Before Ohio State’s 38-12 victory over Western Michigan, The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz dished out their five things to watch for on Saturday. Here are how those five items of interest played out from Ohio Stadium.
The discombobulated offense’s turnover problems
For almost three full quarters, the Buckeye offense was turnover-free.
OSU committed five turnovers against Northern Illinois last week — three interceptions and two lost fumbles — but kept the ball to itself against WMU despite a couple of close calls on deep balls.
Late in the third quarter, redshirt junior Cardale Jones looked for redshirt sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall in the end zone, but WMU sophomore cornerback Darius Phillips got in front and picked it off.
The interception was the fourth of the year in four games, twice as many as he threw in his three postseason starts last year.
Late in the contest, after Jones’ day was done due to the insurmountable score, backup quarterback J.T. Barrett also threw one, bringing OSU’s season total of interceptions to six and total turnover count to 10.
But unlike last week, the two turnovers did not amount to be costly.
Will Elliott’s explosiveness reappear?
Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott, who OSU coach Urban Meyer called after the game the “most consistent offensive player” on the team, stayed steady as ever on Saturday.
Elliott carried the ball 16 times for 124 yards and a score, extending his streak of games with over 100 yards on the ground to nine games.
What Elliott has in consistency this year, though, he has lacked in explosiveness, as his longest run following his first rush of the season — which was an 80-yard score — was just 13 yards.
The St. Louis native looked much more explosiveness against the WMU defense on Saturday, getting an average of 7.8 yards per carry. Elliott had six runs of double-digit yardage on Saturday, including a 26-yard sprint on his first run of the game.
He also caught three passes for 29 yards, had a six-yard rushing touchdown and hurdled two defenders.
All in all, a much more explosive game for the Heisman hopeful.
Who will Jones be able to throw the ball to?
After concerns going into the game about the number of receiving weapons Jones had, especially when it comes to true wide receivers, the quarterback came out with good news and bad news.
The good news is Jones found a plethora of targets on Saturday as eight different players caught his 19 complete passes, including six players with multiple catches.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas, Jones’ clear No. 1 option, led the way with six catches for 80 yards and a score.
However, the bad news is still a lack of production from the non-Thomas wideouts.
Redshirt senior Corey Smith had his best game of the season, catching two passes for 25 yards to bring his receptions for the season to four.
Beyond Smith, however, redshirt freshman Johnnie Dixon’s one reception is the only time a player listed as a wide receiver not named Thomas or Smith pulled in a catch all year.
As such, Meyer had to get creative with his personnel, such as Marshall being used downfield throughout the game. Most of the attempts to him fell incomplete, but Jones did hook up with Marshall for a 37-yard score early in the second quarter.
“Corey Smith had a good day. Jalin Marshall had a good day. Those are kind of over-the-top guys,” Meyer said.
Can Braxton find his early effectiveness?
After making his presence felt as a non-quarterback offensive weapon in OSU’s opener at Virginia Tech with 140 total rushing and receiving yards, redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller’s effectiveness for the OSU offense continued to dwindle on Saturday.
Miller had four carries on Saturday, amassing just 11 yards. On one of his direct snaps, he lost control of the ball for no apparent reason and had to hit the deck to recover his own fumble.
The Huber Heights, Ohio, native did add two catches for 27 yards, but it is clear that, for the time being, he is not being considered one of the two or three main focal points of the offense like it seemed he would early on.
After the game, Meyer said he sees Miller’s effectiveness not quite being there, but he believes he will settle in as the season goes on.
“We’re flipping him the ball, lining him up with the quarterback, and we’re just not having the big hits right now, and we will,” Meyer said.
Who wants the sack lead?
Coming into Saturday’s contest, three OSU players were tied for the team lead in sacks.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee, redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Hubbard and redshirt sophomore defensive end Tyquan Lewis each had 2.5 sacks in the first three games.
None of the three were credited with bringing down the quarterback on Saturday, but senior linebacker Joshua Perry got his name just half a sack away from a four-way tie with a seven-yard hit late in the first half.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan was credited with the Buckeyes’ other sack on Saturday, his first of the year.
McMillan’s sack made him the 10th Buckeye to be credited with at least a partial sack this season.
Junior defensive end Joey Bosa, who had 13.5 sacks a season ago, still only has half a sack in 2015 as he deals with constant double or triple teams.