One of the things we’re learning about the Ohio State Buckeyes’ offense in these first three weeks of the college football season is that it is giving opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.
The No. 3 Buckeyes have a least four guys that can beat opponents at any time. Defenders never know where the ball is going or who will touch the ball.
In Ohio State’s 45-24 win over the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners, the Buckeyes’ weapon of
Saturday night was the passing combination of quarterback J.T. Barrett and wide receiver Noah Brown. The two connected four times in the red zone and came away with four touchdowns.
Coming into the game, Brown caught just four passes for 72 yards in the 2016 season. He became Barrett’s favorite receiver in this game, exceeding his total number of receptions (5) and matching the 72 yards he brought into Norman.
Barrett simply had to put the ball up in the air and let the 6-2 Brown go up and get it. No Oklahoma corner could defend him. This was never more apparent than on the night’s most unforgettable play.
Near the end of the first half, on a corner route in the end zone, Brown pinned the ball on the back of an Oklahoma defensive back — it’s known in shorthand as “a Prothro” — for a 21-yard touchdown pass that gave the Buckeyes an insurmountable 35-17 lead at halftime.
It was the kind of catch that deserves to be nominated for an ESPY as the Play of the Year. Head coach Urban Meyer now has a go-to receiver who can make plays once the offense penetrates the red zone.
Of course, Ohio State has other guys that can beat opponents both on the ground and in the air. H-back Curtis Samuels might be Meyer’s OSU version of Percy Harvin during his days coaching at Florida. Whether he gets the ball as a receiver or a running back, Samuels can take it to the house.
Against Oklahoma, Samuels touched the ball 13 times for 118 yards, 98 of which came as a running back. He scored the game’s first touchdown on a 36-yard run on an end-around. He outran every Oklahoma defender trying to stop him out on the edge.
Ohio State likes using Samuels in a manner similar to how former Notre Dame star Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail was deployed when Lou Holtz, a mentor of Meyer, was the head coach.
If Ohio State gets Samuels in space, it’s going to be a footrace that the defense is not going to win most of the time. He can beat opposing defenders on deep passing routes and can run the ball up the middle as a running back. He is the true X-factor in the Ohio State offense.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber will at some point this season break off a long run for a touchdown. You can see his explosiveness and power when the touches the football.
Against the Sooners, Weber gained 123 yards rushing on 18 carries. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Weber delivered his longest run of the season on a 35-yard scamper through the Oklahoma defense.
So far this season, Weber has gained over 100 yards in two of his first three games as the Buckeyes’ starting running back. Last season, he was Ezekiel Elliott’s roommate during fall training camp and during their trip to the Fiesta Bowl last season. He said he learned a lot from his old roomie, and it showed on the field in Norman against the Sooners.
Barrett (remember him?) had another solid night of moving the Ohio State offense and making others around him better. He completed 14-of-20 passes for 152 yards with four touchdowns and 74 yards on the ground with 17 carries.
Barrett doesn’t have the numbers of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson or Stanford’s Christian McCaffery in the Heisman race, but he’s in the conversation.
Ohio State’s in the conversation as one of the best teams in America. Urban Meyer won another road game, and the Buckeyes’ offensive struggles last season are a distant memory.