DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer: Justin Higdon
Last wekend, Ohio State opened their 2013 season with a 40-20 win over the Buffalo Bulls. After jumping out to an early lead, the Buckeyes saw their opponents get back into the game, thanks to the most dynamic defensive performance of the weekend. Here’s a look at how some of the draft-eligible players from both schools fared on the first college football Saturday of the year.
#46 LB Khalil Mack
- Bites on a run fake on a touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Chris Fields
- Gets a sack and a pressure on back-to-back snaps
- Seals the edge on a sweep that leads to a forced fumble on freshman RB Dontre Wilson
- Gets more pressure but misses a sack as Miller shakes him off
- Shrugs off a cut block attempt and reaches back to intercept a screen intended for Wilson – outruns Wilson and Miller and dives in for a TD
- Beats RT Taylor Decker for a sack – gave Decker problems all day
- Gets another sack and forces a fumble but the play is negated by his own hands to the face penalty
- Fights off a block by the TE to make a run stop but was aided by RB Jordan Hall’s indecisiveness
Overview: Mack was a one-man wrecking crew against the Buckeye offense. He seemed to single-handedly get the Bulls back into the game after a dismal start. Mack gave the sophomore Decker fits, and gave senior Jack Mewhort some problems as well. He showed off impressive speed and athleticism for a 250-pound linebacker – for a player of any size for that matter. Prospects from lower tier conferences like the MAC need to seize opportunities to shine against big time opponents, and Mack’s performance against then number two Ohio State Saturday drew rave reviews.
#32 RB Branden Oliver
- Shows good push running on third and short to get the first down
- Gets stuffed on the next third and short running to the right side
- Strong run right – made a nice cut
- Bottled up for the most part in the first half
- Quiet most of the day but gets push for a first down in short yardage at mid-field
Overview: The most recognizable name on Buffalo’s offense was stymied by the Ohio State defense. He averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on his 26 rushing attempts, and was a non-factor in the passing game. While he was able to move the pile when he needed a yard or two, he did not appear overly quick or elusive. Only five of his runs went for more than five yards, and his longest was a ten-yard carry on the Bulls’ second drive of the game. Oliver ran for nearly 1400 yards and caught 38 passes as a sophomore in 2011, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in an injury shortened 2012 season, but he missed his chance for a big performance in what will likely prove to be his toughest test this season.
#19 WR Alex Neutz
- Makes a short catch and breaks a tackle for a 1st down
- Tries to reach for the first down marker after a catch and loses the ball out of bounds
- Gets a reception but almost loses the ball while running after the catch
- Next play he makes a wide-open reception and falls down, missing a run after the catch opportunity
- Gets a TD catch – good position underneath the tight coverage and uses his body to shield the defender
- Calls for a fair catch on a punt with a minute left, down by 20 and nobody near him – mystifying decision
Overview: Neutz had a productive day against an Ohio State secondary missing cornerback Bradley Robey and safety C.J. Barnett. However, the Buffalo receiver fumbled one ball (albeit out of bounds) and nearly lost the handle on another. He also missed a golden opportunity to make a big play after a wide-open reception, and immediately recognized the error of his ways on the ill-advised fair catch. On paper, a nine catch, 98-yard, one touchdown showing against a top-five team sounds impressive, but the reality was just North of ho-hum.
#5 QB Braxton Miller
- Connects with Devin Smith on a deep ball for a TD – great adjustment by Smith and subtle veteran push off move
- Stands in and scans the field until he finds WR Chris Fields for a big gain of 25 yards
- TD pass to Fields off a play fake a couple plays later
- May have gotten away with intentional grounding as he fell back into the end zone and threw the ball away
- Drops his arm angle to avoid the pass rusher, and sidearms a pass complete for a third down conversion – changing up arm angles is a new wrinkle
- Gets some pressure and rolls left – finds the TE as a safety valve
- Intercepted by Mack on a screen attempt to Wilson – ill-advised throw but excellent instincts by Mack
- Fumbles on a sack on third down but OSU recovers – never saw the pressure but needs to do a better job sensing it
- Flushed and falls down after a leg cramp
- Has to do a better job securing the ball
- Looks indecisive running the ball until he breaks a 40-yard run from deep in his own territory
- Floats a couple of deep balls and fires one too high to the sideline
- Tucks and runs for a 1st down – more sure of himself running late in the game
Overview: Early in the game, Miller looked as though he had spent some time in the offseason refining his passing skills. He came out firing and was very accurate on his first half-dozen throws, and the changing of arm angles was a new addition to his repertoire. As the game wore on, Miller was harassed and pressured (mostly by Mack), and struggled with awareness and ball security. He still appears very uneven as a passer. Miller is an outstanding runner, but he seemed determined to keep his eyes downfield looking for his receivers. At times he looked unsure of himself running the ball – very uncharacteristic of the junior signal caller. As the game wore on, Miller battled leg cramps, and even left the field a couple of times. Finally, on a late drive, Miller broke off a 40-yard run from deep in his own territory. After looking like he would dominate early, he finished the day with 178 yards, two TDs and the pick six passing, and 77 yards on 17 rushing attempts.
#7 RB Jordan Hall
- Nice cutback run to the right side
- Showing some good burst on his runs
- Runs untouched on a draw off the read option – shows good speed and just runs away from the defense – got excellent blocks from center Corey Linsley and guard Andrew Norwell
- Hall scores again on the same read option draw play as earlier – untouched to the end zone
- Takes an underhanded shovel pass from Miller for a nice pickup
- Picking up some tough yards inside in the middle of the third quarter
Overview: Hall got the start with Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith serving suspensions, and made the most of his opportunities. On his two long touchdown runs, the offensive line opened truck sized holes and Buffalo appeared to be playing without a single man playing back out of the box. Still, Hall looked quick and showed speed in the open field. His 21 carries, 24 touches on offense, 159 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns were all career highs. Head Coach Urban Meyer says Hall is his starting running back, and that Hyde and Smith will need to earn back carries when they return. However, even with another big performance or two, it seems inevitable that Hall will cede carries when his teammates return to active duty.
#10 WR Corey “Philly” Brown
- Devastating peel back run block on a run by Miller
- Play action pass intended for him thrown just wide – barely misses making a diving grab
- Terrific diving catch gets negated by a penalty
- Breaks a big punt return but the play is negated by a penalty by Freshman RB Ezekiel Elliot
Overview: The senior receiver’s best contributions did not wind up on the stat sheet, but Brown had a pretty impressive afternoon. His first diving attempt at a Miller pass was a narrow miss, but he nailed his second despite landing on the ball and getting his wind knocked out in the process. The block may have been his most eye-popping play of the day, and showed that Brown has developed into a “gamer” who is willing to do the little things for the sake of the team.
#10 LB Ryan Shazier
- Makes a run stop after a short gain – doesn’t let the RB shake him
- Stuffs a draw on third and long
- Makes another run stuff the gets pressure on a delay blitz up the middle
- Gives up a big gain on a throwback play
Overview: Shazier, like many of his teammates, got off to a quick start, but was hampered midway through the game by leg cramps. He returned to the field in the second half but appeared to still be negatively impacted by the warm conditions. On the blown play he looked a step slow chasing down the runner. Shazier and the rest of the Buckeyes may want to mix in some extra water, some pickle juice, a banana…something, to make sure they have enough fluids and electrolytes next time they take the field.
- Safety Christian Bryant did a nice job cleaning up and making a run stop on an early reverse. Later however, Bryant was called for defensive pass interference on a two-point conversion attempt.
- Senior receiver Chris Fields came into the game with 15 career receptions and one touchdown in his first three seasons as a Buckeye. Saturday, he matched a career high with three receptions, set a new career best with 53 yards, and found the end zone on two separate occasions.
- Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton made his presence known. He ran in one two-point conversion and passed for another – both out of the “swinging gate” formation – and he finished a scoring drive with a touchdown toss to Fields after Miller had gone to the sideline with cramping. Guiton is a good athlete and a heady player who seems to come through any time he’s called upon.
- Junior wide receiver Evan Spencer had a forgettable day. He caught two balls for 16 yards, but he also dropped a pass and was called for roughing the punter.