The Ohio State offense had not performed up to its expectations in its first two home games. In each contest, the defense dominated while the offense did just enough to preserve victory.
But after the performance against Western Michigan on Saturday, it appears the offense is beginning to get its wheels in motion after the sluggish start.
“I think we started to see some things come together today that were exciting,” co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said following OSU’s 38-12 win.
The excitement Warinner mentioned was seen from the offense’s first time out onto the turf. It took the Buckeyes just three plays and 49 seconds to travel 65 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott was able to get to the edge and pick up 26 yards on the drive’s second play, which set up redshirt junior Cardale Jones’ connection with redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Thomas for a 38-yard score.
It was a much different opening drive than the last two weeks.
Last week against Northern Illinois, Jones threw an interception, while a botched snap on the punt resulted in a turnover on downs the game prior versus Hawaii.
“I felt like that was a great spark,” Thomas said of the first series.
The opening drive alone featured two plays over 20 yards, which is the same amount the OSU offense had in the entire two previous games.
Big plays — which coach Urban Meyer said were an emphasis for the team during his Monday press conference — ended up being a key part of the game, whether it be those OSU connected on or the numerous ones that were left unfulfilled.
The Buckeyes finished with six plays of over 20 yards, but that number had the potential to be much higher had it not been for underthrown passes by Jones, which Meyer called “alarming.”
Jones finished with a career-high 288 yards, two touchdowns and one interception — which came on an underthrown pass to redshirt sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall in the end zone.
The Cleveland native said he was pleased with his performance — which Meyer called just “OK” — but knowing the amount of big plays that could have been bothered Jones.
“Oh my god,” he said when asked about throws he left short. “We could have put up a couple more touchdowns, but just the simple fact that it was my fault for the underthrown ball.”
To eradicate the missed long throws, both Thomas and Jones said it comes down to trust.
Thomas said the quarterback needs to trust the receiving corps to track the ball down. But after showing they have the ability to get beyond the defense, he thinks Jones will now just “put it out there” for the receivers to go get.
However, when Jones did trust the receivers, the results were there.
Jones found Marshall deep early in the second quarter for a 37-yard touchdown to make the game 14-0.
Later in the period, he completed a 40-yarder to sophomore H-back Curtis Samuel — who also had another big play on a dazzling 40-yard touchdown run in the second half that displayed his versatility.
Despite the missed opportunities, the offense’s 511-yard performance could stand as a momentum builder for the Buckeyes.
“The offense did make strides today. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times with some penalties, but we did make strides,” Elliott said. “We got some momentum and you kind of got a sneak peek of what the Buckeye offense could look like when we’re going.”
The next glimpse at the OSU offense is set to be on Oct. 3 against undefeated Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.