Ohio State Season Review: Blowout loss away from the Playoff?

January 9, 2019

By almost every measure, the 2018 season was successful for Ohio State. After beating Washington in the Rose Bowl, the finished the year 13-1 and as Big Ten champions. They were able to send Urban Meyer out by holding on in Pasadena, and the Ryan Day was ushered in. Over the offseason and as the year progressed, this level of success wasn’t guaranteed, and the Buckeyes had to play their best football late in the year.

 

Over the summer, Urban Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the year as a result of a scandal involving his wide receivers coach Zach Smith and domestic violence allegations against him by his ex-wife. Meyer was suspended for mishandling those allegations, and his team would have to trek through the first quarter of the season without him.

 

In his absence, the Buckeyes went 3-0 under the guidance of offensive coordinator Ryan Day. Ohio State rolled through Oregon State and Rutgers before a 40-28 win over TCU in Dallas. Star defensive end Nick Bosa was injured against TCU, and later announced that he would sit for the entire year, a blow to a defense that was already struggling with big plays. Two games later, Ohio State had to come back from a 13-0 deficit against Penn State, and a fourth down stop by Chase Young, Bosa’s replacement, sealed the 27-26 road win.

 

A few games later, Ohio State truly began to show cracks. They lost 49-20 to Purdue, and it appeared that Michigan, who was trending upward at the time, was in position to overtake Ohio State in the Big Ten. They followed up that game with a close 36-31 win over Nebraska, who fell to 2-7 with the loss, and a 26-6 win over a struggling Michigan State, who gave the Buckeyes two points through an intentional safety where the long snapper snapped the ball over the punters head to avoid a potential punt block. Michigan State also fumbled the ball in the end zone for an Ohio State touchdown, so the offense only scored 17 and wasn’t looking great. They played Maryland next and narrowly won 52-51 in overtime, and almost lost if not for an incompletion on Maryland’s two point conversion attempt.

 

Their best game of the year was their last, when they ran over archrival Michigan 62-39. They carved up Michigan’s top ranked defense and also blocked a punt en route to embarrassing Michigan and Jim Harbaugh yet again. They beat Northwestern 42-21 to become Big Ten champions and were ranked sixth in the final College Football Playoff rankings, likely due to the 29 point loss to Purdue. Their consolation prize was the Rose Bowl, and held on to beat Washington 28-23.

 

Offense:

Ohio State’s offense was virtually unstoppable in 2018. They scored more than 50 points four times and hit between 45 and 49 four times. They most crucial component to Ohio State’s success was quarterback Dwayne Haskins. He completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns. He also ran the ball well, getting 108 yards and 4 touchdowns. Haskins was voted the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year and the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year. Tate Martell didn’t play much, but played well in his role as a backup to Haskins. He completed 23 of his 28 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown while also running for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns. Haskins’ 4,831 passing yards shattered the Big Ten record for yards in a season, formerly at 3,895. His 50 touchdowns also set a Big Ten record, breaking Drew Brees’ record of 39. He broke Ohio State’s single season completion percentage with 70% and broke their single game passing record twice, the last time with a 499 yard performance against Northwestern. He also tied Ohio State’s record for touchdown passes in a game twice with six, among a list of other records. He was honored as a first team all-Big Ten quarterback by both the coaches and the media. He was also a third team all-American quarterback and finished third in Heisman voting.

 

Ohio State had an excellent rushing attack that featured two running backs who were capable of giving defenses headaches. JK Dobbins was the leading rusher, getting 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns. He helped to take over against Maryland, when he got 203 yards, and Nebraska, his only multi-touchdown game with three, adding 163 yards. Mike Weber nearly joined Dobbins as a 1,000 yard rusher, ending the year with 953 and adding five touchdowns. He scored three touchdowns and ran for 186 yards in his best game of the year against Oregon State. He didn’t play due to injury against Maryland, and may have hit 1,000 yards if he played. Master Teague, Demario McCall, and Brian Snead also got limited carries and combined for just under 200 yards and two touchdowns, one by Teague and one by Snead, both against Oregon State. Dobbins was voted to the second team all-Big Ten by the coaches and an honorable mention by the media, while Weber was an honorable mention by the coaches.

 

Ohio State’s receivers were almost as good as Haskins was, and that combination provided a lethal passing attack in Columbus. Parris Campbell led the charge, getting 1,063 yards on the year and scoring 12 touchdowns. His best game came against Michigan, catching six passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. He broke the Ohio State record for receptions in a season with 90 and became the fifth Buckeye to get more than 1,000 receiving yards, the first since 2003. KJ Hill was another weapon for Ohio State this season, ending the year with 885 receiving yards and six touchdowns. His best game of the year was against Minnesota, when he got 187 yards and two touchdowns. Terry McLaurin had a breakout year for the Buckeyes, snagging 11 touchdowns and getting 701 receiving yards. His best games came against Oregon State, when he had four receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and against Maryland, when he had four receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. He had three multi-touchdown games, including the Big Ten championship game when he caught two touchdowns on three receptions.

 

Johnnie Dixon was yet another dominant Ohio State receiver, getting 669 yards and eight touchdowns. He crossed 100 yards twice, against Maryland and Northwestern, and his only multi-touchdown game came against Rutgers. He caught a touchdown in six of his last eight games, including the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, and Chris Olave were all role players in Ohio State’s receiving group. Victor led the trio with 354 yards and four touchdowns. He had season highs in receptions and yards in the loss to Purdue, with five and 67, respectively. He also caught a touchdown against Penn State to cut the deficit to 26-21. Mack got catches in eight games, ending the year with 331 yards and a touchdown, coming against Tulane. He had a season high 84 yards against TCU. Chris Olave did not play as much as Victor or Mack, but saved his best two games for last. He got two receptions for 48 yards against Michigan, scoring on both, and got five receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown against Northwestern. He did not record a catch in the Rose Bowl, and ended the year with 197 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Luke Farrell and Rashod Berry were Ohio State’s main tight ends, and combined for three touchdowns. Farrell led the pair in yards with 205 and scored his only touchdown against Rutgers. Berry ended the year with 78 yards and two touchdowns, scoring against Oregon State and in the Rose Bowl against Washington. Campbell was voted to the first team all-Big Ten by the coaches and to the second team by the media. KJ Hill landed on the third team all-Big Ten by the media and the coaches voted him an honorable mention. McLaurin was an honorable mention by the media.

 

Ohio State’s offensive line was pretty strong all year. They were able to protect Haskins for the most part and allow him time to throw. They also created a push in the run game allowing for two rushers with close to 1,000 yards. This was an experienced unit that was able to be a solid foundation for an offense to take flight this season. Center Michael Jordan led the unit, and earned second team all-Big Ten honors by both the coaches and the media. He was also named a first team all-American by Sports Illustrated and second team by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Right tackle Isaiah Prince was another star on the line. He was named to the first team all-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media, and was the only player not from Wisconsin on the media’s first team. Right guard Demetrius Knox was also a talented lineman who earned third team all-Big Ten honors by the media and an honorable mention by the coaches. Left guard Malcolm Pridgeon and left tackle Thayer Munford both were named honorable mentions by both the coaches and the media.

 

The Ohio State offense was one of the best in the Big Ten, if not the country, but it still had some flaws. The speed and reliance on short passes could sometimes work against them. If they weren’t getting first downs, they were getting off the field quickly and sending their defense back out there. They were usually effective, but sometimes they weren’t and it came back to haunt them.

 

Defense:

Ohio State’s defense was key to their success in the 2018 season. Though they weren’t the best defense in the country, they made stops when they needed to and were able to win 13 games as a result. Dre’Mont Jones led the defensive line 43 tackles, 13 for loss, and 8.5 sacks. He also got an interception returned for a touchdown against TCU and recovered a fumble in the endzone for a touchdown against Michigan State. His six tackles against TCU were his most of the season, combined with the pick six made it his best game of the year. Chase Young filled in for all-American defensive end Nick Bosa, and made his impact felt. He ended the year with 33 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks. He had six tackles, three for loss, and two sacks against Penn State, including a tackle with a minute to go to seal the 27-26 win. He had three games with multiple sacks, getting two against Rutgers, two against Penn State, and three against Northwestern. Defensive end Jonathon Cooper added 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks, including one against Michigan, and recovered a fumble against Michigan State.

 

Davon Hamilton recovered a fumble for a touchdown against TCU and got a season best four tackles against Michigan. Robert Landers got 25 tackles and five for loss on the year, including a sack against Michigan. Dre’Mont Jones was voted to the first team all-Big Ten by the coaches and the second team by the media. Chase Young earned second team all-Big Ten honors by the coaches and third team by the media. Jonathon Cooper was an honorable mention by both the coaches and the media. Robert Landers was named an honorable mention by the coaches, and Nick Bosa was named an honorable mention by the media. Bosa is expected to be drafted in the top 5 in the 2019 NFL Draft.

 

Malik Harrison led a good linebacker group with 81 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and 2.5 sacks. He had an interception against TCU, recovered a fumble against Maryland, and had three games with double digit tackles against Purdue, Nebraska, and Northwestern. He was a key factor in the Michigan game, getting two of his seven tackles for loss. Tuf Borland made a great impact in the linebacker group, ending the year with 67 tackles, nice tackles for loss, and three sacks. He forced fumbles against Penn State and Indiana, and had his only game with double digit tackles against Michigan, when he ended with 10. Pete Werner had solid year for the Buckeyes with 58 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and three sacks. He forced a fumble against Oregon State and Maryland, and had ten tackles against Minnesota, his highest total of the season.

 

Baron Browning, Justin Hillard, Dante Booker, and Keandre Jones all played well as reserves for Ohio State. Browning, Booker, and Jones all had sacks against Tulane. Booker had a total of 3 tackles for loss in the Tulane game, and Browning had five tackles against Purdue. Harrison and Borland were named honorable mentions by the coaches and media, while Werner was named an honorable mention by the media.

 

Ohio State put together a pretty good secondary in 2018, led by cornerback Damon Arnette. Arnette had 40 tackles on the year and an interception against Northwestern. He had six tackles against TCU, his highest total of the year. Kendall Sheffield had 35 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. He had two tackles for loss, one against TCU and one against Penn State. He got interceptions against Rutgers and Minnesota and forced a fumble against Purdue. He helped to lock down receivers all year. Shaun Wade got 31 tackles, 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble in 2018. He got interceptions against Rutgers, Michigan State, and Northwestern, and forced a fumble against Minnesota. Jeffrey Okudah was a key part of the secondary as well, getting 32 tackles and a fumble recovery against Minnesota.

 

Ohio State’s safeties were strong as well. The star of the defensive secondary was Jordan Fuller, who had 81 tackles, 2.5 for loss, an interception, and two fumble recoveries. He recovered fumbles against Indiana and Northwestern, and got an interception against Michigan. He had 12 tackles against Minnesota, the only time he reached double digits, and ended the year with two consecutive nine tackle games. Brendon White got 46 tackles, four for loss, and an interception in 2018. He got a season high 13 tackles against Nebraska and got a 49 yard interception return against Michigan. Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint came in and added around 30 tackles each in 2018. Pryor also got an interception against Minnesota. Jordan Fuller was voted a second team all-Big Ten defensive back by the media and an honorable mention by the coaches. Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield were honorable mentions by both the coaches and the media, Jeffrey Okudah was an honorable mention by the coaches.

 

The defense was pretty good in 2018, but still allowed more points than they would’ve liked. They gave up 31 to Oregon State, 49 to Purdue, 51 to Maryland, and 39 to Michigan, which is more than a team that strives to compete for national titles should be giving up. They did hold on in close games, and were able to win 13 games, but they’ll look to win more comfortably in the future.

 

Special Teams:

Sean Nuernberger played six games before he became injured and missed the rest of the season. He was 39 for 39 on extra points, but was 3 for 5 on field goals with a long of 30 yards. He was replaced by Blake Haubeil, who make all 37 of his extra points and went 10 for 13 on field goals, with a long of 47 yards. Punter Dru Chrisman averaged 43.2 yards on 61 punts and was an asset in big games, being able to flip the field. After a 4 yard punt against Michigan State, he pinned them inside the 5 repeatedly, which is why they were able to dominate the way they were.

 

Johnnie Dixon and Demario McCall were the main kick returners for the Buckeyes, and they each neared or passed 200 yards on the year. Dixon got 240 return yards and McCall ended with 195, and neither scored a touchdown. There were five different players who returned punts, and Sevyn Banks scored a 33 yard touchdown on a blocked punt against Michigan, which goes down as a punt return. KJ Hill returned the most punts, 14, for 76 yards. CJ Saunders returned eight punts and McCall returned three. The punt block until was strong, getting after Michigan as Chris Olave blocked them and Banks took it back to put the Buckeyes up by 15. Chrisman was named to the second team all-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media, behind Michigan's Will Hart. 

 

Ohio State appeared to be on track to live up to the lofty expectations that were set for them in the preseason until Purdue derailed them in October. They returned to form at the end of the year, but it seems like it was too little too late. Ohio State has to be wondering at the end of the year, if they didn’t lose so badly to Purdue, would they have been in the College Football Playoff? They probably would’ve been better than 6th, and there would be a legitimate argument for the Buckeyes over Oklahoma at number four. Moving into 2019 and beyond, Ohio State needs to stop losing so badly to underdogs, and they’ll probably be in the Playoff.

 

Final AP Ranking (Preseason): 3 (5)

Final Coaches Poll Ranking (Preseason): 3 (3)

Offensive MVP: Dwayne Haskins

Defensive MVP: Dre’Mont Jones



 

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