Here are 5 things we learned from Ohio State's 45-12 win over Arkansas State
Ohio State's win over Arkansas State was convincing yet underwhelming. It was dynamic yet sloppy. For Buckeyes fans, it was fun but sort of not fun.
Such are games when you manhandle a weak opponent.
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The Buckeyes were not as good as they were against Notre Dame, but it's understandable that they were not as focused and excited as they were for a game they worked all offseason for.
There were no major injuries. That's a plus. Here are five other things we learned from the game:
Does Ohio State have a problem at cornerback?
Future opponents watching Saturday's game likely circled Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke as a target. The super-hyped sophomore was called for pass interference twice in the first quarter, with one being waved off because the receiver caught the pass. Earlier, he got away with a jersey pull on a third-down pass breakup.
Burke, considered a team strength in all preseason discussions, was pulled after being beat deep in the second quarter and replaced by fellow sophomore JK Johnson. They alternated the rest of the game. Johnson also subbed in for Cam Brown, the other starting cornerback, as Arkansas State passed for 223 yards and no interceptions. None of the three cornerbacks were outstanding.
Ohio State defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau is something special
He's not a big stat guy yet, but he's looking like a game-changer. On Saturday, sophomore defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau was credited for one tackle, just as he was against Notre Dame. But so much of the disruption caused by the newfangled Ohio State defense starts with No. 44.
To put it simply, he's a handful. He's quick and strong. He can rush outside or handle two blockers inside. He often seals the edge and turns ballcarriers inside, and there is no stat for that. While the Buckeyes' first two opponents have realized they need to pay extra attention to Tuimoloau, his teammates have run free.
On one play Saturday, the Buckeyes had their "he's everywhere" linebacker Tommy Eichenberg run an inside blitz, forcing the Arkansas State guard to hit him at the snap. Tuimoloau, meanwhile showed incredibly quick feet in skipping right around the back of Eichenberg and through the hole vacated by Eichenberg to ruin a play. Perfect scheme for a phenomenal athlete.
Who are you gonna cover when they're all back?
As sophomore receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka run free in opposing secondaries, it's easy to forget that the Buckeyes are playing pitch and catch without star Jaxon Smith-Njigba and fellow starter Julian Fleming. Harrison, Egbuka, Xavier Johnson and Jayden Ballard are getting valuable snaps while their teammates are getting healthy.
So when they're all back, it'll look like ... last season's Rose Bowl, but with more experience. Scary.
You think Ryan Day is a pass-first play-caller now? Just wait.
Behold Buckeye blitz-mania
They said Jim Knowles' defense would be fun, and what's more fun than blitz after blitz after blitz?
In two games, the Buckeyes have shown several looks, and Knowles says much of the playbook isn't even in yet. There are linebacker blitzes and fake blitzes, and the confusion sometimes leads to huge defensive tackles going unblocked because offensive linemen are so worried about all the bodies flashing in front of them.
The Eichenberg blitz that opened space for Tuimoloau mentioned above is just one example of the creativity. On one third down, Knowles blitzed both linebackers and had the defensive ends drop into pass coverage. The result was a sack by speedy linebacker Steele Chambers.
Little-guy Champ Flemings of Arkansas State is fun to watch
Arkansas State had no chance to win this game. But that didn't stop 5-foot-6 (maybe) Red Wolves receiver Champ Flemings from having fun. The Oregon State transfer caught 10 passes for 105 yards and had two carries for 20 yards. And all along, he was jawing at the Ohio State sideline.
Flemings played 42 games in four seasons at Oregon State and was honorable mention All-Pac 12 in 2020. He transferred after having 61 career receptions for 902 yards and four touchdowns.
While ASU lists him as 5-6 and 155 pounds, Oregon State had him at 5-5, 142. Either way, that's lots of fun in a small body.