Grading the Buckeyes: OSU takes a step in the right direction

Jim Naveau -

After a busy week working overtime following the loss to Oklahoma, doom and gloom will be on vacation this week, somewhere far away from Ohio State football fans.

Here’s a grade card on the Buckeyes’ 38-7 win over Army on Saturday that answered some, but not all, of the questions facing OSU.

Offense: B

Quarterback J.T. Barrett put himself into the Big Ten record book with his 107th touchdown accounted for, either by passing or running. That made him No. 1 in that category in Big Ten history, one TD ahead of former leader Drew Brees.

Barrett (25 of 33 for 270 yards, 2 TDs) and the receivers appeared to work better together against Army than in either of Ohio State’s other two games this season. Part of that was Army, but six of Barrett’s completions went for 15 yards or more.

Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins rushed for 172 yards and continued to show breakaway speed, moves and vision. He had runs of 52 yards, 36 yards and 22 yards.

The 40 to 50-yard type deep ball was absent from the passing game again, but 586 yards total offense didn’t offer much room for second guessing.

Defense: B

You do not get an “A” if you allow a team with limited speed and almost no passing game to march 99 yards for a touchdown while the game was still technically in doubt. For the second week in a row Ohio State’s highly regarded defensive line was kind of quiet.

An unpleasant linebacker surprise was followed by a pleasant surprise. Starting middle linebacker Chris Worley left the game with a sprained foot during the second quarter, but his replacement, redshirt freshman Tuf Borland, led the team in tackles with 10.5 in the first significant playing time he has gotten in at Ohio State.

The defensive backfield spent more time in run support than it did defending passes when Navy quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw was only 2 of 7 for 19 yards passing. Safety Erick Smith was the standout of that group with two pass break-ups and a big hit on a kickoff return.

Special teams: A-

Sean Nuernberger hit his only field goal attempt and Drue Chrisman punted only twice. Allowing a 43-yard kickoff return that nearly turned into an even bigger gain was about the only special teams flaw.

Overall: B

After there were so many questions following the loss to Oklahoma, there probably were only two really big ones after the win over Army.

No. 1, can Ohio State continue to improve after taking one step in the right direction? And, No. 2, how much stock can you put in that improvement since it came against a team that played very hard but obviously is not the same caliber as OSU?

Even if the Buckeyes continue to show improvement the next two weeks against UNLV and Rutgers, the second question will still be there. But their performance did give some indications that continued improvement is possible.

It was a step in the right direction. Now they have to make some more steps in the right direction if they are going to be ready for the opponents coming later on in the season.

Jim Naveau

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.