Oregon 35, Ohio State 28: Scarlet & Gray Matter analysis of a Buckeyes loss

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Observations on Saturday's Ohio State-Oregon game by Joey Kaufman:

The game at hand

Short-attention span synopsis: It was a game won in the trenches. But it was the team from the Pac-12, not the Big Ten, that prevailed. The Buckeyes were gashed. Kerry Coombs was unable to match wits with Joe Moorhead. A dynamic passing game saddled by a porous defense has the whiff of a Big 12 team or at least one with an uphill climb back to the College Football Playoff.  

Pregame buzz: It had the buildup of a big-time matchup. FOX’s “Big Noon Kickoff” pregame show broadcasted outside Ohio Stadium as tailgaters filled the surrounding parking lots. The mascots, Brutus the Buckeye and the Oregon Duck, palled around with fans. Noon kickoffs often bring late-arriving crowds, but it was an atmosphere befitting a high-stakes game and the first time in 658 days that fans were permitted to attend a game at the Horseshoe.  

Spread the wealth?: Ohio State opened six days earlier as an 11-point favorite before the betting line tilted even more in the Buckeyes' favor, going up to as many as 15 points in some Las Vegas sportsbooks by Saturday morning. For those who gave the points, it never looked like a good bet. The Buckeyes trailed throughout the game.   

Strategically speaking: The Buckeyes were aggressive on fourth down. They didn’t opt for a field goal on their opening drive when they reached Oregon’s 31-yard line, nor in the second quarter when they got down to the 39-yard line, nor in the third quarter at the 8-yard line. In all three instances, they went for it and turned the ball over on downs. Did the decisions cost them points? Perhaps Ohio State was outside the range of kicker Noah Ruggles on the second of its first three fourth-down attempts, but three points is better than no points. 

The 2021 Ohio State football schedule:Times, dates and results for the Buckeyes

The View

• How the team sees it: The 2014 team recovered from a Week 2 loss. We have a road map. 

• How the pollsters will see it: The last time you lost in the regular season to Purdue in 2018, we dropped you outside the top-10. We might be a little more forgiving this time. Barely.   

• How Buckeye Nation will see it: We miss Jeff Hafley.  

Hey, what did Ryan Day say?

• What he said: "If it's the scheme, we gotta get it fixed. If it's the coaching, we gotta do it better. If it's the personnel, we gotta make some changes."

• What it means: It might be all three.

They said it

Talking heads: Fox's Joel Klatt was on his "A" game on Saturday in a lot of ways. Early in the game, he said that C.J. Stroud's primary passing flaw is that he throws too high to his receivers. On the next pass, Stroud had Jaxon Smith-Njigba wide open on third-and-7 and threw it over his head. Later, Klatt said the way to beat Oregon's defense is to go up-tempo. On the next play, Ohio State did that and Stroud hit Garrett Wilson for a touchdown after Wilson ran by the cornerback and safety as they were literally checking their wristbands for the correct defensive formation.

Pregame chatter: Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops clearly is not a fan of the Ohio State defensive scheme. In the FOX pregame show, Stoops said, "Ohio State's big issue is pass defense. By playing their one-high safety system, they are way too predictable for offensive coordinators and way too easy for quarterbacks." Then, Stoops' Fox colleague Brady Quinn chimed in, "Yes. Give me that one-on-one coverage."

Numbers for dummies

21: Consecutive wins for Ohio State in the regular season until Saturday's loss.

484: Passing yards by C.J. Stroud, the second-most in a game for a Buckeyes quarterback

612: Total yards by the Buckeyes' offense, it's most ever in a loss.

3: Number of Ohio State receivers who had at least 100 yards, the first time in school history it had three receivers surpass that threshold in a game.

12: Catches by wide receiver Chris Olave, a career-high for the senior.

2-for-5: Fourth-down conversion rate for the Buckeyes.

7.1: Yards per rushing attempt allowed by Ohio State, the fifth-most in a game in school history.

0: Sacks by Ohio State’s defense, the first time it had failed to sack a quarterback in a game since 2018.

1: Tackles for loss by the Buckeyes, their fewest in a game since 2017.

19: NFL teams that had representatives credentialed for the much-billed matchup. 

On tap

If Ohio State’s schedule was front-loaded with games against Minnesota and Oregon in the opening weeks, the soft part of the schedule is arriving with Tulsa visiting the Horseshoe in Week 3, preceding the final non-conference game against Akron. Tulsa was competitive on Saturday in a 28-23 loss at Oklahoma State but had earlier dropped its season opener to UC Davis, its first loss to a team from the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision in more than three decades. It sets up a bounce-back opportunity for the Buckeyes. 


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