Everything went Ohio State's way in the first month of the 2019 season.
The Buckeyes completed four blowout victories in a row to open the year, most recently knocking off Miami (Ohio) on Saturday with a 76-5 win that included a 42-point second quarter. With competition soon stiffening, the 71-point win on Saturday gave the team a confidence boost as it enters the meat of its schedule.
Let's take a look back at 11 plays or sequences from Saturday's game that can help us learn about this Ohio State team.
1st quarter - 5:42: J.K. Dobbins rushed for a 26-yard touchdown to give Ohio State a 7-5 lead.
- This touchdown settled some of the uncomfortability in Ohio Stadium of the Buckeyes not scoring for the first nine minutes. Ohio State punted on its next drive, then proceeded to score six touchdowns in a row.
- Dobbins intended to bounce this outside of right guard Wyatt Davis. But when Davis got back a yard or two and the cornerback coming on a blitz, Dobbins smartly re-routed himself back inside to find daylight.
- Both left guard Jonah Jackson and wide receiver Garrett Wilson made the key blocks to spring what could've been a 10-yard run into a 26-yard touchdown.
- Jackson, like other Ohio State interior linemen, thrives getting to the second level, where he sealed a linebacker. Wilson, ending the play by holding his hands up to ensure he didn't get penalized, stayed with the safety for a couple seconds as Dobbins got to the outside.
- Dobbins did a nice job finding the lanes on this play, reading the blocks, shirking off the cornerback and winning the foot race at the end of the play.
1st quarter - 3:01: Justin Fields got sacked for a loss of 7 yards.
- In a 71-point victory, there are only so many overtly poor plays, but this was one. In general, Thayer Munford had a strong game both blocking for the run and the pass. This, though, was his worst play of the game.
- Munford had his eyes on the cornerback before the play, expecting the blitz. However, he kick stepped backward too far and barely got his hands on the blitzer as he whiffed.
- Fields, as he has shown this year, is adept at moving inside the pocket. So with the rush coming from his blind side, he took a couple slide steps to his left and repositioned. He presumably didn't have anybody open here, so it would've been optimal for him to throw it away rather than take the sack.
2nd quarter - 14:09: Justin Fields ran for a 7-yard touchdown.
- As much as Ohio State wants to avoid Fields taking unnecessary shots, the team has clearly shown its willingness to have him carry the ball near the goal line.
- On this zone read, the defensive end crashed down on Dobbins, opening up the outside for Fields. With his speed, he was able to avoid the end and cut upfield. With seeming ease, he made one final move to side-step a would-be tackler at the 3-yard line.
- This play showcases what Ohio State has in Fields, a true red-zone weapon. Ryan Day doesn't want to get Fields hurt by having him run in the middle of the field, so he has largely tried to have his carries happen near the goal line. Fields scored twice on runs of less than 10 yards.
- The possibility for more Fields carries later in the season remains. He's a deadly runner. But with quarterback depth being subpar, it hasn't been worth it for Day to set Fields loose in the open field much.
2nd quarter - 14:04: Haskell Garrett tackled Tyre Shelton for a loss of 3 yards.
- This play illustrates something Ohio State did more against Miami (Ohio) than it had done in any of its prior three games: a defensive line stunt.
- This stunt is fairly simple. The nose tackle, Antwuan Jackson Jr., crosses right to the other A-gap, and Garrett twists around him.
- Garrett showcased some quickness and lateral agility to get into the backfield on this well-executed stunt. The right guard barely got his hands on Garrett as he shot into the backfield for the tackle for loss.
- Whether it happened to be just for Saturday's game or whether it'll be a trend going forward, there's no doubt Ohio State increased its defensive line stunts versus the RedHawks. This play showed a stunt working exactly as intended.
2nd quarter - 10:04: Justin Fields rushed for 4 yards on a quarterback sneak.
- After the game, center Josh Myers said the coaches staff had seen something in Miami (Ohio)'s defense that made them feel it was susceptible to a quarterback sneak. It's clear why: The RedHawks didn't have anybody lined up on Myers.
- Instead of Fields following his center as he tries to push a nose tackle, Myers headed directly toward the middle linebacker, allowing the quarterback to pick up four yards on 4th-and-1.
- Wyatt Davis and Jonah Jackson did enough to keep the defensive tackles out of the A-gap, giving Fields space.
- The constant theme about this offense has been Ryan Day's willingness to mix and match his personnel and plays to counter whatever defenses throw at his team. So, while Ohio State had success on this quarterback sneak, you shouldn't hold your breath about this being a constant play the team turns to in short-yardage situations. Day, per usual, will take what the defenses give him and try to find holes or soft spots. It just so happened that on this play, a quarterback sneak was essentially free yardage.
2nd quarter - 8:18: Malik Harrison tackled the running back, Davion Johnson, for a loss of 2 yards.
- I could've chosen a few different plays to illustrate a point I want to make, but I picked this one because it features arguably the two players who have been most important in Ohio State's run defense, which Eleven Warriors' own Kyle Jones wrote about on Monday.
- Davon Hamilton has gone largely overlooked in this defensive renaissance, and he deserves more credit for what's gone right thus far, especially against the run. In the first month of the season, he constantly got penetration into the backfield.
- Slow this clip down and watch Hamilton's first step off the ball. He beats the three other defensive linemen, along with the right guard, off the ball. That allows him to knock the pulling center off of his course, freeing up Harrison to make a play.
- Harrison, as he has done so often this season, cleans it up with a tackle for loss. The running back managed just three steps with the ball before Harrison swallowed him.
- Hamilton might not have gotten credit in the stat book for this play, but he made it happen.
2nd quarter - 4:27 and 3:42: Miami (Ohio) running back Maurice Washington was tackled for a loss of 1 yard by Teradja Mitchell. He then lost another yard on the next play and was tackled by Baron Browning.
- On the first play, look at where the entire Miami (Ohio) offensive line ended up: behind the line of scrimmage. Once against, Ohio State successfully stunted its interior defensive linemen, freeing up the linebackers.
- Teradja Mitchell, lined up at middle linebacker, both knocked back the pulling tight end and made the tackle. That's exactly what the Buckeyes need out of a middle linebacker against the run.
- The second play epitomizes the violence Day has said he wants to see in his defense.
- Baron Browning's speed and power once made him a five-star prospect, and he's finally translating those gifts to the field. He's played the most snaps at middle linebacker this season, and that trend will likely continue.
2nd quarter - 2:20 and 2:14: Justin Fields threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Binjimen Victor, then Chase Young forced a fumble on a sack that was recovered by Tyler Friday.
- When the Buckeyes are running at peak performance, they're making game-changing plays in all three phases of the game. Young immediately followed Fields' touchdown pass by forcing a fumble.
- Victor has come into his own this season, becoming a much more consistent pass-catcher on short and medium routes than in his first three seasons. On this touchdown, he showed he's still able to make the spectacular plays, too.
- Fields delivered this deep ball exactly where Victor needs it: high, allowing him to jump over a defensive back. As a periodic reminder, Fields has played four games and is already making that kind of throw without having thrown a single interception.
- This sack by Young was his second strip sack of the game, and it came from the opposite side of the line.
- Miami (Ohio) sent its running back over to help block Young. But Young beat the left tackle so quickly that the back couldn't get in position quickly enough.
2nd quarter - 1:13 and 0:58: Justin Fields completed a 16-yard pass to Rashod Berry then a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave.
- Two different types of throws. Two important types of throws.
- On 4th-and-3, Fields hung in the pocket for an extended period of time, eventually getting nearly sacked but running away before he set his feet and delivered a strike to Berry.
- The next play, he took a one-step drop before delivering a touchdown to Olave over the cornerback's hands and where only his receiver could touch the ball.
- These back-to-back plays show a more advanced Fields than expected. On one play, he's mobile, looking downfield, not forcing the ball before finding an open tight end. The next play, he's taking one step and putting the ball exactly where it needs to be for arguably his top receiver to make a play.
3rd quarter - 9:07: Chris Chugunov threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson.
- There's not much to write about this play that hasn't already been written. It's a simply spectacular catch.
- Chugunov underthrew the pass, forcing Wilson to slow down his route and readjust.
- Everything we heard about Wilson's ball skills have come true. He's a dangerous receiver, especially in these one-on-one situations with jump balls, and this is only the beginning.
3rd quarter - 7:43: Dallas Gant picked up his first career sack.
- Gant isn't in the regular rotation at linebacker, but he showed on Saturday he might deserve a few more snaps, leading the team with five tackles and adding 1.5 sacks.
- Here, Gant's blitz came so fast that the running back didn't even step over to attempt to knock him off course.
Other Notes From Rewatching
- Miami (Ohio) hit three passes for between nine and 13 yards in the first couple drives. The quarterback, Brett Gabbert, did a nice job getting the ball out quickly, and Ohio State eventually played some press man coverage to counteract what had worked.
- Might there be some concern that the RedHawks found a few areas to attack in the Cover 3 defense? Possibly – though teams already know zone defenses have natural soft spots. But my takeaway is the defensive coaching staff made a quick adjustment that worked. This defense doesn't want to play exclusively zone or man coverage. It wants to be versatile, which it showed on Saturday.
- Only one play from Hamilton was included in this article, but he made quite a few on Saturday. He and Jashon Cornell have proved to be weapons versus the run.
- All four running backs – Dobbins, Master Teague, Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers – ran hard against an overmatched defense. Teague only had 34 yards on 11 carries, but those numbers aren't particularly indicative of how he performed. On a few carries, he had nowhere to go.
- On the strip sack of Fields that led to a safety, Dobbins got knocked back a bit more than Ohio State would prefer. He didn't win that play. However, he responded with some quality blocks later in the game, including a pancake on Demario McCall's 10-yard run that went unnoticed due to McCall's stiff arm.
- Young was unblockable. His only near-sack that didn't come to fruition happened because he seemed to attempt to decapitate the quarterback rather than tackle him.
- Outside of a breakdown on the first drive, Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette covered well on the outside. In them, the Buckeyes have two cornerbacks playing at a consistently high level.
- Fields underthrew one deep ball to Victor down the sidelines. That's not the way to win with Victor. As he showed on the touchdown, it's better to overthrow him to see if he can make a play.
- In general, the offensive line once again had a strong all-around performance. Of course, it came against a physically overmatched Miami (Ohio) defensive front.