BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Hello, Café du Monde? I’d like to order a dozen beignets for my January trip to New Orleans.
Relax, worry bees. I kid. I kid. Mostly. Ohio State has a long way to go, and an upset special to avoid somewhere along the line, before it can jet to the Superdome for the College Football Playoff national championship game on Jan. 13.
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Chances are that quarterback Justin Fields will have a clunker of a game, relatively speaking, before it’s said and done. Every quarterback does. One of these days he might even throw an interception. Chances are that a Buckeyes starter will be lost to injury. It happens. Chances are a bad bounce will initiate a series of setbacks. Bank on it. At some point, the defense will take a breather. Consider it human nature. Penalties will paralyze the product. Focus issues.
All those things will happen to some degree. They just didn’t happen on Saturday against Indiana. None of them. Thus: 51-10 Ohio State.
This makes two games in a row the Buckeyes toyed with an opponent like a kitten pawing at a laser pen light (try it; easier than wiggling a string). The domination was so complete that picking only one area to praise does an injustice to the others. But pick we must, so today we focus on the running game, fueled by the offensive line, motored by J.K. Dobbins and with Master Teague poured in for engine additive.
If you qualify as no longer young, which sounds better than old, you probably delight in watching power football. Not necessarily Woody ball, but something that says, “We eat beef. Or at least turkey.”
Sure, a dynamic passing game is fun and necessary, but no one from between the waters — Lake Erie to the Uh-hi-uh River — wants Ohio State to become a Big 12 offense.
I wondered if Big 12-meets-Columbus might happen when Ryan Day replaced Urban Meyer. Despite preaching all preseason that the first goal was to establish the run, it seemed reasonable to assume that Day — the quarterback guru — would lean toward airing it out over pounding the ground.
But the numbers suggest otherwise. Through three games, the offense has 135 rushing attempts, the same number as through the first three games last season, when Urban Meyer had veto power over play-calling. Pass attempts have dropped from 105 to 82.
“We’ve gone from a passing attack last year to now we’re starting to run the ball,” Day said. “When you get that run going, you can control the game.”
Day cautioned that game plans change week to week but finished with, “We’re starting to forge our identity.”
Dobbins is the face of that identity, with Teague as a worthy secondary visage. Behind a line that continues to manhandle defenders, Dobbins rushed for 193 yards on 22 carries (8.8 average); Teague added 106 yards on 10 carries (10.6). Each ran for a touchdown.
“They both ran hard,” Day said. “I think we’ll see some things on film with J.K. that were really good. Maybe a stiff arm. And seeing Master two weeks in row … after contact made, he’s falling forward for 4 yards. That makes a huge difference.”
As for the rest of the offense, Fields did not have his best day, showing some accuracy issues early and missing on deep balls to Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor. But the sophomore was far from terrible, completing 14 of 24 attempts for 199 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his three-game total to nine TDs without an interception.
“Justin knows he left some yards on the field,” Day said.
Clean that up and … it’s early, but prepare to pass the powdered sugar.