After each Ohio state game during the 2021 football season, LGHL will offer its market analysis of the Buckeyes’ performance. Using a standard bond scoring system, we will rate offense, defense and special teams, according to this formula:
AA (yes, I can also use + and -): Very strong
BB: Facing a major uncertainty
Next, we’ll take a look at all of the individual players whose performances stood out (one way or another!).
A win like yesterday’s certainly helps remove the bad taste from the previous game. Enter the Rose bowlThere were question marks surrounding the Ohio State team and, to be frank, the program itself. Not all of the questions were answered (linebackers?), But the youngsters stepped up, the team wanted to win and, despite the absence of 24 players, they did.
It was a story of two halves. After the Buckeyes held Utah on two first downs followed by a punt on their first possession, I thought, perhaps, the OSU defense had recovered from that second halfway through. time in Ann Arbor. But then the Utes scored touchdowns on their next five possessions – four drives and a 97-yard kickoff return. Already seen. They could run or pass at will. Buckeye’s offense caught fire, but the defense was pathetic. Halftime: Utah 35, Ohio State 21.
In the second half, OSU’s defense became much stronger, limiting Utah to ten points and stopping them in three of five second-half practices. Meanwhile, CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba went wild, as the Bucks won the second half 27-10.
Buckeye’s return was important. As Ryan Day said afterwards, winning the Rose Bowl gives momentum to next season, a season we all look forward to.
Buckeye’s offense spat on his first two possessions, with three outs and punters. The opening practice began with two TreVeyon Henderson tracks. It was as if Day was following Nick Saban’s lead the day before when Bama ran, ran, ran on his first possession against Cincinnati. The result, however, was sadly different, as Henderson only gained one yard and then two yards on his races. Those two OSU punts, however, were the only two of the day. In their next eleven possessions, the Buckeyes have scored six touchdowns and two field goals. The other practices ended with turnovers and the end of the first half.
For the game, the Buckeyes gained 683 yards, including 573 in the air. They were 4/9 on the third downs and 2/2 on the fourth downs. They made big plays when they needed them. Even in the second quarter, it was clear the Buckeye line could handle Utah’s much-vaunted pass rush (no sacks for the game) and that Stroud would have time to pitch the pitch. Crossing roads and side roads gave Ute’s defenders crises, and the passing attack just ate them up.
The line played well. The receivers played well. And Stroud was superb, completing 37 of 46 passing attempts (80%). The most surprising statistic, to me, is the Ohio State’s rush. OSU only ran 20 times, but averaged 5.5 yards per carry – to Utah’s 5.1-yard average. I think the Buckeyes could have run a lot more, but why would they? They averaged 12.5 yards per passing attempt.
Oh, there were a few mistakes – Stroud’s back pass into the end zone for an interception, JSN’s fumble near the end zone, a few untimely penalties. But, overall? Dynamic and great fun to watch!
Overall rating: AA Very strong
Even against Utah’s tough defense, I didn’t worry much about Stroud and company. The Buck offense has been good all year. Defense was another matter, and it was exhausted yesterday.
Like I said, they played a lot better in the second half than in the first. Yet when you give up 463 yards of total attack, report 45 points (OK, the D gave up “only” 38), handle only one sack, and get no turnaround (the fumble of the Utah was in the special teams), things are not going ideally.
At first, Buckeye’s defense couldn’t stop the race. The line did not occupy the offensive line, which was able to come out on linebackers, and quarterback Cam Rising was able to break and evade tackles. In the passing game, Utah used many multiple tight patterns, matching the bigger receivers against linebackers and Ohio State Safeguards. Donors seemed slow; the securities seemed small.
Towards the end of the first half, the defense calmed down and with the attacking success it looked like Ohio State had finally had a chance in this game. Once the Bucks took the lead with 4:22 to go and with Rising injured and sidelined, I thought the game was on. But footless quarterback Bryson Barnes took 58 yards at the Utes for the tying touchdown. Granted, it was a TD helped by interference calls on Cam Brown and Ronnie Hickman. Again, smaller defensive backs on tight ends.
The pass rush started to put pressure on Rising in the second half, and the tackle was much safer in the second half. Let’s face it, though, there’s still a lot of work to be done to raise the level of Ohio State’s defense to “good,” let alone “elite.”
Overall Rating: BBB Adequate (i.e. good enough to win)
Definitely, some action on special teams. Utah won the toss and took the ball. Smart movement. I’ve wondered all year round why teams would put the ball in the capable hands of Stroud.
Apparently OSU doesn’t have a kicker who can kick off in (or out of) the end zone. I had always thought the Bucks wanted a team to attempt a comeback. Hit them behind their own 20s, maybe get a penalty, to start. But that couldn’t be the case yesterday. Utah returned a kick for 97 yards and a touchdown and returned the others quite successfully. Once Ohio State took the lead, why did they attempt a short kick? The Utes started this last training session with a great position on the pitch.
Emeka Egbuka had good feedback from her side; the best, however, was canceled by a call waiting from Julian Fleming. In their first practice of the second half, Utah were held to a three and one out and then the punter missed the snap. Ohio State got the ball at Utah 11, and we forgot about Stroud’s interception.
Noah Ruggles: Ice Man.
Overall rating: BB Adequate
Jaxon Smith-Njigba. One of the brightest performances I have seen, by any player at any position. JSN could part with anyone and then catch up on ballets, while staying within limits. Recording setting? What record did he not break with his game of 15 catches, 347 yards and 3 touchdowns? Most yards in a Rose Bowl (remember this started in 1902), most yards in any ball game never, the most receiving yards in a game in Ohio State football history. For the season: 95 receptions are the most in program history, 1,606 receiving yards are also the most on record for OSU. I was surprised, with the removal of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, that JSN was still playing primarily from the slot machine. And that Utah was trying to cover him with security.
CJ Stroud. Someone was throwing the ball to JSN, and that someone was CJ Stroud, who had his own memorable game: 573 passing yards, with six touchdowns. He even shot the ball down and ran ten yards once. Stroud has had a great year, especially since he hadn’t thrown a pass in a college game before this season. I can’t wait for next year!
Offensive line. I know. I know. I’ve been on the O-line for much of the season, blaming them for the lack of a solid running game. Yesterday they were really good. Usually Stroud had all day to run through his progress and throw. As the protection continued, you could feel Stroud’s confidence growing.
Marvin Harrison, Jr. By far the most we’ve seen of Harrison this year, and he’s shown us something. He caught six passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns. He started on Egbuka, and I can see why. Separation, height, hands. He will be something next year as he becomes a star receiver.
Taron Vincent. With Haskell Garrett out of the roster, Vincent stepped up his efforts, causing problems for the Utes in both passing and rushing play. He finished with six total tackles and played, I think, his best game of the year.
Noah Ruggles. M. Automatic. Did you see him on this winning field goal? He knew he would have passed it – and he did. He’s been great all year. A real find for Day and his crew.
Tommy Eichenberg. Yes, he missed a few tackles in the first half, and he’s been a soft spot all year for Buckeye’s defense. But in the second half? Eichenberg was everywhere, playing with the kind of enthusiasm we want – and expect from an OSU defense. He finished with 16 total tackles, ten solo and six assists.
Zach Harrison. Again, I thought Harrison played one of his best games in what, for him, has been a disappointing season. He managed to put pressure on Rising and also played the run very well.
Cade Stover. It’s not a bad game for a guy who’s only been there for a few minutes.
Ronnie Hickman. I’ve loved Hickman all year, but he really struggled yesterday with the run and the pass. Leading the Bucks in tackles for the year by a wide margin, he had just three yesterday.
JÃ©rÃ©my Ruckert. He dropped a pass. He missed a few blocks on the races. He took a long time out when it was clear he didn’t know what to do. Mitch Rossi played better.
So ends the final stock market report for the 2021 season, a bittersweet season, with a very nice finish. Good year!