COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the second week in a row, the scoreboard told the story.
There are no accidents at 48-3. When a team wins by 45 points, there can be no debate about its level of domination. Such was the case with Ohio State, which shook off a slow start — the game was tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter — to outclass Tulsa.
And yet there’s no question that the Buckeyes still have plenty to work on. For all the success they’ve had this season, there are still flaws that would carry bigger consequences against better teams. So how did the Buckeyes do? We hand out grades for each unit, including coaches, in the wake of Ohio State’s second win of the season.
Here are the grades:
Offense (3 stars)
It wasn’t a great start for the offense, which didn’t score a touchdown in the first half. Oddly enough, the production picked up after it started raining. Coincidentally —or not — that’s around the time Ohio State started giving the ball to Curtis Samuel. The H-back finished with 78 rushing yards on eight carries and 62 receiving yards on five catches and even though he didn’t find the end zone, he still caused more damage to the Tulsa defense than any other Buckeye.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett had a solid but unspectacular day, completing 14 of 22 passes for 149 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. Running back Mike Weber didn’t reach 100 yards but came close, finishing with 92 and a touchdown.
The biggest problem was the offensive line, which struggled throughout the first half and didn’t give Barrett enough time or the ball-carriers enough room. The play improved in the second half, but the Buckeyes likely won’t be able to afford a slow start against Oklahoma.
Defense (5 stars)
The defense put together a sterling performance in Week 1 and somehow topped it on Saturday. The Silver Bullets forced six turnovers — four interceptions and two fumbles — and returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns. On the season, the defense has scored 21 points and allowed only six. The defensive line had a couple hiccups early but it was nothing serious.
There are some future superstars on this unit. Malik Hooker grabbed his third interception of the season and scored on it, while Marshon Lattimore finished with a pair of picks and also scored on one. Sam Hubbard does things that no defensive end should be capable of and middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan is impossibly good.
Special teams (4 stars)
Ohio State kicker Tyler Durbin finally got a chance to show some things, but only in a limited capacity. He made field goals of 22 and 29 yards, but the Buckeyes missed out on a chance to see what he could really do when they elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 late in the fourth quarter instead of kicking a 43-yard field goal. What will happen if the Buckeyes need a long field goal against Oklahoma?
Punter Cameron Johnston got more work than he did last week and looked sharp aside from outkicking his coverage on his first punt. He averaged 51.2 yards and pinned two of five punts inside the 20. Ohio State will take those numbers any day, but he needs to do a better job of limiting returns.
Coaching (4 stars)
The Buckeyes could have called a better game in the first half, although it does seem as though the offensive line was the culprit more than the play-calling itself. My biggest gripe is the fact that Samuel touched the ball just four times in the first half. That’s not enough, and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said as much in his postgame news conference.
“I try to spend a lot of time on that and be creative in how to get him involved,” he said.
The staff made adjustments at halftime, and the fact that Meyer and his assistants had an hour instead of 20 minutes because of the weather delay made it that much easier to get things fixed.
Here’s the biggest difference between Meyer and Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery, though. Tulsa got the ball down 13-3 with 60 seconds left in the first half and called a run, to which Meyer responded by calling timeout. The next note in the play-by-play is “torrential rain begins to fall.” Instead of calling two more runs and heading into halftime down 10, Tulsa threw twice, the first of which was nearly intercepted and the second of which was picked off and returned for a touchdown. It was 20-3 and Tulsa never recovered.
Overall (4 stars)
There will be plenty to work on, but at the end of the day Ohio State beat the tar out of a team that won its first game 45-10 and went to a bowl game last season. The offense still needs work but the defense is better than anyone could have expected, and that should give Ohio State confidence heading into a key test against Oklahoma.