A grade card on Ohio State catching a perfect wave and routing Bowling Green 77-10 in its season opener on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett was as good as he has ever been, passing for 349 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for another. But that was no surprise. Before he was injured in 2014 he was the best quarterback in the Big Ten. His first-quarter interception that produced Bowling Green’s only touchdown was his one mis-step.
Freshman running back Mike Weber proved he can be a worthy successor to Ezekiel Elliott with 136 yards on 19 carries in his debut. But it was Curtis Samuel who was the revelation on offense when he caught nine passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 84 yards on 13 carries in the biggest game in his three seasons at OSU.
The junior H-back, who averaged a ridiculous 15.8 yards per running play as a senior in high school, was basically unguardable for Bowling Green’s defense. OSU coach Urban Meyer called him the best hybrid back he has had for a while.
Nine players caught passes, indicating more depth in the receiver group than last year, and the three new starters on the offensive line were solid.
Ohio State’s defensive effort was nearly as good as what it got on offense. Bowling Green’s one chance to be competitive was to get quarterback James Knapke and its receivers into a rhythm. But OSU slammed that door shut early and Knapke struggled to a 12 for 33 for 110 yards day.
The biggest cheer of the day for Ohio State’s defense might have been when freshman Nick Bosa got a sack in the fourth quarter. The best play might have been when Malik Hooker tipped a pass into the air then grabbed it for one of his two interceptions.
Injuries were a concern. Going into the season, coach Urban Meyer said the interior defensive line was his biggest worry and starting defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle suffered a possibly season-ending knee injury. Also, linebacker Dante Booker left the game with an unspecified leg injury in the first half and did not return.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
The only thing holding down the grade here is inactivity. Kicker Tyler Durbin did not attempt a field goal and punter Cameron Johnston was needed only once. Six of Durbin’s 12 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Ohio State’s special teams didn’t have any big returns but they also did not allow any.
It won’t always be this easy but it certainly was fun to watch. OSU’s 77 points were the most it had scored since 1950 and its 776 yards of total offense set a school record. And almost everyone who played looked good.
Some commentators said in the preseason that Ohio State’s back-ups last year could have beaten most Big Ten teams and for one afternoon, at least, that appeared to be plausible. And it wasn’t just the young guys who stepped up. Veterans like Dontre Wilson, Marcus Baugh and Johnnie Dixon who had never lived up to their signing day hype looked ready to be contributors this fall.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau