What we learned: New dynamics on offense

Nick McWilliams, Staff Writer
Buckeye Grove
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USA Today Sports images

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A passing game that was working on all cylinders had to be a sight for the sore eyes of Buckeyes fans. After being teased with the potential of Ohio State's throwing and catching abilities against Army West Point, Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson unleashed some new looks on an unsuspecting UNLV defense.

There were new dynamics on display Saturday that were relatively unseen in the other contests so far this season, and the end result was a near complete victory. Moving forward, Ohio State has given itself plenty to build upon.

1 - Confidence growing between J.T. Barrett, receivers

J.T. Barrett has seemed timid during the opening weeks of the season, occasionally taking the extra second to read a defense and go through his progressions. Those kind of actions usually lead to very bad things if you're a quarterback.

But Saturday showcased something that fans had been itching to see — Barrett letting it rip.

While a quarterback who is unafraid of a defense and pushes the envelope too far can be a bad thing (just ask Dwayne Haskins after he threw a pick-six), Barrett put forth a crazy efficient day, all while passing Bobby Hoying for second-most career passing yards at Ohio State. There was little indecision by the fifth-year senior, who even flashed a strong arm on a few dart-like throws.

It was a night and day difference from Barrett's performance against Oklahoma. Parris Campbell, recipient of the longest pass play and a few other solid catches, is liking what he sees from his signal caller.

"He did incredible today. I think he threw for five touchdowns, which, you know, he has the most touchdowns in the Big Ten and he's just moving forward," Campbell said after the game. "But J.T., I've said it from the start, he's the best quarterback in college football. I think he's proving that every day."

If the confidence remains high in Columbus, opposing teams should be put on notice.

2 - Is that you best effort?

Ohio State may have trounced an over-matched team on Saturday, but there was still plenty to build off of. The secondary was possibly the worst part of the team's performance, and even that unit only gave up 88 yards.

Penalties were one of the biggest issues for the Ohio State cornerbacks, with much of the blame falling of Kendall Sheffield. He was flagged three times for separate infractions.

"It's awful," Meyer said.

Still, that should be an indication that the best football is still yet to be found by the Buckeyes, even after a rout where Ohio State outgained their opponents by 400 yards offensively.

Campbell still thinks there is plenty more to the Ohio State offense than what fans have seen.

"I think, even after this game, we're still a pissed-off offense," he said. "We still feel that we have so much to prove and we feel like we have so much in our tank that hasn't even came up yet."

Although the yards and distribution of scores will likely not match what the Buckeyes did on Saturday in any other game this year, their most efficient offense could still be out there, if the players are right.

Even the offensive line, who came in as one of the more experienced groups on the team, was not without struggles, allowing three sacks. Looking back at the Michael Jordan play where he was bulldozed to the ground, pulled the defender down with him and still allowed the sack was the most notable blunder.

Don't let the big margin of victory fool you. Campbell is right.

There is still plenty more the Ohio State offense and defense can do.

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Courtesy: Associated Press

3 - Things got clearer and fuzzier at the same time

Dwayne Haskins received an extended look at quarterback for the Buckeyes, but things don't always go as planned. Although the second-year quarterback did throw with some zip on his passes, Haskins made a bad read and gave up the only interception on the day for the UNLV defense..

Joe Burrow, still recovering from a broken hand, received some playing time and completed a few good passes. Overall, with two touchdowns scored and the most yards of any Ohio State passer, Haskins won the quarterback competition between back-ups.

It would stand to reason after Haskins' playing time, he would win the, "Who's backing up J.T.?" quarterback battle. However, Burrow keeps knocking on the door, and still threw a pretty ball after having his hand surgically repaired just a few weeks ago.

Both quarterbacks have shown the ability to move the ball down the field, but neither one can seem to pull away from the other. And that's still not accounting for Tate Martell, who did not receive any snaps Saturday.

Meyer said Burrow was playing with some discomfort, and could only go for so long.

"He's still about 90 percent," Meyer said. "So, like, he couldn't even take a snap at the end. He's such a warrior."

While fans got to see Haskins' arm strength, they could also see a little sample of Burrow's command. Saturday made the skill set of each signal caller more apparent in terms of the arm cannon attached to one, and the efficient and accurate passing of another.

Things might be a little more complicated now in the quarterback battle.

4 - Reserve woes

It doesn't take an anaylist of Ohio State football to see the struggles of the second-string when implemented. The Buckeyes allowed big chunks of yardage on multiple plays, even after the starting defenders played UNLV extremely close to the chest.

Although second-stringers are rarely a huge issue, that could be a big deal if the effort forges little results when a player other than a starter needs to produce at a high level. Ohio State surrendered two touchdowns when it's backups were on the field.

There was no one player who deserves all the blame, but the drop-off in quality of play was pretty step. Nick Bosa, who was not trying to throw anyone specific under the bus, issued a challenge to his team, aimed mostly at backup players.

"We wanted our 2's to play a little better and the penalties hurt us too," Bosa said. "I think the 1's played really well and our 2's just have to step it up when they get the chance. There were some good things but they just did not play soundly and do their job instead of jumping around and trying to make plays."

Depth is always a concern on any football team, so Meyer will be taking a hard look at who should be the next in line for some positions after some mistakes by bench players.

5 - Meyer wants results when it matters

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Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

A win is a win, is a win.

The phrase applies to most sports. But, college football is a little different beast.

Although Ohio State walked away victorious Saturday, Meyer was not satisfied with the rout. For him, these kind of performances need to come in games where the spread doesn't cause a double take for fans.

"Let's go do it against a team that's equally matched," Meyer said. "And that's my challenge every day for myself, for our coaches, more importantly. And obviously our players. So that's our challenge is Big Ten Conference officially starts."

Ohio State had arguably it's best team performance against UNLV, but games like this one will be forgotten as the season progresses. The win over the Rebels is a confidence booster, but serves as little more than that in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee.

"(The Rebels) are really talented, but we know the Big Ten is where we are at," said defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones. "That's where we need to get to out goals."

It's a tall task to try and repeat this kind of performance against conference opponents, but it's another step in the right direction for the Buckeyes.

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