Rapid reaction: Buckeyes squeak past NIU
Final: No. 1 Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13
Telling stat: Five OSU turnovers
I said earlier talking about Minnesota that the only reason it allowed Kent State to hang around was because it lost the turnover battle 3-0. Well, Ohio State lost it 5-0. As a result, a far inferior NIU team was kept in the game, despite the Buckeye defense virtually dominating the Huskies. Cardale Jones’ first two first-half interceptions were troubling, as Curtis Samuel’s late fumble that gave NIU a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Something tells me Urban Meyer will have a discussion or two on the subject of ball security this week.
Key play: Darron Lee INT touchdown
That sigh of relief you heard around 6 p.m. was every Buckeye fan in America after Darron Lee’s pick-six. It came immediately after J.T. Barrett threw an interception with the Buckeyes up 13-10. It was almost as if Lee said, ‘Enough of this garbage.’ Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, those were the final points of the day. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the offensive issues. But you can’t say enough about Lee’s playmaking ability. It’s scary to think what could’ve happened without his huge turnover.
-Cardale Jones pulled early
We all expected the Buckeye quarterback to have a monster game after getting his first-Horseshoe start jitters out of the way against Hawaii. But for a guy that was favored to win the Heisman eight days ago, he looked like anything but. As a result, J.T. Barrett came in and wasn’t all great himself. He did connect with Michael Thomas for a toe-tapping touchdown. That, however, was the only offensive touchdown of the day. This is officially an odd situation in Columbus.
–Northern Illinois held to 190 total yards
Let’s not drag the Buckeye defense into this mess. Just like last week, Ohio State held true on the defensive end while the offense struggled. Lee made big plays, Gareon Conley prevented a touchdown and Sam Hubbard continued to emerge for a unit that is living up to the hype. NIU was held to 2.6 yards per carry and 80 passing yards. The only touchdown came when Jones’ interception gave the Huskies a short field. We’re going to pick apart that offensive performance, but this defense is legit.
What it means: Ohio State’s QB’s are mortal
Let’s forget all the preseason hype about the Buckeyes and treat them like a normal team. There are major issues at quarterback. Barrett and Jones have looked mediocre for the majority of the season. The passing game that looked so fluid in the second half against Virginia Tech has been anything but. What’s the solution? I say it’s running more quarterback keepers and letting the dynamic duo get rolling with their legs, instead. Meyer has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to expose them, but if he continues to stick with a predictable game plan, he might be in for a few more nail-biters.