COLUMBUS, Ohio – What a difference a week can make.
After clicking on all cylinders from start to finish against Bowling Green in Week One, Urban Meyer’s offense – which put up 77 points and a team-record 776 yards of offense against the Falcons – finished the first half against Tulsa with only two field goals. With 36 offensive plays in the game’s first 30 minutes, the Buckeyes high-powered offense only managed 151 yards against a tougher-than-expected Golden Hurricane defense.
Fortunately for the offense and junior quarterback J.T. Barrett – who was 8-for-14 passing for 69 yards in the first half – the Ohio State defense provided two touchdowns and a 20-3 halftime lead. Halftime, which turned into an hour-and-a-half long weather delay, gave the Buckeyes a chance to reassess their situation. One thing that had to happen? Curtis Samuel, Mike Weber and Dontre Wilson had to touch the ball more.
So that’s what happened.
In the second half, Ohio State came out of the gate swinging and put together a nine-play, 72-yard scoring drive to extend the lead to 27-3. That drive – which saw four plays for Samuel – was no accident.
“That’s kind of my baby,” Urban Meyer said post-game, addressing the need to get the ball to Samuel. “I try to spend a lot of time on that and be creative in how to get him involved. … That’s one neat thing about this offense: you can dictate where the ball goes sometimes. At halftime, we did have those conversations.”
With a 24-point lead and Tulsa seemingly losing any ability to move the ball, the Buckeyes kept their foot on the gas pedal. They continue to make Samuel and Wilson focal points while pounding Mike Weber between the tackles. Barrett, who ran the ball eight times in each half, didn’t need to be the guy for the Buckeyes in the second half. Samuel had four carries for 71 yards. Weber had nine carries for 46 yards. Wilson had three carries for 30 yards.
Foot injuries nagged Samuel and Wilson a year ago – and carried into the spring – but now that they are healthy, the offense has an element that it’s not had since Meyer’s arrival: backfield versatility.
“Those two are playing a high, high level,” Meyer said. “Whenever you have the ability to run inside with guys like that, on the perimeter and can catch the ball, we’re going to recruit as many of those as we can.
“I think that’s exactly what I’ve been looking (for) really since we got here. We did it with Philly Brown, but Brown wasn’t the inside threat. With Dontre, he’s actually a threat inside. That’s a magical position. Those are the hybrid positions that defenses have a hard time matching up with.”
Wilson was a highly recruited player out of high school, but he hasn’t matched expectations. He believes that changes now.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Wilson said. “This past offseason I worked hard and did a lot of things differently than I did in the past. I feel like this year is the year.”
For Ohio State to emerge as a legitimate playoff threat, it needs that to be the case. The offense can’t be only Barrett.
“I feel like today, our offense started off a little sluggish,” Barrett said. “I need to do my part as the quarterback. Get us in good plays and distribute the football.”
The talent – finally healthy – around Barrett should make that easier to do.