The Luke Fickell era began in earnest today at Ohio Stadium as the Buckeyes defeated the Akron Zips to the tune of 42-0.
Many phases of this Ohio State team seemed to work like a well oiled machine, including the offense, which is a welcome change from the Tressel era. Joe Bauserman put a clear mark on the starting quarterback job with a 12-16, 163 yard and 3 touchdown passing day, and 6 carries for 32 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground. All three of those touchdowns were to tight end Jake Stoneburner, who ended with 4 receptions for 50 yards and 3 touchdowns. His day makes him the first tight end in Ohio State history to catch three touchdowns in a single game.
Hyde started the game for the Buckeyes at running back, despite Jamaal Berry having dressed and warmed up before the game. Berry’s Hamstring was a concern coming into the game, and it was a sign of the worry regarding Jordan Hall’s suspension that he even dressed at all.
Not surprisingly, the Bucks also started with Joe Bauserman at Quarterback, which quickly turned out to be a fantastic decision. Bauserman confidently and intelligently drove the Buckeye’s down the field in 8 plays to score the first touchdown of the season – a 15 yard scramble by Bauserman himself that looked more awkward than graceful.
Obviously, you take it any way you can get it, and it’s not like the Akron defense was capable of stopping it despite having at least 5 guys in a position to make a play.
Akron’s offense found little success against the silver bullets on their first few drives. They succeeded in gaining only 17 yards and a single first down. Surprisingly, all of the Zips positive yardage came on the ground against the OSU front four. While they averaged a mere 3.6 yards per carry, it was still a little worrisome to see Akron have that kind of success.
Rod Smith, Ohio State’s electric Reshirt Freshman managed to see playing time on the second Buckeye drive. He showed some solid burst through the line and did a great job of following his blockers early on despite his youth. The Buckeyes spent the majority of the drive handing to Smith out of the I-form. Unfortunately, Rod Smith fumbled the ball near the goal line resulting in a turnover, though that turnover resulted in nothing for Akron’s struggling offense.
With the start of the second quarter Braxton Miller found his way into the lineup. Perhaps surprisingly, his first drive ended surprisingly poorly. Normally solid Mike Brewster delivered a poor snap on third down, after Reid Fragel failed to haul in Braxton’s first pass. Miller was forced to cover up the ball on the turf for a 4 yard loss, forcing the Buckeyes to punt.
On the ensuing Buckeye possession, Fickell decided to return to Joe Bauserman instead of sticking with Miller. It’s uncertain if that had been the plan from the beginning, but the speculation is that each quarterback were supposed to be given a similar number of drives to see what they could do. To see Miller not be returned to the game after a rough first drive is very disappointing. That said, Bauserman was getting the job done as a leader and player on the field.
After several failed OSU drives, the Buckeyes finally punched it into the endzone again. After an avoidable (but understandable) block in the back on Andrew Norwell on a Chris Field end around, Bauserman managed to find a wide open Jake Stoneburner for the touchdown. The pass was perfectly placed, and slowly floated to give Stoneburner plenty of time to locate it and get position.
The Ohio State pass coverage this year is spectacular. Dominick Clarke, covering for the suspended Travis Howard, did a tremendous job in shutting down the Akron Passing game. Going into halftime, the Zips had only 5-13 passing for 49 total yards, though most of those yards came on a single 33 yard play.
The Bucks continued to take advantage of the Akron defense as they earned their first turnover of the season. Clayton Moore toss the ball to his left which was tipped by the coverage man. Andrew Sweat ran over and made a sweet mid-air grab before planting both of his feet in bounds for the interception.
The sudden boost of momentum helped the offense to surge as Carlos Hyde squeezed through a tight hole up the middle of the line and broke a 20 yard carry. That lead to Stoneburner’s second touchdown pass from Bauserman on a ten yard curl route near the right hash.
At the end of the half Akron finally managed to get their offense unfettered. A big 33 yard passing play allowed the Zips to finally operate in Buckeye territory. With 3 seconds left, the Zips had managed to sneak inside the OSU 25 and gave their new kicker, T.J. Marchese, a chance at the 41 yard field goal. Similar to Basil’s attempt earlier in the quarter, Marchese was unable to put the ball through the uprights.
The half closed with the Buckeyes posting a 21-0 shutout of the Akron Zips. The Bucks were leading in the major catagories including: yardage (265-100), 1st downs (15-4), and time of possession (17:52-12:08). Ohio State was particularly impressive in their offensive balance, netting 133 yards through the air on 10-15 passing, and 134 yards on the ground on 25 carries (5.3 yards per carry).
Joe Bauserman’s stats were quite impressive. 10-14 for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 5 carries for 29 yards and a touchdown in a half was more than sufficient to cause fans to forget the previous guy at quarterback. The disappointing stat, though, was Braxton Miller’s 0-1 passing and 1 carry for 2 yards. I’m sure many Buckeye fans expected more from Miller early in the game.
The Buckeyes came out of the half with extreme prejudice. Bauserman found Verlon Reed across the middle for a 28 yard reception after Philly Brown set the offense up at the 50 with an excellent opening kick return. After road-grading with Carlos Hyde for a few downs, Bauserman looked to his trustworthy option and hit Jake Stoneburner for their third touchdown linkup of the game. It is clear that Akron had absolutely no answer for Stoneburner today.
Braxton got his second chance of the game on the second drive of the third quarter. While this attempt at a drive turned out much better than his first, gaining a first down or two, he was still unable to lead the team all the way down the field. In fairness, however, the second string O-Line was blocking for him, which may have restricted his abiltity to move the offense down the field somewhat.
Daryl Baldwin finally notched the first OSU sack of the season. After Clayton Moore had managed to scramble 14 yards for a first down, the Silver Bullets took offense. Finally succeeding at establishing a pass rush, Daryl Baldwin used perfect technique to hit Moore in the backfield. That was quickly followed by another sack by Etinne Sabino, who was helped by JT Moore up the middle.
On his third drive, Miller finally looked to get comfortable with his role in the offense. He first hit Devon Smith with a nice 20-yard empty boot that showed off Miller’s excellent passing skills. On the subsequent play, Braxton was forced to demonstrate his escapability, finding another easy first down after evading the majority of the Akron defense and hurrying to the left sideline just past the marker.
But it was his first touchdown pass that was the most impressive. Devin Smith was streaking across the endzone with a defender hot on his tail. Braxton threaded the needle between two Zips sitting in zone coverage, and placed the ball just a hair behind where it needed it to be. Smith was easily able to haul it in for 6, not even leaving the defender a chance to make a play. It couldn’t have been drawn up more perfectly.
With the Buckeyes completely running away with the game, Fickell took the opportunity to get lots of young guys into the game. Michael Bennett, true freshman lineman, picked up a sack on Akron backup QB Patrick Nicely, while Brian Bobek saw time at center for Braxton Miller. Erik Kramer, walk-on offensive lineman, also managed to see some time on the field as well – on top of many others too numerous to name but no less important.
The scoring wasn’t over there either. After a sweet one handed grab near the sidelines by Evan Spencer, Rod Smith managed to score his first career touchdown up the middle from three yards out. The entire second half was a demonstration of the talent just waiting to explode on the field for the Buckeyes. Wide Receiver, Defensive Back and Defensive Line look the deepest right now, simply loaded with elite talent.
The Buckeyes ended 20-28 for 293 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air, and 48 carries, 215 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Akron was a much more pedestrian 7-19 for 55 yards and an interception, and 27 carries for 35 yards. All told, the Buckeyes outgained the Zips 514-90 in what can only be described as complete domination.
The Buckeyes will next face the Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, September 10th at Noon.