Loud crowd will test Haskins at Penn State

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins looks for a receiver in the first quarter against Tulane. He usually found one, finishing 21-of-24 for 304 yards and five touchdowns in playing only the first half. [Brooke LaValley/Dispatch]

We know what Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. can do with a wideout. Now, what can he do with a White Out?

When Haskins sets up in the pocket against Penn State on Saturday night in a Beaver Stadium filled with bleached laundry, it will be the first hostile crowd the redshirt sophomore has faced as a starter, and the second since subbing for an injured J.T. Barrett last season at Michigan. (The crowd at AT&T Stadium last week against TCU was 75 percent pro-Buckeyes.)

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How will Haskins handle the moment? That’s really the only question left for the kid, who continues to play his way up the Heisman Trophy leaderboard with yet another wunderkind performance Saturday.

As Ohio State disposed of the lifeless body that is Tulane, Haskins put on a show that topped anything he had accomplished previously. And that’s saying something, considering he already looks like one of the top three passers to play for Ohio State.

If Joe Germaine was a gunslinger and Art Schlichter tossed arcing beauties, Haskins fires darts that find the bull’s-eye nearly every time. His accuracy is such that any pass not perfectly placed elicits arched eyebrows and a “What was that?” reaction. Such a burden to be this good.

Against Tulane — which in losing 49-6 played more like a one-lane road terminating in a dead end — Haskins completed his first nine passes before his 10th attempt sailed over the head of Parris Campbell. The miss ended a string of 15 consecutive completions (over two games) and came one short of J.T. Barrett’s record 16 straight completions against Penn State last season.

Nobody’s perfect, but Haskins is testing that truth. He finished 21-of-24 for 304 yards and five touchdowns — more TDs than incompletions! — all before halftime, and he did not play the third and fourth quarters. With three 300-yard games in only four career starts, Haskins moved into a tie for third on the Buckeyes' career 300 list.

The NFL is on line one for you, Mr. Haskins.

“Dwayne for Heisman,” Ohio State receiver Austin Mack said. “He’s being a pro, making a lot of tough reads and throwing the ball incredible. We all knew what Dwayne could do. It was just a matter of if he could be the guy on Saturdays.”

So far, so good. But can he be that guy next Saturday?

Todd Boeckman knows what Haskins will face in Happy Valley. The former Ohio State quarterback led the No. 1 Buckeyes to a 37-17 win in a White Out night game at No. 24 Penn State in 2007. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. And almost went deaf doing so.

“It’s one of the loudest environments I’ve ever been in,” Boeckman said. “The students and fans are screaming every single play. It’s very tough to hear the person you’re standing next to. Hand signals will be key.”

Should Ohio State fans worry?

Boeckman chuckled.

“He came into the Michigan game and even in that hostile environment did amazing things as a freshman,” Boeckman said. “Playing (TCU), I didn’t know what to expect. I thought there might be a hiccup there, but no way. I think he might be one of the best ever.”

Boeckman meant it as a statement, not prediction. Former Ohio State quarterback Greg Frey echoed similar thoughts, adding that Haskins has so many weapons he cannot help but feel confident.

“The key next week will be pass protection. It’s been great so far,” Frey said.

Haskins gets the last word.

“I’m looking forward to playing at Penn State,” he said. “It’s a great environment. I’ve always admired their fan base and stadium and am excited to go play there.”

Haskins throws a compliment as well as the football. Smart guy. Very smart.


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