justin Fields
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

With a rewatch of Ohio State's season opener, you can get a better picture of what exactly happened and what led to certain outcomes.

So we're taking a look at 11 plays – or series of plays – that might help better explain what happened in Ohio State's 45-21 win against Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

Let's begin.

The 11 Plays

1st quarter - 13:15: Justin Fields ran for a 51-yard touchdown to give Ohio State a 7-0 lead.

  • Seven FAU players immediately begin to flow to the left, following J.K. Dobbins and opening up what became a sizable hole for Fields. Nobody stayed home to cover the backside A-gap, as Eleven Warriors' own Kyle Jones mentioned on Monday in an article about the offense everybody should read.
  • Yes, it's an overmatched safety. But watch center Josh Myers wipe him out just like he did to poor Eleven Warriors contributor Jake Anderson.
  • This is a fairly simple run for Fields, but notice his speed. Left tackle Thayer Munford overextended and whiffed his block. Had Fields not seen that threat to his left, adjusted his run a bit to the right and turned on the jets, he could have gotten caught for a 10-yard gain rather than ending up in the end zone.
  • This was the longest play of the game by either team.
  • Don't miss the photographer pointing at Fields in the background when the camera angle changes. The man was just living in the moment.


1st quarter - 10:45 and 10:37: Jeff Okudah deflected a pass on 2nd down, then Chase Young picked up a sack on 3rd down.

  • We're grouping these two together. Why? These are back-to-back plays made by future first-round NFL draft picks – Jeff Okudah (pass deflection) and Chase Young (sack) – on second down and third down that forced FAU to punt. A return to Silver Bullet status requires Ohio State's potential first-round picks to play like first-round picks. In Week 1, they did just that.
  • The FAU receiver had a slight bit of breathing room when he broke on the top end, but Okudah's closing speed and timing shined. He so rarely takes himself or gets taken out of a play.
  • Young, an absolute terror in the backfield on Saturday, simply didn't allow FAU's right tackle to get his hands on him. He seemed to take his game to another level in the first game of the reason. Now, the question remains: can he consistently perform like he did in the opener against stiffer competition?


1st quarter - 9:08: Baron Browning tackled Willie Wright for a 1-yard loss on first down.

  • When Ohio State signed Baron Browning as a five-star linebacker from Texas in 2017, this is what everybody in Columbus imagined the Buckeyes would get. Speed. Downhill pursuit. Explosion. Power at the point of attack.
  • Browning read the play quick enough that FAU's right tackle could barely even touch him. He did a nice job keeping the lineman from grabbing him at all as he ran past him.
  • In the opener, Browning played 36 snaps, the same amount as Tuf Borland. It seems likely that the two middle linebackers will be on the field a similar amount this fall.
  • Check out the play made by Malik Harrison, too. He's a key to this play, knocking the lead blocker off balance, keeping outside contain and funneling the back toward Browning who finished it off.


1st quarter - 6:55: Justin Fields threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave to put the Buckeyes up 28-0.

  • This was the first under-center play of the Ryan Day era, and the Buckeyes have two tight ends in the formation. Not a bad result, huh?
  • The play-action fake sets it up. FAU doesn't have anybody deep in the middle of the field because its free safety bites on the fake. That makes it just a 1-on-1 matchup for Olave.
  • What a beautiful connection between Fields and Olave, who makes his move inside the moment the cornerback turns his hips. The duo made this look easy. Olave might be the best receiver on the team, and he has only caught 17 passes in his career.
  • On Tuesday, Day said Ohio State has practiced its under-center, multi-tight end looks often throughout the offseason after downplaying it for the past eight months. Though he attributed some of the propensity to use the look in Week 1 to a matchup Ohio State felt it could exploit, Day also said the offense will continue to build on what it did on Saturday under center. Don't expect this look to go anywhere.


1st quarter - 1:21: FAU's James Charles rushes for a six-yard gain on 3rd-and-3 following a timeout for a first down, his team's first of the game.

  • A missed tackle by Pete Werner and Chase Young allows FAU to convert its first first down of the game.
  • Plays like this didn't happen often on Saturday. The Buckeyes had sound tackling throughout the game. But this served as a reminder in the first quarter of what happened too much last season.
  • If you want to take a positive away from this play, take a look at the pursuit to the ball after the missed tackle. Five players combine to take down Charles. Pursuit had been a focus of Greg Mattison throughout the offseason, and it showed up on this play.


1st quarter - 1:08 and :40: Malik Harrison tackles James Charles for a two-yard loss, and on the next play, Chase Young and Jashon Cornell combine for a sack and forced fumble to set up 3rd-and-long.

  • Harrison, Young and Cornell had consecutive standout plays in a similar manner to what happened with Young and Okudah earlier in the first half. As Day has said in the past, Ohio State needs its veteran players to play like veterans. And it also needs its best players to play great. That's what happened on these back-to-back plays.
  • On the first play, Harrison reads the play quickly and shoots into the backfield. The most impressive part of his play? The power at the point of contact. Don't mistake Harrison's athleticism for any lack of physicality. He showed on Saturday he can lay jarring hits.
  • On the next play, Young's jump off the line and acceleration allow him to barely get touched by the right tackle, forcing FAU's quarterback to immediately begin scrambling to his left. That allows Cornell to take advantage by darting past the left tackle and wrapping him up for a sack. He does a nice job forcing the fumble, too.


3rd quarter - 11:13: Fields hits Austin Mack on an out route to move the chains on a 3rd-and-11 situation.

  • A quick, easy drop for Fields, who tosses one of his most well-placed passes of the afternoon.
  • Fields didn't take many chances on Saturday, which played into the strategy of minimizing risk employed by Day and Mike Yurcich. So he had few opportunities to show off his arm strength. These are the types of smart reads that Day wants Fields to make, which can take advantage of his passing ability. 
  • Mack deserves props for coming down with the catch. When he skied to haul the pass in, he got clocked.


3rd quarter - 2:40: Master Teague runs for a first down on 3rd-and-3, then Ruckert catches a touchdown pass from Fields in a three-tight end set.

  • If you want to know more about these two plays and this formation, read Eleven Warriors' own Kyle Jones, who wrote about it in depth on Monday.
  • On the run, watch the offensive line tee off and create a hole wide enough for any running back to hit. Teague hit the hole quickly, too, and fell forward. He ran hard the entire game.
  • On the pass, Luke Farrell in the flats was the first read. However, he got knocked off course and was covered. The opened up Ruckert for his second touchdown of the game.
  • The pass wasn't particularly difficult since Ruckert was so wide open, but Fields deserves credit for tossing it accurately as he got drilled. He stood in and took a few hard hits on Saturday.


3rd quarter - :40: Harrison lays the hammer on Harrison Bryant to end FAU's momentum.

  • Harrison took four steps forward, anticipating a run before realizing the play-action pass was coming. Watch his head immediately turn to Bryant, the star tight end. 
  • Given how much FAU targeted Bryant during the game, Harrison correctly anticipated the pass and laid the hammer.
  • Ohio State needed such a play. The Owls had been consistently moving the ball on this drive, often with short passes. 


4th quarter - 10:58: Dobbins rushes for no gain on 2nd-and-1, but follows that up with a third-down conversion that turned into a near touchdown. 

  • Without many major areas of concern in Saturday's game, the running game – especially Dobbins – found itself in the crosshairs of criticism in the days following the game.
  • On the first play, right tackle Branden Bowen got beat inside, forcing Dobbins to the outside. He broke the run back inside but fell short of the first-down marker. In coming weeks, the Buckeyes need him to finish runs better than he did in the opening week.
  • Dobbins followed that up, though, with a third-down conversion that took him down the 1-yard line. On this play, he hits the hole hard, avoids a potential tackler at the line of scrimmage, runs through a defender at the 4-yard line and nearly pulls his way into the end zone. Ohio State needs that type of running through contact more from Dobbins in upcoming games.


4th quarter - 2:00: Josh Proctor intercepts a lofted-up deep ball late in the fourth quarter.

  • Nobody had more interceptions throughout fall camp than Proctor, and he backed that up with an interception on the last of his six defensive snaps in Saturday's game.
  • FAU's backup quarterback certainly didn't make a great throw, but Proctor deserves credit for correctly reading the pass and completing the interception.
  • Proctor has the talent to play more, but one major problem remains: where will he line up? The Buckeyes frequently used a single deep safety on Saturday, and they don't plan to take Jordan Fuller off the field. Proctor's snaps could be limited, unless Ohio State plays a game in which it believes it needs to play six defensive backs, including a second safety, more regularly.

Other Notes From Rewatching

  • Demario McCall only had two carries and one catch, but he made enough of an impact as a returner to earn co-special team player of the game honors. He almost broke the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Day is banking on him continuing to be a dynamic returner.
  • Davon Hamilton lined up at 3-technique rather than nose tackle to accommodate Cornell, who moved to defensive end for the game. Both linemen had impressive performances, even playing out of position. Hamilton made a nice play early in the game, using a swim move to get off a block and tackle the running back for no gain. When Hamilton and Cornell move back to their expected positions, they could be even more impactful.
  • Werner didn’t leave the field much, and he made a couple impactful hits. It became clear both how much the coaches trust him and that he doesn’t have a backup yet. Expect to see a lot of him this fall.
  • Okudah is known for his coverage ability, but he had a few quality tackles. FAU didn’t test him much through the air.
  • On his 33-yard pass to Binjimen Victor, Fields got knocked as he released the ball. He didn’t get hit in preseason camp, but he certainly got a reminder of what that feels like on Saturday.
  • Greg Studrawa talked about rotating offensive linemen. But unless somebody gets injured or banged up, it seems likely that they’ll mainly stick with the five starters.
  • Ohio State’s starting defense showcased its speed on a few passes to the flats and outside runs. Something to watch: does that translate to playing as fast against more talented opponents?
  • Landers played well, getting off blocks quickly. So, too, did Antwuan Jackson. With Landers, Hamilton, Tommy Togiai and Jackson in the mix, how can Larry Johnson get everybody on the field? It’s a good problem for the Buckeyes to have.
  • Ohio State liked to get Fields out of the pocket, often on rollouts. That way, it can take advantage of his speed and cut down on his reads. 
  • Fields did a nice job deciding when to scramble and when to throw the ball away for the most part. He took one sack on a scramble, but that was the only major mistake.
  • After the game, when talking to fellow Eleven Warriors beat reporter Dan Hope, I said I felt a little unimpressed with Fields. I didn’t have that feeling for what he did do – Fields didn’t have a turnover and didn’t make any egregious errors – but rather what I thought I’d see. I imagined he would make a stunning throw or shock me with a run. That didn’t happen, so I wasn’t sure what to think. After rewatching the performance, I’m much more impressed with what I saw. Fields had nice placement on a couple downfield throws and didn’t try to force any passes. That, it seems, is by design. Could Ohio State have let Fields loose and allowed him to make risky throws? Sure. Might his ceiling have been a bit higher? Possibly. But Day and the coaching staff seem to be content with him taking what the defense gives him and developing him as a decision-maker, understanding that his natural talent gives him a high floor even early in his career.
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