Ohio State did not put forth the performance it hoped it would coming out of the bye week, but the offense came alive in the second half and the defense came up with enough momentum plays for the Buckeyes to hold on and escape a scare from previously unbeaten Maryland.
Usually the Instant Observations are more positive coming out of a win, but there was a lot of ugly out there today. Let’s get to it….
1. There is no sugarcoating what we saw in the first quarter. Bye Week rust or not, that was as dysfunctional of a first quarter as I’ve seen Ohio State play in quite some time. Poor offense, poor defense, poor special teams, penalties, you name it. They have got to get off to faster starts as things get more and more difficult moving forward on the schedule.
2. Ohio State was very fortunate to get this game to halftime tied at 10. Between the strange decision to kick a field goal inside the 3-yard line, the 4th and 1 decision to run a slow-developing QB power with the backup quarterback out of the shotgun instead of lining up under center and sneaking, and the inexplicable decision to throw the ball to the middle of of the field in half’s final seconds. The Terps, who thoroughly outplayed the Buckeyes in the first half, really didn’t have anything to show for it.
3. It’s discouraging that the Buckeyes didn’t come out of the bye week improved along the offensive line. The pass protection was spotty at best today and the Buckeyes mostly failed to move the line of scrimmage in the run game. I’d like to see stretch to the boundary put in a cannon and shot to the moon, never to be seen again. Even if we take away the sacks, this team failed to rush for 100 yards today, that shouldn’t be happening.
4. I posted on Twitter at the end of the first quarter today that the Buckeyes had been bulled in the run game for three consecutive quarters, dating back to the second half against Notre Dame. While I stand by that, and in fact think it’s pretty undeniable, I have to give credit when things are turned around. Ohio State’s defense from the second quarter on, was really, really good today against a talented offense. The Buckeyes got those key momentum stops that I’ve been complaining they haven’t been getting, they started to figure out ways to get pressure on Tagovailoa, and they forced two huge turnovers.
5. Kyle McCord and this offense have got to get off to faster starts. I understood early in the season wanting to get the running game going, wanting to get Kyle into a groove and giving some easy throws, but they’ve got to start getting the ball downfield and getting the ball to No. 18 right out of the chute. These slow starts offensively are going to burn them at some point.
6. It’s clear that something was figured out in the passing game at halftime. McCord was not perfect, but was much more decisive and was delivering the ball where it needed to go. Whether that is something that can carry over into the future, remains to be seen, but guys were running free down field in the second half and they weren’t in the first so whatever adjustments were made at halftime worked.
7. Game balls to Josh Proctor and Lathan Ransom. Those two carried the play all day today and made big play after big play. This was the best and most complete game of Proctor’s career at Ohio State. I absolutely loved Josh coming out of high school and thought he’d be an impact player here. That hasn’t happened consistently to this point, but he has been one of this team’s best players through five games.
8. You wonder how this defense might look right now if a couple of things went differently this off-season. There was certainly a time when it didn’t look like Josh Proctor would be back at Ohio State for another season. There was also a point during the 2022 season where it looked like Lathan Ransom might leave early, before struggling late in the season against Michigan and UGA and deciding to return to school for some unfinished business. What if those decisions go the other way? Yikes.
9. The secondary has been, by far, the best and most consistent unit on the defense so far. Part of that is because it is a greatly improved group, but part of that is because the play in the front seven has not been as good as I thought it would be and quite frankly that group needs to raise its play to the level of what the Buckeyes are getting from the secondary right now if this team wants to beat Penn State and Michigan.
10. This was ugly today. I don’t think Ryan Day is going to be happy tomorrow when he goes over the film of this one, there weren’t a ton of positives to take for large patches of this game. But at the end of the day, the Buckeyes get a home conference win against a team that probably should have been ranked in the Top 25 and it’s easier to come into the facility every day trying to fix things when you’re undefeated and playing for something than if you had lost one or two of these last couple games.