COLUMBUS, Ohio — For once, don’t look at the scoreboard to measure Ohio State’s success. This time, count the number of possessions and how many ended in scores.
Ignore the number of deep passes attempted in the search for a more aggressive offense. Check out the additions to the horizontal attack and the increase in tempo instead.
And while the J.T. Barrett conversations are almost certainly going to continue, resist the urge to make the senior quarterback’s outing against Army a referendum on his career. For the record, he has accounted for more touchdowns than anybody in Big Ten history.
There are blowout opportunities and chances to experiment coming in the five-game stretch following the Week 2 loss to Oklahoma, but Army wasn’t necessarily one despite the talent disparity between the programs. A unique defensive approach combined with a ball-control attack were always likely to make for a challenge on Saturday at the Horseshoe, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t signs of turning the corner for Urban Meyer’s offense in the 38-7 victory over the Black Knights.
The details didn’t really require a microscope as much as they simply needed context.
The Buckeyes racked up 273 yards in the first half, all of that coming on four possessions thanks to Army keeping the football for more than 18 minutes. At one point, Barrett was on the bench for more than 9 minutes waiting a chance to get back to work and chase that famed conference record for touchdowns.
That’s not an ideal way for a team that has stressed establishing a rhythm to rediscover it, but there were signs anyway.
New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson got the tight ends involved in the game plan early. Ohio State started turning Barrett loose to operate some run-pass options, an encouraging development for a guy who has long looked comfortable making the right decision in the zone-read rushing attack. Parris Campbell finally was given more responsibility in the “Curtis Samuel position,” flashing his speed and elusiveness when given the chance at H-back.
The Buckeyes even found some of that famed balance Meyer has been searching for all offseason. After J.K. Dobbins burst for a 52-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Ohio State had split its 40 snaps to that point exactly down the middle with 20 passes and 20 rushes.
Obviously, it wasn’t all perfect. But just like patience is needed against an opponent such as Army, retooling the offense with a new coaching staff might have required some as well.
Barrett only took a few true deep shots down the field, and he didn’t connect on them. A big-picture view of his resume doesn’t necessarily mean he’s been sharp over the last five games or so, although it does suggest he can work his way out of the slump.
No, the red-zone play calling wasn’t ideal. Looking at the scoreboard, that might be another area in which the Buckeyes left something on the table.
For the most part, though, Ohio State was efficient and made the most of the opportunities that came its way in a unique matchup with Army. The Buckeyes scored on five of their first six possessions, and that’s the kind of help a talented defense needs to stay fresh and make plays on the other side of the ball.
So, there was progress on display offensively. Count on seeing that show up much more clearly on the scoreboard next week.