Ohio State endured a difficult week waiting to rid itself of the pain inflicted by Oklahoma last week.
The Buckeyes’ 38-7 victory over Army at Ohio Stadium won’t wipe away all of the disappointment or stain from that loss.
Army is hardly a powerhouse, after all. The Black Knights’ triple-option offense is unlike anything the Buckeyes will face the rest of the season. They seldom pass, probably good news for an Ohio State defense that ranked last nationally in pass defense.
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But for the Buckeyes, jumping on Army early, withstanding a 99-yard touchdown drive and then dominating the second half was a needed salve for their psyches anyway.
“Being hit in the mouth last week humbled a lot of us,” hybrid receiver Parris Campbell said of the 31-16 loss to visiting Oklahoma. “It’s not something Ohio State expects. We came back an angry offense and an angry team.”
And a mostly efficient one. The Buckeyes’ offense, the subject of much criticism after Oklahoma, gained 586 yards, 8.5 per play.
Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins ran for 172 yards in only 13 carries, including a 52-yard touchdown run that provided some breathing room in the third quarter.
A solid run game is considered a given for the Buckeyes. Their passing game has been the issue. On Saturday, there were few complaints.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 25 of 33 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another. He broke Purdue’s Drew Brees’ Big Ten record for career touchdowns responsible for with 107.
Barrett said the aim this week was “playing fast, having the O-line control the line of scrimmage and me getting the ball into hands of the playmakers on the perimeter.
“Last week, we were trying to be perfect every single play. If you try to play football like that, a lot of times you’re not going to get the results.”
The game couldn’t have started much better for Ohio State. The Buckeyes (2-1) took a 14-0 lead on touchdown drives of 75 and 94 yards to open the game. Barrett completed 9 of 10 passes in those possessions.
But Army’s offense got untracked on an 18-play, 99-yard touchdown drive starting late in the first quarter. The possession included a fourth-and-1 conversion from the Black Knights’ 39-yard line and a rare pass completion. Army had completed only 2 of 10 passes in its victories over Fordham and Buffalo.
“They just wear you out,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “It was 14-7, and then our defense — coach Greg Schiano and the defensive staff — did a great job.”
After a 59-yard run by Campbell was called back because of a holding call, the Buckeyes settled for a field goal for a 17-7 halftime lead.
Army (2-1) drove to the Ohio State 24 to open the third quarter, but the Black Knights missed a 43-yard field goal try. That was as close as Army would come to scoring the rest of the way.
“It’s the ultimate assignment football, do-your-job football,” said Ohio State safety Damon Webb, who had a key fourth-down tackle later in the game. “Everybody played unselfish.”
Ohio State took control from there. Dobbins snapped off a 22-yard run and then ran through a big hole and cut inside past defensive back Mike Reynolds for his 52-yard score to make it 24-7.
“J.K. is a one-of-a-kind player,” Campbell said.
After a fumble by Army was recovered by the Buckeyes’ Kendall Sheffield at the OSU 36, Ohio State used Barrett’s arm to end any suspense about the outcome. Barrett completed passes of 11 and 31 yards before throwing a 20-yard touchdown dart to Terry McLaurin.
“The heart of a lion,” Meyer said of his quarterback. “It's a heart this big. And toughness, one of the toughest players I've ever been around. That's pretty good characteristics to have with a guy touching the ball every snap.”
Meyer was loose in his postgame comments. The week had worn on him and his team. This was relief.
“Losing is awful,” he said. “But sometimes those things happen. You work really hard not to allow it to happen, and you go through the discomfort of being crushed, to extremely angry and self-reflection — what could you have done better? And then you have to somehow pull yourself off the canvas and get going.”
On Saturday, they did.