Ohio State took its opening drive of the game 85 yards for a touchdown and never looked back in shutting down Minnesota and setting up an undefeated showdown in Ann Arbor next Saturday.
Another stress-free win and a mostly stress-free list of observations.
1. Another solid start for the offense. I was not nearly as upset with the way the first half played out as Twitter was. The Buckeyes offense was put in hole after hole, with an average starting position of their own 9-yard line and moved the ball pretty well to take a 13-0 lead into half. Turning just one of those field goals drive into a touchdown and I think people look at that half differently.
2. That being said, I had one, big, big problem with the first half. It would have been an all-time blunder had Kyle McCord been more seriously injured on that awkward sack to end the half. The Buckeyes didn’t need to run a play there as the clock would have simply expired and there was no reason to think that any play they did run was going to result in them getting points before the break. That was an unnecessary risk that almost bit them hard.
3. I was in the “take Egbuka’s helmet until Tuesday of Michigan week” camp, but since the decision was made that he was going to play, it was good to see him get involved in the off-season in a variety of ways. By the five minute mark of the second quarter, Egbuka had more yards than in his previous three games combined. From screens, to reverses, to chunk plays down the seam, it was encouraging and looks like the Buckeyes will have a pretty healthy No. 2 option next Saturday in Ann Arbor.
4. Speaking of Egbuka, they need to have his experience back there returning punts next weekend. Between catching punts that shouldn’t be caught, not catching punts that should be caught, and not being aggressive enough in getting teammates away from wayward punts, it has been an adventure the last few weeks and the last thing you want is some fluke play on a punt costing you the game next week.
5. Tre Henderson. Game ball. I’ve said it several times the past few weeks, this offense needs a little more explosiveness from the run game than it has in the past and Henderson has been delivering in a huge way and looks the healthiest he has ever looked. That was a perfect script today to have him turn in a great performance and then get him out of there, ensuring he will have fresh legs next week. They’re going to need him to break a big one or two next week in a game where consistently sustaining drives could be tough.
6. Jack Sawyer has taken some criticism the past two years, but I thought today was the best game he has played in an Ohio State uniform. It wasn’t just the splash plays (the sack, the big hit in the flats), he was making plays against the run all game and was put in conflict a couple of times on zone read situations and made the correct/disciplined play. His play has been ramping up the past few weeks and they’ll need that to continue next week.
7. Jordan Hancock’s impact on this defense cannot be overstated. Just a couple of plays before the interception today, Hancock came flying into the backfield on a blitz to trip up the Minnesota back before he could really get going. That drive was a microcosm of his impact on this team. He defends the pass, he defends the run, he impacts the game as a blitzer. During a season where it has been a bit of a revolving door at times in the secondary, his versatility and high level of play have kept everything together.
8. There is nothing more “try hard” than kicking a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of a game that you are losing 37-0.
9. Awesome moment to get Cade Stover a touchdown today on Senior Day. Nobody deserved it more as Stover has been one of this program’s better leaders that I’ve covered.
10. Ohio State appears to have survived this game without any further health concerns. Bullet dodged on McCord and Jones re-entered the game and should not be hindered moving forward. Couldn’t draw this one up much better heading into a monumental showdown next weekend.