Northwestern Report Card: Offense
EVANSTON, Ill. - It's starting to become a familair story for Ohio State this season. Show some humanity and struggle in the first quarter, let the opposing team think they may be on to something or caught something in the film room, and then go for the jugular in the second quarter before they even know what hit them. It's become a tried and true method for the Buckeyes who displayed it once again on Friday, entering the second quarter only up 7-3 before exploding on a 24-0 run to take a 31-3 lead into halftime.
The Buckeyes would go on to win 52-3, so obviously a lot went right for Ohio State, specifically on offense. Find out how we graded out the offense in this week's report card.
Justin Fields had himself another efficient, if not quiet day coming off the off week. Completing 18 of his 23 passing attempts, he finished with 194 yards and four touchdowns through the air. This was the fewest number of yards he's thrown for this season, but it didn't really matter as the Wildcats were giving the Buckeyes good field position and the running backs were breaking off big runs, so this wasn't a game that Fields needed to take over. Note that Fields did not have a rushing touchdown for the first time in his Ohio State career in a slow game on the ground, only rushing for eight yards on six carries.
While Fields did not rack up rushing yards on the stats sheet, he was running all over the pocket and in the backfield Friday night as he orchestrated plays from and outside of the pocket. He escaped when he needed to, made good decisions and threw some beautiful passes while on the run. This was another fundamentally strong performance from Fields that showed further improvement on some deeper passes and his decisions in the pocket.
Considering Fields had a couple of passes that got dropped, you really can't ask for much more from him, especially in a game like this where the defense is just as dominant as the offense is. If he can keep up this level of consistency, expect him to rise to the challenge when Ohio State needs him in bigger games against Wisconsin and Penn State.
Northwestern has one of the better defenses Ohio State was going to face this season, and like Michigan State, the running backs ran circles around them with no issue. J.K. Dobbins went for 121 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries with most of his yards coming on a 68-yard scamper. Master Teague III only had seven carries but made the most of it on an explosive 73-yard touchdown run, the longest play of the season for the Buckeyes. Marcus Crowley even got in on the action with two carries for 53 yards.
The offensive line played well on Friday opening up lanes for the backs, but every rusher for Ohio State really was able to turn on the jets against Wisconsin. Teague was able to leave defenders behind him and Dobbins and Crowley both barely got caught after long runs, so there was a home run ability shown by every significant rusher that we haven't seen in some games this season.
While Dobbins did have trouble getting things going early, he was able to start getting bigger gains as the game went on, so there really isn't anywhere to ding the backs on this week in such a dominant rushing performance against a good defense.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Chris Olave was the true standout from Friday's big 52-3 win, but with such a large margin of victory, that means pretty much everyone had a good game. Seven receivers got involved in the passing game this week with Olave leading in both yards (60) and receptions (five) as well as hauling in two touchdown catches. Olave has gone quiet the last couple of games, so this was a nice bounce back coming off of the off week.
Austin Mack brought in four catches for 50 yards while Garrett Wilson and K.J Hill also had nice contributions to the passing game. Wilson saw a bit more usage outside of the red zone than we had seen in previous weeks, so as he continues to get snaps and shows what he can do, expect Ryan Day to use him more on different parts of the field.
There were a couple of drops early on by Mack and Binjimen Victor (finished with one catch for seven yards) but it seems unfair to take off for that given how well everyone performed the rest of the way.
This was another game for Greg Studrawa to hang his hat on. At this rate, he's going to need a bigger hat rack, because even with the injuries threatening the cohesion of the offensive line there was no noticeable drop off. Thayer Munford was a game-time decision and Nicholas Petit-Frere ending up starting in his place, though Munford did come back in on the drive where Dobbins took off for his 68-yard run.
Overall, lanes were opened up for the backs and Fields' jersey was kept clean. It may sound like a gross simplification of the offensive line's effort, but they have become on eof the most consistent units on this team in a Buckeye squad that has a lot of good units to write home about.
This was also another strong outing from the second team unit and showed that the Buckeyes don't need to worry about depth in this area. Even when Northwestern's starters on defense were still in, Ohio State's two-deep offensive line was still playing as dominant as the first team was.