Ohio State played its first close game of the season on Saturday against Penn State, and as a result, the Buckeyes had to be more selective about who saw playing time against the Nittany Lions.
For just the second time this season, along with its 34-10 win over Michigan State, Ohio State kept its starters in the game for all 60 minutes against Penn State. Starting quarterback Justin Fields and the five starting offensive linemen played all of Ohio State’s 85 offensive snaps, while linebacker Malik Harrison, cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette and safety Jordan Fuller played all 64 of the Buckeyes’ defensive snaps.
A total of 59 Ohio State players saw game action against Penn State, tied with the Michigan State game for the lowest amount all season, as only 17 Buckeyes took offensive snaps and 23 played defensive snaps, with the rest playing only on special teams.
Four Ohio State players did not play a single snap for the first time all season: offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and linebacker Brendon White, as well as guard Gavin Cupp and defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, both of whom were unavailable to play due to injuries.
As for those who were on the field, we break down how much playing time each of them saw in Snap Counts, Eleven Warriors’ exclusive weekly look of how Ohio State splits up its playing time on offense, defense and special teams.
All snap counts were compiled by Eleven Warriors and should be considered unofficial. It is not always possible to see all players on special teams units from TV camera angles for special teams units, so exact snap counts for those units are not listed.
Justin Fields: 85
As aforementioned, Fields played every snap at quarterback for just the second time this season against Penn State, which was good for a career-high 85 snaps. In the process, Fields completed 16-of-22 passing attempts for 188 yards and two touchdowns while he also ran for 68 yards on a career-high 21 attempts. Even after Fields appeared to suffer an injury on a fourth-down sack late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, he returned to the field to take the Buckeyes’ final two snaps of the day, a pair of kneel-downs in victory formation.
J.K. Dobbins: 81
Master Teague: 4
The Buckeyes leaned the most heavily on Dobbins that they have all season against Penn State, as he ran the ball 36 times on 81 snaps. Both of those numbers are the second-highest total of his career, behind Ohio State’s 52-51 overtime win in 2018 at Maryland, when he had 37 carries on 89 snaps.
Teague played just one snap in the first half of Saturday’s game. After being tackled for a loss and then committing a false start before the next snap, he was substituted out of the lineup for Dobbins. Teague returned to the game for three snaps in the fourth quarter, but did not return to the field after an 8-yard run to convert a 3rd-and-4. His four total snaps and three total touches (two carries, one catch) were both season-lows.
K.J. Hill: 63
Binjimen Victor: 55
Austin Mack: 44
Chris Olave: 40
Garrett Wilson: 27
Jaylen Harris: Special teams only
Xavier Johnson: Special teams only
Demario McCall: Special teams only
Jameson Williams: Special teams only
Mack returned to the starting lineup after missing Ohio State’s previous three games due to injury, and the Buckeyes returned to a true rotation at the Z receiver position between Mack and Olave. Both receivers finished the game with two catches, though Olave had the highlight between them with a spinning 28-yard touchdown snag.
Victor and Wilson continued to rotate at X receiver as they have all season, though Victor played more than twice as many snaps – a season-high 55 snaps – showing the Buckeyes still trust the senior more than the freshman in big games. Both of them finished the game with two catches for exactly 21 yards.
Hill played every snap at slot receiver in three-receiver formations. He tied his season-high of 63 snaps and led the Buckeyes with four receptions for 46 yards.
Luke Farrell: 48
Jeremy Ruckert: 36
Rashod Berry: 23
Jake Hausmann: 4
Mitch Rossi: Special teams only
Farrell played his second-highest snap count of the season and Ruckert played his highest snap count of the year as the Buckeyes leaned more heavily on their top two tight ends against Penn State. Ohio State used multi-tight end packages on 24 plays against the Nittany Lions, and 15 of those plays featured Farrell and Ruckert on the field together.
Berry also continued to mix in regularly in the tight end rotation while also seeing playing time on defense for the third game in a row (more to come on that). Hausmann played his lowest snap count of the season (not including the Northwestern game, for which he was unavailable to play), as he played just two snaps in the first half and was one of three tight ends on the field for the Buckeyes’ two kneel-downs to finish out the game.
Thayer Munford: 85
Jonah Jackson: 85
Josh Myers: 85
Wyatt Davis: 85
Branden Bowen: 85
Dawand Jones: Special teams only
Harry Miller: Special teams only
Kevin Woidke: Special teams only
All five of Ohio State’s starting offensive linemen played every offensive snap of the game for the first time this season against Penn State (Bowen did not play the first six snaps against Michigan State). Each of them played a season-high 85 snaps as a result, which also serves as a career-high for Jackson and Myers (it’s possible Jackson played more than 85 snaps in a game at Rutgers, but we don’t have those numbers).
Chase Young: 63
Tyreke Smith: 22
Zach Harrison: 22
Tyler Friday: 18
Rashod Berry: 5
Javontae Jean-Baptiste: 4
After sitting out the Buckeyes’ prior two games against Maryland and Rutgers as penance for an NCAA violation, Young played every defensive snap except one against Penn State. He certainly looked refreshed in his return to action, providing dominant play on the edge for four quarters, including nine total tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. His 63 snaps tied his season-high.
Smith started the game opposite Young, but did not return to the game after suffering what appeared to be a hand injury in the third quarter. Following Smith’s exit, Harrison and Friday played the majority of snaps in his place.
The Buckeyes utilized a four-defensive end Rushmen package for the first time all season for three snaps against Penn State, with Harrison and Berry as the defensive tackles inside and Young and either Smith or Jean-Baptiste as the defensive ends.
All five of Berry’s snaps came in third- or fourth-down pass-rushing situations, also including two snaps late in the fourth quarter in three-man fronts.
Jashon Cornell: 36
DaVon Hamilton: 28
Robert Landers: 23
Antwuan Jackson: 22
Tommy Togiai: 8
Jerron Cage: Special teams only
With Haskell Garrett sidelined by a foot injury, Cornell played his highest snap count of the season to date on Saturday as the starting 3-technique tackle, while Jackson also saw substantial playing time with the first-team defense for the first time in his Ohio State career as Cornell’s backup.
The Buckeyes continued to use their three-man rotation at nose tackle, though they relied more heavily on their fifth-year seniors than in any previous game this season. Hamilton and Landers both played their second-highest snap counts of the year, with Landers also serving as the nose tackle when the Buckeyes utilized three-man fronts in pass-rushing situations, while Togiai tied his season-low by playing only eight snaps.
Malik Harrison: 64
Pete Werner: 56
Baron Browning: 36
Tuf Borland: 28
Justin Hilliard: 9
Dallas Gant: Special teams only
Cade Kacherski: Special teams only
Teradja Mitchell: Special teams only
K'Vaughan Pope: Special teams only
Jahsen Wint: Special teams only
Craig Young: Special teams only
Harrison played every defensive snap for the first time all year in Saturday’s game and hit a season-high 64 snaps as a result. Werner, who spent most of the game shadowing Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in coverage, played every snap in three-linebacker formations, coming out of the game only when the Buckeyes had just two linebackers on the field.
Borland started Saturday’s game at middle linebacker as he has all season, but rotated with Browning, who played his highest snap count in five games after missing time with an injury. In addition to substituting in at middle linebacker in the base defense, Browning was on the field every time the Buckeyes used one of their passing-down subpackages in Saturday’s game, which included both a 3-3-5 look with Harrison and Browning as outside linebackers and Werner in the middle, and a 4-2-5 formation with Harrison and Browning as the only linebackers.
Hilliard saw playing time as an outside linebacker for nine snaps on which the Buckeyes put four linebackers on the field, and he took advantage, recording two tackles as well as his first career interception.
Damon Arnette: 64
Jeff Okudah: 64
Shaun Wade: 54
Cameron Brown: 9
Sevyn Banks: 4
Amir Riep: 1
Marcus Williamson: Special teams only
Arnette, who sat out the Buckeyes’ previous game against Rutgers due to a lingering wrist injury, and Okudah both played every snap of Saturday’s game as Ohio State’s two primary cornerbacks and hit their season-highs for snaps played as a result.
Wade played all but 10 snaps of Saturday’s game at slot cornerback, excluding the nine plays on which Hilliard substituted in as a fourth linebacker and one play on which Riep substituted in at slot corner.
A new wrinkle for the Penn State game came in the form of a four-cornerback package, with either Banks or Brown coming onto the field in those situations. Ohio State called upon Banks the first four times it deployed that package in Saturday’s game, but Brown replaced him in that role for the remainder of the contest.
Jordan Fuller: 64
Marcus Hooker: Special teams only
Fuller played every defensive snap at the deep safety spot for the first time all year against Penn State. Josh Proctor, who typically serves as Fuller’s backup, was unavailable to play against the Nittany Lions due to an undisclosed injury.
Blake Haubeil (kicker)
Drue Chrisman (holder)
Liam McCullough (long snapper)
Luke Farrell (wing)
Harry Miller (rocker)
Wyatt Davis (tackle)
Josh Myers (guard)
Jerron Cage (guard)
Dawand Jones (tackle)
Kevin Woidke (rocker)
Jeremy Ruckert (wing)
With Gavin Cupp sidelined by a foot injury, Myers returned to the place-kicking unit – which was only called upon for extra point attempts against Penn State – for the biggest game of the season to date. The rest of the unit remained unchanged from the Buckeyes’ previous game against Rutgers.
Blake Haubeil (kicker)
Dallas Gant (gunner)
K’Vaughan Pope (gunner)
Justin Hilliard (gunner)
Jahsen Wint (gunner)
Craig Young (gunner)
Jameson Willliams (gunner)
Cade Kacherski (gunner)
Marcus Hooker (gunner)
Sevyn Banks or Cameron Brown (gunner)
Amir Riep or Chris Olave (gunner)
Kacherski, a second-year walk-on linebacker, made his debut as a member of the starting kickoff team against Penn State after recording a tackle in kickoff coverage in the Buckeyes’ previous game against Maryland. The rest of the players who lined on the kickoff unit Saturday all returned from previous games this season.
Demario McCall (returner)
Xavier Johnson (blocker)
K.J. Hill (blocker)
Mitch Rossi (blocker)
Jake Hausmann (blocker)
Jeremy Ruckert (blocker)
Dallas Gant (blocker)
Binjimen Victor (blocker)
Jaylen Harris (blocker)
Jahsen Wint (blocker)
Marcus Hooker (blocker)
McCall saw his only playing time against Penn State on the kickoff return team, though he did not actually return any kicks. Every member of the kickoff return unit returned from previous games this season.
Drue Chrisman (punter)
Liam McCullough (long snapper)
Jake Hausmann (upback)
Tuf Borland (upback)
Justin Hilliard (tackle)
Malik Harrison (guard)
Dallas Gant (guard)
Jordan Fuller (tackle)
Luke Farrell (wing)
Cameron Brown (gunner)
Chris Olave (gunner)
Ohio State did not make any changes to its punting unit between the Rutgers and Penn State games.
Garrett Wilson (returner)
Cameron Brown (rusher/blocker)
Marcus Hooker (rusher/blocker)
Jahsen Wint (rusher/blocker)
Justin Hilliard (rusher/blocker)
Rashod Berry (rusher/blocker)
Teradja Mitchell (rusher/blocker)
Sevyn Banks or Xavier Johnson (rusher/blocker)
Amir Riep (rusher/blocker)
Shaun Wade or Marcus Williamson (rusher/blocker)
Chris Olave (rusher/blocker)
Wilson served as Ohio State’s primary punt returner for the third game in a row and was the only Buckeye to field a punt in Saturday’s game, marking the second time in three games that he has been the only punt returner.
Berry and Mitchell were added to the punt block unit to serve as interior rushers, while Olave also returned to the unit against Penn State.
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