On college football’s kickoff Saturday there were a lot of questions and concerns surrounding the Ohio State football team. The Buckeye’s looked to answer those questions against Lane Kiffin and the Florida Atlantic Owls. Ohio State vs FAU was what you would expect, in that it was one-sided. Justin Fields impressed in his first career start, Ryan Day coached a game with much bigger implications for him than his short stint last season, and the new-look defense saw the field for the first time. Here’s what we learned from the Buckeye’s 45-21 win.
Ohio State vs FAU: Game Analysis
Fields was impressive going 18/25 passing for 234 and 4 touchdowns. He ran the ball 12 times for 61 yards and another score. The first nine minutes of the game were Heisman worthy. On the fourth play Fields showed how explosive he can be taking off for a 51-yard touchdown run. Two plays later he completed a 25-yard pass to a wide-open Jeremy Ruckert for his first passing touchdown as a Buckeye. Three plays later he hit Binjimen Victor for a 32-yard touchdown. The next drive continued the onslaught of offense. It took four plays and ended with Fields throwing another touchdown; this time a 29-yard strike to Chris Olave. For the first nine minutes of the season, Fields was averaging a touchdown every 3.25 plays. Fields play was strong for the rest of the game but for the most part, the offense sputtered.
After the first four drives, the play calling became more conservative, and drives were stalled by mistakes. Excluding the kneel down at the end of the first half, the next six possession were punt, punt, fumble, punt, fumble, punt. First game rust or growing pains can be attributed to most of the mistakes made.
Play calling looked much different than it did a year ago with Dwayne Haskins at the helm. The running backs got the bulk of the load, carrying the ball a total of 35 times. J.K. Dobbins ran 21 times for 91 yards and a touchdown. The next highest workload was Master Teague III carrying just 8 times for 49 yards. Teague looked every bit the role of back-up to Dobbins. Freshmen RB Marcus Crowley and Junior Demario McCall also got carries. Crowley looked very good, expect him to get more workload and the season goes on.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to come from the offense was the involvement of a tight end in the passing game. Jeremy Ruckert hauled in 4 catches for 38 yards and 2 touchdowns. Last season Ohio State tight ends accounted for 296 of the Buckeye’s 5,100 receiving yards and just 3 touchdowns. Ruckert looks to be on his way to a standout sophomore season in Columbus especially if Day continues to use three tight end sets like we saw against FAU.
The other surprise was Justin Fields lining up under center, something you don’t see often in today’s college football. In his post-game press conference Day said “It’s important to be able to line up under center, run the football, play-action pass, do some things, and then also run spread and tempo. I think when you can mix those two things, and you are good at both of those things — it’s not easy to do — but I think our quarterbacks can do that. Justin (Fields) can do that.”
Overwhelming is a good way to describe it. The new-look defense of Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley was very aggressive and dominant up front. The Buckeye’s allowed just 22 yards rushing, had 4 sacks, and 12 tackles for loss. A sight for sore eyes for fans. The linebackers, a question coming into the season were all over the field filling holes and doing a fine job in coverage. The defense’s day had an exclamation point put on it when Malik Harrison came unblocked and destroyed the Florida Atlantic running back.
Malik Harrison for Ohio State is gooooood!!! That’s how you tackle!!!! pic.twitter.com/dX4glMXq2Y
— JaiHawkFLY (@JaiHawkFly) August 31, 2019
Justin Fields can win the Heisman. It is a long season and this was against Florida Atlantic but Fields showed he is capable of all the flashy plays that Heisman voters love and the numbers should be there at seasons end. The verdict is still out on the defense. Yes, The defense was excellent but that’s how they should be against Florida Atlantic. We will learn a lot more next Saturday when former Buckeye Interim Head Coach Luke Fickell brings his Cincinnati Bearcats to Ohio Stadium.