Even though Ohio State put up 45 points and 469 yards in its season opener against FAU on Saturday, the Buckeyes’ offensive line received mixed immediate reviews for its performance in the first game of the year.
After the Buckeyes scored four touchdowns on 200 yards in their first four possessions of the game, they proceeded to go scoreless and gain just 79 yards on their next six possessions (not including a kneel-down at the end of the first half). One reason for that was because Justin Fields started to face more pressure and take more hits from FAU’s pass-rush than he did early in the game; another reason was because they struggled to consistently move the ball on the ground.
So in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium, Ryan Day didn’t necessarily feel great about how the Buckeyes’ offensive line had performed. After he reviewed the game film, however, Ohio State’s head coach was more impressed by what he saw from the Buckeyes’ big blockers up front.
“I actually, after watching the film, was more pleased with the way the offensive line blocked than I thought coming off the field,” Day said Tuesday. “There was some funky looks … and although it wasn't clean and they did try to bring a bunch of stuff at us, I thought for the most part we moved them.”
Early in the game, Ohio State’s offensive line imposed its will on FAU’s defensive front, and that wasn’t unexpected. The Buckeyes’ massive offensive line had a significant size advantage on the Owls’ defensive line, which enabled Ohio State’s blockers – particularly left guard Jonah Jackson, who finished his Ohio State debut with nine knockdown blocks, and center Josh Myers, who had six – to drive FAU’s defensive linemen backward with regularity in its base defensive scheme.
“Initially, they came in, they were playing their technique and doing things and we were knocking them off the ball a little bit,” Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa.
After the early burst by the Buckeyes, however, FAU adjusted by moving its defensive linemen into different techniques and its linebackers into different spots, and Ohio State wasn’t able to make the proper corresponding adjustments right away, which led to some of the struggles Studrawa’s unit had as the game progressed.
“They started to jump around, move, slide, so what we had to do at that point when that happens is change our technique, and that’s what I do on the sidelines,” Studrawa said. “You can’t come off and try to kill a guy that’s going to move lateral, side-to-side and jump around the block. We have to be more sound in our footwork, we have to be a little bit less aggressive in getting on that guy when he moves instead of trying, like our young guys were, trying to kill them and finish the block really quickly.”
Studrawa also felt that his unit’s attention to detail might not have been where it needed to be after the Buckeyes raced out to a 28-0 lead.
“I don’t like to see that but I think that’s a little bit of what happened, part of it too,” Studrawa said.
Ultimately, though, the Buckeyes were able to make the necessary adjustments in the second half to get the ball rolling again and put together three consecutive scoring drives between the third and fourth quarters to secure a comfortable 45-21 win. Studrawa said the Buckeyes made schematic adjustments at halftime that allowed them to pick up FAU’s defensive attack more effectively, and Jackson thought his unit responded well.
“We just came to the sideline, told Coach Stud what was going on and we communicated it well and then we picked it up from there,” Jackson said.
The Buckeyes’ coaching staff graded all five of Ohio State’s starting offensive linemen, also including left tackle Thayer Munford, right guard Wyatt Davis and right tackle Branden Bowen, as champions for Saturday’s game.
“There was some funky looks … and although it wasn't clean and they did try to bring a bunch of stuff at us, I thought for the most part we moved them.”– Ryan Day on the offensive line's performance against FAU
Even though Ohio State rushed for 237 yards in Saturday’s game, Day expressed some disappointment with the Buckeyes’ running game during Tuesday’s press conference. In Day’s view, though, the offensive line had a solid game run blocking but the running backs could have done a better job hitting the holes they created.
“I thought there was some more yards to be had in the run game than was actually there,” Day said. “Those guys played with effort, and we got to do a better job of finding the hole and making yards after contact. That's the bottom line. And so I know Coach Alford and the running backs will be working on that this week.”
Ohio State’s offensive line was far from perfect on Saturday, but in the first game of the season with a nearly brand new starting lineup up front, the Buckeyes’ coaches were pleased with how they graded out. Studrawa was also pleased with the energy his guys played with.
“If you watch the first touchdown, we run the sweep with the zone, Justin pulls it and goes, they’re running behind the play sprinting, pumping fists, that’s what I want,” Studrawa said. “That’s exactly what I want. Go hard. Be enthusiastic. Love what you’re doing. Love who you’re doing it with. And that’s exactly, I won’t accept anything else. That’s one of the benefits of coaching a youthful group like they are. That enthusiasm, I want them to have that and keep that.”
The Buckeyes know they must continue to get better this week, because they might not be able to afford to have a lengthy lull against a stronger opponent in Cincinnati. Like the Owls, the Bearcats will likely play with some unexpected defensive alignments that will force the Buckeyes to adjust, and if that happens this Saturday, they must be able to adjust on the fly.
“We’re gonna work on it right now, because I can tell you right now, it will happen in this game,” Studrawa said Tuesday. “So we’re gonna work on it today.”