COLUMBUS, Ohio — The fix to Ohio State’s opening-drive woes came not a moment too soon.
No. 9 Nebraska, its next opponent, has not allowed a team to score on its opening possession this season. As recently as a week ago, the Buckeyes appeared to be well-suited to that streak continuing.
Ohio State entered the Northwestern game having accumulated absolutely dreadful stats on its first possessions. In seven games, the Buckeyes had scored a combined 3 points on their opening drive. Even the one that ended in a field goal wasn’t exactly great. Against Tulsa, Ohio State managed 4 yards on three plays. The field goal only occurred because the offense started on the Tulsa 16 after the defense picked off a pass. Otherwise, it would have been another three-and-out.
Aside from that field goal, the other six opening drives ended pick six, punt, interception, fumble, punt, punt.
When that was relayed to him prior to the Northwestern game, head coach Urban Meyer indicated that he was working on a fix.
“That is being evaluated and making sure we have the right scripted plays and giving those guys a chance to have success,” he said. “That is something we’re changing up a little bit making sure we have a good 12 scripted plays.”
Then he and his team went out there and backed it up. The Buckeyes have never looked better this season than they did on the opening drive of their 24-20 win against Northwestern. Ohio State drove 94 yards in nine plays to jump out to a 7-0 lead. Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 4 of 5 passes, wide receiver Parris Campbell took a reverse for 24 yards and running back Mike Weber added a 14-yard carry before scoring on a 1-yard rush.
It was clinical, and it was exactly what the Buckeyes had been looking for.
“One of our objectives was to score on the opening drive. It was clear that that was pointed out earlier in the week,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said, adding a wry smile.
Against Nebraska, the Buckeyes will be facing their biggest obstacle yet to a quick start. The Huskers have allowed just 22 points in 120 first-quarter minutes this season. More importantly, none of those came on their opponents’ opening drive.
Here’s how the Blackshirts have done on their first series so far:
|Fresno State||13||56||Missed FG|
Barrett said after the Northwestern win that Ohio State did a good job with its play scripting on the opening drive. The Buckeyes also got the ball to their best offensive players. The drive included touches for Barrett, Campbell, Weber, H-back Curtis Samuel and wide receiver Noah Brown.
“I think it was just understanding what we were trying to do offensively,” Barrett said. “The game plan we had was set up very nicely for us to execute well.”
Nebraska will soon test whether or not the Buckeyes can continue that success.