Ohio State grade card: Still some work to do on defense, in running game


Ohio State wasn’t perfect on Saturday in a 30-14 win over Minnesota. But its record (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) still is. My grade card on an uneven performance:

OFFENSE: B

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins passed for 412 yards and three touchdowns. Ohio State quarterbacks have thrown for more than 400 yards only three times in a game and Haskins has done it in back-to-back games.

Haskins and Ohio State’s receivers had another game where they were the engine in the offense. K.J. Hill had nine catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, one on a spectacular one-handed catch.

The offensive line blocked well most of the time in passing situations but struggled in the running game. OSU had a season-low 92 yards rushing. In the last three games it has averaged 122 yards a game rushing and 3.1 yards per carry.

Big plays have been rare for either of the top two running backs, J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, and those plays were absent again against Minnesota. It’s possible the running game misses both the talent and leadership of last year’s best linemen, Billy Price and Jamarco Jones.

DEFENSE: C

OSU’s defense held Minnesota to 14 points. That’s the good news and the bottom line.

The defensive backfield doubled its interception total for the season to four when Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Pryor got picks and Shaun Wade forced a fumble, which was also a good thing. All three of those turnovers came inside the Buckeyes’ 25-yard line, which probably kept the score from being even closer.

OSU’s defense was without four injured starters most of the game but the back seven – the linebackers and defensive backs – continued to be scary, as they have been all season.

Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim was the third player to set a career high in rushing yards against OSU this season (Oregon State’s Artavis Pierce, Penn State’s Trace McSorley and Ibrahim). And TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson and Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey had career-best passing yardage totals against the Buckeyes.

If those struggles to contain big plays continue, it could bite OSU this week against Purdue, whose quarterback David Blough has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,573 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Boilermakers’ last four games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

Sean Nuernberger’s injury, identified only as “a strain,” made sophomore Blake Haubeil the No. 1 kicker on Saturday and he responded by making all three of his field goal attempts, including a 47-yard kick.

The kicker’s job probably will still belong to Nuernberger, a senior, when he’s healthy. But Haubeil’s strong leg and calm demeanor created speculation about possibly using him on long kicks, which are not a strength for Nuernberger (6 of 15 from 40 yards or more in his career).

OVERALL: B-

OSU coach Urban Meyer repeated his mantra that the best thing about being 7-0 is the chance to go 8-0 after his team’s latest win. But he has to know going 12-0 and beyond might not happen with a defense that is giving up too many big plays too frequently and with an offense operating with one tire that is underinflated.

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