The Buckeyes faced off with the Toledo Rockets in Ohio Stadium on a day with drastically more beautiful weather than last week. Ohio State found themselves in a huge fight with Toledo that was tight until the end. The Buckeyes were finally able to secure the 27-22 victory when Toledo QB Terrance Owens threw an incomplete pass on fourth down in a desperate attempt to regain the lead. Joe Bauserman ended the game 16/30 for 189 yards and a touchdown, while Hyde rushed 20 times for 76 yards and 2 scores.
Of course, the unfortunate news coming into the game were the continued suspensions of Jordan Hall, Travis Howard, and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown. The NCAA official report stated that their penalties warrented a two game penalty at least, so it will remain a question if they will get a chance to travel to Coral Gables next week. It was also learned early that Nathan Williams was forced to sit for the game as well, though not due to NCAA violations. It is believed that Williams had a minor injury that the coaching staff prefered to rest.
However, the news coming into the game wasn’t all bad. Jamaal Berry, who was forced to sit against Akron due to a hamstring injury, was back to return the first kickoff of the game. His 30 yard return was a thing of beauty and demonstrated his claims during the week that the hamstring was one-hundred percent. With the continued uncertainty due to the NCAA investigations, having Berry back was very important for the runningback depth of the team.
The Buckeyes started their first drive with Joe Bauserman at the helm and Carlos Hyde behind him. OSU went with a nice balanced attack, but were completely unafraid to air it out early and often. Bauserman collected 50 yards (of the 67 needed for the score) through the air, including several perfectly placed passes. His first pass of the day, a 13 yarder to the right side for Verlon Reed, was placed exactly in front of Reed and directly in his hands. He displayed great consistancy later in the drive when he placed a 26 yard touchdown strike over the middle for Jake Stoneburner who hauled in the one-handed touchdown.
The Rockets started their day on offense with a no-huddle attack that had some issues early on. A false start penalty on their second play seemed like it was going to set the tone, but they simply didn’t let it. QB Austin Dantin found Eric Page on several nice short throws and allowed Page to make plays against an OSU defense that was clearly still working out how to attack this Toledo offense. The Rockets succeeded in getting down into field goal range but, after a nice pass breakup from Andrew Sweat on third down, the Rockets missed their field goal attempt.
Ohio State’s running game was having some difficulty gaining traction. All of the runs up the middle early on for Carlos Hyde netted very little against Toledo’s front four. After a Bauserman run up the middle on 3rd and 10 for only 8, the Buckeyes were forced to punt. Surprisingly, Toledo succeeded in blocking the kick, which they were able to take to the 1 yard line. Eric Page scored the resulting touchdown for the Rockets and took a direct snap on the two point conversion try. For the first time ever in the history of college football the Toledo Rockets led the Ohio State Buckeyes. That alone gave them plenty of confidence early in the game and allowed them to really believe that they could hang with the Bucks.
Toledo was nice enough to give Ohio State all the help they could on the subsequent possession. Two severe 15 yard penalties maintained the OSU drive, including an away-from-the-ball facemask penalty on a third down 11 yard sack that had the Buckeyes completely demoralized. The drive ended with a Drew Basil miss, his third of the season, shanking the 47 yard kick very wide left as he severely hooked the ball.
It didn’t take long for the Rockets to make the Buckeye’s fans even more nervous. On their second play of their next drive, Terrance Owens found Eric Page for his second touchdown of the day, this time a 66 yard blitz up the right side of the field. The Rockets held an 8 point lead and the Buckeyes were left scrambling for an answer on both sides of the football with no obvious sign of a solution anywhere.
Despite his excellent start, Bauserman began struggling with the pressure of the game. Several balls were vastly overthrown, and he continually looked for the big play rather than simply taking what the defense was giving him. It felt incredibly dangerous having him in the game, as if a turnover was nearly inevitible. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and the Bucks were able to punt the ball over to the Rockets without trouble.
After an unsuccessful series for the Rockets, Toledo returned the ball to the Buckeyes. Bauserman, showing some of his game smarts, was forced to toss the ball away on a first down during the drive. The crowd began to show their frustration at the Bucks by raining some boos down on “the Baus” despite the smart decision. The rest of the drive showed some good things, but was stopped just inside Toledo’s half of the field and resulted in another punt.
It finally seemed like the Buckeye defense had found their legs against the Rockets. With Toledo starting inside their own 5, the Rockets stuck with their running game and found little room to move the football. An illegal procedure penalty on the Rockets forced them to rekick their punt from deeper inside their own endzone giving the Buckeyes excellent field position.
Finally, Ohio State began to get their offense going. After having nearly no success moving the football on the ground, the Bucks demonstrated that patience is a virtue. Carlos Hyde found a huge hole up the left side of the Toledo defense for a nearly untouched 36 yard touchdown run. Considering the Rockets had been stuffing as many players in the box as they possibly could, to find a big running strike nearly up the middle was a huge change in the momentum of the game.
Tim Beckman’s team wasn’t going to go down without a fight, however. Eric Page took the kickoff back to the 44 yard line to try to give Toledo the edge in the field position battle. Amazingly, considering the way the day had gone to that point, the Buckeyes held the Rockets to negative yards, made possible by a huge 3rd down sack by Jonathan Hankins – the first sack due to the first team offensive line this season.
The first true mistake made by either team today was from Toledo QB Terrance Owens. Owens tossed the ball over the middle of the field into the waiting arms of Storm Klein. The pick was the first turnover of the game, and the second for the OSU defense this season. Toledo compounded the mistake on the next play when Bauserman lofted a ball more than 50 yards to the endzone for Stoneburner, but fell incomplete due to pass interference. The Buckeyes were able to net some offensive yardage, but failed to convert on 4th and 3 when Jake Stoneburner dropped the sure first down pass.
Toledo didn’t find much more success on their subsequent possession. The Buckeye defense was finally playing to their potential, causing the Rockets difficulty whereever they could. A Garrett Goeble sack on third down with a minute left in the half gave the Bucks an opportunity to take the game back before the half. But they didn’t even need that much time. Chris Fields took the punt back nearly 69 yards to give the Buckeyes the lead going into the half.
Coming out of the half, the Rockets moved the ball smartly down the field with a big play to Adonis Thomas, aided by a bad facemask penalty by CJ Barnett. The play put Toledo near the 10 yard line and in great position to put points on the board. Tim Beckman operated under the belief that it was four-down territory, and on 4th and 1 from the 6, got Adonis Thomas a touchdown run up the middle using the wildcat and giving him a direct snap.
Following the score, the Buckeyes came out running the ball hard with Carlos Hyde. After a nice 7 yard run up the left side, the Toledo defense stacked the box and completely stuffed Hyde on two consecutive runs. Considering the completely lack of a passing threat from Bauserman late in the first half, Toledo was capable of selling out against the run and forcing the Buckeyes into a three and out. Unfortunately, with the way the Toledo defense was playing, it appeared that the offense wasn’t going to work much better under Miller either.
The OSU defense continued to have trouble stopping the Toledo offense, but several players did make good plays here and there. CJ Barnett had a nice man-to-man coverage play against Eric Page, knocking the ball out of the air before Page could even make a play on it. And Jonathan Hankins was able to pick up another sack on the day, though the play was called a hold and wiped away for a 10 yard loss instead. But it was the poor play by the Toledo field goal unit that was the best for the OSU defense. With a bad job on the hold, Toledo attempted to make something out of nothing, but was swiftly swamped by the blocking unit, costing the Rockets several yards and putting the OSU offense in great field position.
It was time for the Buckeye offense to do something with the football, and they finally did. Despite some minor issues, Bauserman managed to find his passing game again. A nice pass to Carlos Hyde for 7 yards, and another to freshman Devin Smith over the middle for 36 yards, moved OSU smartly inside the 10 yardline and in perfect scoring position.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes squandered three straight plays in the redzone and very nearly were forced to kick a field goal. Thankfully, on a third down passing play, one of the Toledo DB’s committed a bad hold in the endzone, giving the the Buckeyes another set of chances. Hyde made the most of it on first and three when he punched the ball into the endzone. Fickell followed that up with a two point conversion call, to try to keep a 7 point lead on Beckman’s Rockets, but Bauserman was unable to find an open receiver and the attempt failed.
Toledo had some success on their last drive, but very nearly threw a pick over the middle on third down as two Buckeyes had a chance at it. The Rockets collected a first down on the drive with a Austin Dantin run up the right side with Jonathan Hankins in pursuit. Surprisingly, Hankins nearly kept pace with him through the run, impressive for such a big defensive tackle.
I have to give huge props to the Toledo defensive backs. They have done a nice job in coverage today and made some huge plays. In particular, early in the fourth quarter Bauserman had a perfectly placed pass to Devin Smith that would have hit him in stride going into the endzone. The defensive back, however, refused to give space and was able to get up and knock the ball out of the air. It was a very impressive play, and just goes to show the kind of things Beckman is getting out of this Rockets program.
For some reason that I don’t understand, Bauserman continually tried to hit a homerun strike passing into the endzone. Starting with the time that the Rockets picked up a lead, Bauserman was taking shots at the endzone whenever he could. It’s hard to say if that was a coaching staff decision, or a sign of poor decision making from Bauserman himself, but that could be critical in future close games.
The majority of the fourth quarter itself turned into a heavy-weight slugging match. Neither team had much success moving the football and were unable to sustain long drives. A majority of the clock was burned away before Basuerman finally found Devin Smith for a big gain down the left side of the field as the Buckeyes tried to burn away the clock. Of course, it didn’t make much of a difference, as Rod Smith fumbled the football with 3 minutes left in the game, recovered by the Rockets near their own 30 yard line.
With essentially one drive to get themselves back into the lead, Tim Beckman chose to go with Terrance Owens at QB. The Buckeye defense refused to give up an easy big play, but continued to suffer against the screen giving up another easy 15 yards to the Rockets. On 4th and 14, Owens was able to find Eric Page on the right side of the field for the first down, giving the Rockets a new lease on life and a much better chance of finding the endzone. The Rockets took heart from their success and continued to move the ball with dink and dunk passes down the field, keeping the ball near the sidelines and getting out of bounds quickly. The drive was a picture perfect example of a 2-minute offense.
Twenty yards out from the endzone, the Buckeyes managed to slow down the Toledo offense and force another fourth down. After not bringing much of a pass rush for the previous few downs, the Buckeyes went after Owens and managed to get big Jonny Simon lose, forcing Owens into a bad throw that fell incomplete. The game was completed when Joe Bauserman took a knee to roll out the clock.
The Toledo quarterbacks finished the game 21/43 for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns, while RB Adonis Thomas finished with 13 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Two Buckeyes received 4 passes: Jake Stoneburner with 43 yards and a touchdown, and Carlos Hyde with 28 yards. Devon Smith received 2 for a game high (and career high) 67 yards.
The Buckeyes will next face the Miami Hurricanes in Miami, Florida on Saturday, September 17th at 7:30 pm Eastern Time. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN.