Buckeyes on a history-making roll on offense
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Urban Meyer came to Ohio State three years ago with the reputation of having a hurry-up, quick-play, no-huddle, high-scoring offense.
It hasn’t worked out that way until now.
Led by freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and tailback Ezekiel Elliott, the 20th-ranked Buckeyes have scored 116 points and totaled 78 first downs and 1,338 yards the past two weeks in victories over defense-challenged Kent State and Cincinnati.
Meyer likes what he sees.
“It’s a street fight to get the ball right now,” he said of the competition among skill players.
There’s more depth up front, there are more options in the passing attack (10 players had receptions in Saturday’s 50-28 blowout of Cincinnati), and there’s a general feeling that the Buckeyes are meshing just as they begin Big Ten play on Saturday at Maryland.
“There’s been times in the past when we want to run very up tempo and it looks awful because everyone’s (tired),” Meyer said. “I don’t feel that way at all now. And, more importantly, our offensive coordinator (Tom Herman) is a big tempo guy. On the headsets it’s, ‘Go, go, go!’”
The Buckeyes are averaging about 10 more offensive plays per game than Oregon, renowned for its snap it, score and celebrate style.
Barrett, who took over in camp when three-year starter Braxton Miller was lost for the year due to shoulder surgery, appears to have made strides every week.
For the season in his first four collegiate starts, he is hitting 64 percent of his passes for an average of 272 yards and three TDs per game. His decision-making has been superlative and he’s also been an effective runner (51 yards a game).
“He’s a great leader. He’s super poised,” said tight end Jeff Heuerman. “So it doesn’t surprise me how he’s handled his business.”
Elliott had the difficult assignment of stepping in for departed senior Carlos Hyde, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards last year despite sitting out three games with a suspension.
“He was more of a bruiser-type back,” Elliott said. “I like to get outside more; I have a little more finesse to me.”
In his finest collegiate game, the sophomore showed strength inside and speed outside in picking up 182 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown last week.
“He did the job you would want a Carlos Hyde to do, but he’s a different runner than Carlos,” line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “Ezekiel is playing great right now. We just have to keep him going.”
The line, with four new starters, started slowly but has made surprisingly fast progress in recent weeks.
“We had a good game on Saturday,” said Pat Elflein, starting at center. “We just keep getting better. That’s what we’re doing in practice.”
Ohio State tied an NCAA record with 45 first downs in the win over Cincinnati. The Buckeyes are on pace for one of the most productive seasons ever — despite so-so productivity the first two games.
They visit sold-out Byrd Stadium for the Terrapins’ first Big Ten home game on Saturday.
Now if the Terps can just figure out a way to slow the (almost) point-a-minute Buckeyes.
“You can see they’ve gotten better from the first game and now going into the fifth game,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. “J.T. Barrett is playing at a really high level and their skill guys as well. Their offensive line is coming along. They were young and now they have more experience.”
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