The Ohio State Buckeyes were able to pull out a season opening road win 45-31 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It was a night game to open the season against a Big Ten Conference opponent that was both prepared and highly motivated. Add in a fully-juiced and packed house and some inclement weather, and there were all the ingredients for an upset. However, just like he did in his previous 15 Big Ten games, Ryan Day was able to navigate the rocky waters to a conference win. It wasn’t always pretty, but Day never lost his cool and was able to counter punch a great game plan by Gopher coach PJ Fleck. The Gophers controlled the clock to the tune of nearly 40 minutes, which frustrated the OSU offense and nearly helped pull off an upset, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
There was plenty of good for OSU, but plenty of areas of concern that need to be cleaned up before the Oregon Ducks travel to Columbus on 9/11.
The Buckeyes’ offense was able to rush the ball for over 201 yards spread over 4 running backs, and average nearly 8 yards a clip. Even outside of the 71 yard scamper by Miyan Williams, there was plenty of room for the OSU running backs to find holes in the defense and pick up positive yardage. That was all because the offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Not only were they opening holes in the running game, but they also did a tremendous job keeping the pocket clean for QB CJ Stroud. There were only a few situations where Stroud felt any real pressure, and those few times were due to communication issues about blocking assignments. Even with the loss of center Harry Miller, the offense still met the lofty expectation set before the game.
The Silver Bullet Defense had some great moments on Thursday night, but in the most critical situations, they came up empty handed. A missed tackle on 4th and 1 allowed Mohamed Ibrahim to get loose on a 56-yard touchdown run that shifted the momentum back to the Gophers, and a roughing the quarterback penalty overturned a Josh Proctor interception. The linebackers did a fairly good job of filling up running lanes, and any run fit miscues are easily correctable by LB Coach Al Washington going forward. The run defense by the front seven was solid, especially considering they had to play 40 minutes, and should continue to improve.
The biggest issue was the pass defense that allowed some big plays, both through completion and penalty. The absence of cornerbacks Cam Brown and Sevyn Banks, both listed as “unavailable” before the game, was noticeable. When they return, they should help steady a group of DBs who are very talented but also very young. Some of that youth was exposed by Minnesota WRs Dylan Wright and Daniel Jackson, who were much better than advertised.
While CJ Stroud did a much better job of locating and delivering the ball to wide open receivers in the second half, he seemed to have accuracy issues that may have been due to the rain. Stroud is a California kid, so throwing in the elements isn’t something he has experienced often. He was much more accurate in the second half, but then again, he was throwing to veteran receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson much of the time. Maybe some of the early game inaccuracy was due to first start jitters, but it needs to be monitored over the next few games to make sure the issue is clearly behind him.
Buckeye fans should count their lucky stars that Ryan Day is their head coach. He never tries to win a game by 21 points when all they need is a win. He also never panics in tight games and then tries to win the game in one play. His ability to scheme up plays to create mismatches for wide open receivers is incredibly unique. This game could’ve turned into the 2017 Iowa or 2018 Purdue games that were embarrassing defeats, but Ryan Day steadied the ship and didn’t let that happen. Now he’s 16-0 in conference play.