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Ohio State offense struggles, but defense holds strong in 38-0 win over Hawaii

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Despite a rough offensive day that saw both redshirt junior Cardale Jones and redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett get an extended look at quarterback, the Ohio State defense shut out Hawaii to grab a home-opener 38-0 victory.

Jones — who started for the second straight game to start the year — completed 12 of 18 passes for 111 yards. In the second quarter, he was yanked for Barrett, who started 12 games last season, but the Wichita Falls, Texas, native fared worse, going 8-of-15 for 70 yards.

After the game, OSU coach Urban Meyer said much of the struggles from the quarterbacks came from poor blocking.

“I wanted to throw them both,” Meyer said. “J.T. had 15 opportunities to throw the ball. Cardale, 18. That doesn’t include the pressures and the scrambles. Because we did not protect very well today. We have to get that fixed.”

It was a sloppy afternoon offensively for both the Buckeyes (2-0) and Rainbow Warriors (1-1) in front of the crowd of 107,145, with OSU outgaining Hawaii 356-165 but struggling to gain any rhythm offensively throughout the contest.

One possible factor for the poorer play than Meyer expects from his team was the fact that the Buckeyes had just played five days prior, on Monday in Blacksburg, Virginia. Despite the short rest, Meyer refused to use that as an excuse.

“I think that’s a very solid excuse, one that’s not allowed. I made that clear down there,” Meyer said. “I mean, that’s good, that’s good to bring that up and say that’s the reason we didn’t play necessarily well on the offensive line.

“You’ll never hear that. If I do, then that coach has got a problem and that player has got a problem. That’s not execution. That takes away from (Hawaii).”

Jones followed his coach’s lead by not using the quick turnaround as an excuse, instead offering a much simpler explanation for the offensive struggles.

“All credit goes to Hawaii,” Jones said. “They played a tough game. They played hard and they did things we didn’t prepare for.”

After two scoreless drives by Hawaii and one by the Buckeyes to start the game, OSU brought the ball 77 yards on 11 plays to get on the scoreboard first. The drive, which included four runs by redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller playing under center, culminated with junior running back Ezekiel Elliott getting in from one yard out for his second score of the season.

The defensive struggle continued on each team’s next drive, with both punting. The Buckeyes’ drive ended with Jones fumbling a third-down snap for the second time in their first three series.

Each team again was forced to punt on their next drives, bringing the total through eight overall drives to just one score, with six punts and a turnover on downs.

The following drive did not end with a punt by the Rainbow Warriors, but it wasn’t a positive results for the visitors either as cornerback Gareon Conley picked off a third-down pass from Hawaii redshirt senior Max Wittek to give OSU the ball in Hawaii territory.

After the game, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell praised the performance of the sophomore whose interception was the first of his career.

“No balls were completed on him,” Fickell said. “We ask our guys to do a lot out there. … He’s doing it all.”

At that point following the interception, Meyer made the change, pulling Jones in favor of Barrett.

Though the Buckeyes only had to go 35 yards for the score, Meyer’s decision immediately paid dividends as the Buckeyes used a nine-play drive to go up by two scores.

Barrett completed two of three passes on his first drive, and Miller contributed a run and catch for 19 yards. Elliott scored his second touchdown of the day on a third-down run from the 3-yard line.

Hawaii completed its first non-penalty first down of the second quarter on the following drive, but on the very next play a tipped pass found the hands of OSU junior safety Vonn Bell for the Buckeyes’ second straight interception.

Barrett struggled on OSU’s final two drives before the end of the half, though, missing on three straight passes after a pair of first-down strikes to end the first one and then missing on three of four on the final one.

In the first half, the Buckeyes outgained the Rainbow Warriors 232-89. However, the home team was hindered by seven first-half penalties for 55 yards.

Jones went 6-of-9 for 89 yards in the half, while Barrett slumped to a 5-of-12 mark for 41 yards.

Jones’ stronger first half was enough to convince Meyer to swap quarterbacks at the break as Jones jogged onto the field for the second half’s opening drive.

Unlike the first quarterback swap, Jones’ re-entry did not show immediate results, as the Buckeyes went three-and-out on their first two drives of the half with OSU picking up just four yards on the two series.

On the first play of Hawaii’s next drive, redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee took the offensive struggles into his own hands, jarring a fumble loose from Wittek which was recovered by Conley at the 6-yard line.

After a fumbled snap on first down — Jones’ third mishandled snap of the game — and a pair of unsuccessful bids for Elliott’s third touchdown, redshirt senior Jack Willoughby connected on his first field goal with the Scarlet and Gray to make it 17-0.

Willoughby, a transfer from Duke who earned the field goal duties over sophomore Sean Nuernberger for the second consecutive game, is now 1-of-2 on field goal tries. A first-quarter attempt from 45 yards was mishandled by the holder, junior punter Cameron Johnston, who shoveled it forward for an incompletion.

After preventing a 13-play Hawaii drive from resulting in a score, the Buckeyes began a long drive of their own, going 91 yards on 17 plays, culminating in Elliott punching in his third score of the game.

Elliott did not have his strongest game despite the two touchdowns, carrying the ball 27 times for 101 yards, an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Additionally, 16 of the St. Louis native’s yards came on his first three carries of the game.

On Hawaii’s following drive, sophomore defensive end Jalyn Holmes knocked the ball loose from Wittek. Bell then scooped the ball up after Lee knocked it forward and ran it in 14 yards for the score.

With the game safely out of reach with a 31-point lead, Meyer called for Barrett to re-enter the game. The redshirt sophomore showed better results than in the first half, completing all four passes on the drive for 40 yards. The finishing touches on the victory came when redshirt junior running back Bri’onte Dunn ran the ball in five yards for the score.

The game was the first in OSU’s last 24 contests — going back to Oct. 5, 2013 at Northwestern — in which it did not complete a passing touchdown.

The Buckeyes are set to continue their three-game homestand by hosting Northern Illinois on Sept. 19. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.

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