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Upon Further Review: Second Half Lifts the Buckeyes Over Tulsa
By Patrick Murphy

COLUMBUS – It wasn’t pretty, but it was a 45-point win for the Buckeyes. The game was really broken up into two unequal parts: the first 25 minutes of the game and the rest of it.

Partway through that second quarter, Ohio State began to make changes that became apparent in the second half. For simplicity's sake, we’re first going to break it up into halves before giving some observations we noticed upon further review.

First half

There’s no question that the Buckeyes struggled early. Offensively, the game plan from the beginning was to run the ball with storms expected. On 13 offensive plays in the first quarter, OSU ran seven times. In the second quarter, the breakdown was 13 run plays to eight pass plays.

Early on the plays were fairly predictable with the Tulsa defense able to key on what the Scarlet and Gray were going to do. As the second quarter got going, Curtis Samuel began to lineup in the backfield more often and that gave the offense a bit more diversity.

Defensively, it was about the interior of the line. Redshirt junior nose tackle Michael Hill was continuously getting pushed back from the line of scrimmage, while redshirt freshman Dre’Mont Jones got pressure but often overpursued. Robert Landers checked into the game in the second quarter and quickly got a tackle for a loss, then another.

The coaching staff also started to bring Chris Worley on blitzes on third down, especially third and longer than five yards, midway through the second quarter which caused issues for the Golden Hurricane offense.

Second half

Urban Meyer said after the game that the Buckeyes changed some of what they were doing offensively and that’s apparent on the second look. The formations were off balance and complex, making it harder for the Tulsa defense to get a pre-snap read. This allowed for the run game to open up for 179 second half rushing yards.

Defensively the Scarlet and Gray were more sound as well. The adjustments made along the D-line kept the running game in check and there was more pressure on quarterback Dane Evans when he threw. This led to just 64 yards of total offense in the final two quarters, a much better performance from the Silver Bullets.

Sam Hubbard sack

This play won’t go on Sam Hubbard’s highlight reel or be remembered at the end of the season, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. First, it set a tone for this game that the Buckeyes would get pressure on Dane Evans. Second, it was Hubbard’s first sack of the season, which got that monkey off his back.

How it happened was also indicative of what Ohio State wants to do when the opponent is in third and long. The Buckeyes are in the rushmen package with three defensive ends on the line. Jalyn Holmes is lined up at defensive tackle. Holmes eats up two blockers on his rush and Hubbard goes inside, attacking the space and getting to Evans.

This may not always result in a sack, and teams will be aware of these players’ movements, but it should cause disruption at the least. Also, Holmes fights through his two blockers and gets more than a hand on Evans, which is impressive.


J.T. Barrett fumble

I originally thought this was on Mike Weber for not getting a good grip on the ball after the exchange, but a second look shows that Barrett clearly tried to pull it back late.

Watching other read-option teams around the country, this is something that can work, but both players must know when the ball is clearly the running back’s. On this play, Weber starts to make a move up field while Barrett’s hands are still in his gut and he’s making a read.

Without being at practice, it’s tough to know how quickly the OSU staff wants Barrett to make the decision, but this is certainly something the Buckeyes will want to clean up and get clarified.

Fourth and goal stop

This is another play that likely won’t be thought of often when the season is said and done, except by maybe Joe Burger. The fifth-year senior linebacker who walked on to Ohio State and earned a scholarship this year is the player who meets running back James Flanders at the point of attack and denies an early touchdown.

Once Burger slows him down, Malik Hooker, Raekwon McMillan and Gareon Conley all help push Flanders back. If Burger doesn’t get there, Flanders is likely able to push and lean into the end zone. Six points and a lead there could have been a confidence booster to get things going for the Golden Hurricane.

Malik Hooker’s interception

For the second week in a row, Hooker made another great play for an interception, but this one came from paying attention to Tulsa’s success through the first quarter and a half.

Dane Evans did well on the quick slant pass where the receiver would get inside the OSU cornerback and make the grab to pick up a chunk of yards. This time, the Silver Bullets covered the play well, delaying Evans’ throw. Hooker once again reads the quarterback’s eyes and comes from across the field to jump in front of the route and make the grab.

Hooker is certainly an athletic freak, but his football I.Q. has earned him three picks already this season, tied with two other players for the best in FBS.

Quick hits

  • Ohio State seems to have a lot more success running to the right side of Pat Elflein. This is likely due to the more experienced Billy Price at right guard, but it is something to note.
  • Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber are living up to Ezekiel Elliott as a blockers coming out of the backfield. That’s good to see for Buckeye fans. While not a running back, Marcus Baugh does a nice job blocking too.
  • The Buckeye defense was fortunate again as Tulsa wide receivers dropped a lot of passes.
  • Despite the wind, Tyler Durbin was very good on kickoffs. He also made his first two career field goals.
  • The pace of play was a factor for the OSU defense in the first half. It didn’t cause as much of an issue later, but it is something to note going forward.
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