Before Ohio State’s 49-28 victory over Maryland, The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz gave the five things they would be looking for on Saturday. Here is what came of those five items.
Can OSU convert on third down?
Coming into Saturday, OSU had successfully converted just 23 of 66 third-down attempts — a mark that ranked 103rd nationally.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said during the week that the Buckeyes would have to improve their third-down opportunities in order to run a more efficient offense — and they did just that against Maryland.
The combination of redshirt junior Cardale Jones and redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett at quarterback combined to convert five of 11 third downs, plus a fourth down.
Early in the game, OSU was tested with a 3rd-and-16 after Barrett came in for Jones near the red zone. Barrett threw his first pass attempt of the game with a strike to redshirt junior receiver Michael Thomas for 20 yards and a first down.
That conversion ended up leading to a touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7, and is even bigger when considering that redshirt senior kicker Jack Willoughby has missed all three of his kicks from more than 31 yards away, including a wide-left 44-yarder on Saturday.
Getting flagged for mistakes due to both over-aggressiveness and lack of discipline was another item Meyer said concerned the coaching staff on both offense and defense.
While an improvement over the eight penalties for 109 yards the week before against Indiana, the coach likely still wasn’t pleased with the performance in avoiding the laundry.
The Buckeyes were flagged six times for a total of 45 yards on Saturday, including four by the offensive line.
Redshirt senior Chase Farris, redshirt sophomore Billy Price and redshirt sophomore Evan Lisle were whistled for false starts. Additionally, senior center Jacoby Boren was called for a hold, which negated a positive run and led to Willoughby eventually missing the field goal.
The other two penalties came on the defensive side of the ball, namely by junior defensive end Joey Bosa. First came an offsides penalty on Maryland’s first drive, then a nearly critical one on the first drive of the second half.
Bosa flew in with a late two-handed shove to the helmet of Maryland redshirt junior quarterback Perry Hills, immediately drawing a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer. That wasn’t all, however, as Bosa was also tabbed with targeting, meaning a possible ejection from the remainder of the contest.
An automatic review of the targeting call led the referees to overturn it, allowing Bosa to stay in the game. The Terrapins ended up finding the end zone and tying the game at 21.
Will Curtis Samuel factor in more?
After having only one touch against Indiana, sophomore H-back Curtis Samuel equaled that low number on Saturday.
Meyer said after the Indiana game that Samuel was limited in practice leading up to the game because of back spasms. It remains unclear if that ailment resurfaced or if he was just unable to generate any offense.
A carry for one yard on OSU’s second possession marked the extent of Samuel’s offensive day.
With just two runs for five yards making up the last two games for the Brooklyn, New York, product, it is possible that he is simply falling out of the offensive picture for the time being.
Against Indiana, the Buckeyes did not score a touchdown in any of their three trips to the red zone. They came away with two field goals and a turnover, dropping their scoring rate to just 75 percent overall and 37.5 percent of trips resulting in touchdowns.
That negative statistic turned completely on its head Saturday.
The Buckeyes went to the red zone six times, and came away with 42 of its 49 points by scoring touchdowns every time.
A big reason for that success was the implementation of a quarterback system that saw Barrett check in for Jones when OSU got near or in the red zone. Of the Buckeyes’ six red-zone scores, five came with Barrett at the helm — three rushing touchdowns by Barrett and two by junior running back Ezekiel Elliott.
In the postgame press conference, Meyer was asked about the team going six for six in the red zone. Meyer asked for the question to be repeated, only to quip, “I heard you the first time. I just wanted you to say it again.”
It truly was music to the coach’s ears, and should be an enormous difference-maker for the offense if it keeps up at anywhere near that success rate.
Though OSU and Maryland came in as two of the worst teams in the country in terms of coughing up turnovers, each kept it mostly clean on Saturday.
Maryland — which came into the game with 17 turnovers including 15 interceptions, both the worst in the nation — did not allow any turnovers until toward the end of the game.
At that point with the game already out of reach, the wheels came off, as Hills was intercepted on consecutive possessions.
Redshirt junior safety Tyvis Powell grabbed the first on an errant throw right into his lap for his second interception of the year and seventh of his career. Four plays into the Terrapins’ next possession, redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Hubbard dropped into coverage and snagged his first collegiate interception.
To the Buckeyes’ credit, they did not allow a single turnover after coming into the game with 13, the ninth-most through five weeks.
The only major mistake came late in the game, when a shotgun snap flew over Barrett’s head and traveled 25 yards downfield back into OSU territory. Barrett fell on the ball to avoid a turnover, but it took the Buckeyes out of field-goal range. Had the scoreboard not read 49-28, it could have stood as a costly error.
Regardless, Saturday’s contest was a big step for multiple facets of the heavily scrutinized OSU offense.