It took some time for things to come together, but Urban Meyer finally saw his No. 5 Ohio State (1-0) team let their size and strength advantage paved the way to a season opening win in Baltimore against Navy (0-1). Playing without Braxton Miller at quarterback, the Buckeyes offense lacked much to give Navy trouble for most of the afternoon, but eventually the Buckeyes found a way to wear down the Navy defense and take advantage of some holes down the stretch of a 34-17 victory.
The second half started in wild fashion. Ohio State’s Darren Lee picked up and returned a fumble for a 61-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, but Navy stormed right down field with a quick four-play touchdown drive over 84 yards to regain the lead. Barrett unloaded a deep pass to Devin Street later in the third quarter for an 80-yard touchdown following a touchback on a punt. Ohio State went on to pull away in the second half by outscoring Navy 28-10 in the second half.
J.T. Barrett completed 12 of 15 pass attempts for 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns with one interception. Barrett also led the Ohio State running game with 50 rushing yards. In the end, the formula was a familiar one for Ohio State without Miller, although at times the absence of Miller was unmistakable.
Going into the season the biggest questions for Ohio State were probably focused on the state of the running game and the stability of the offensive line. One game in, those concerns will still need to be addressed in Columbus. In this game, Navy managed to show why those concerns were legitimate, and the Midshipmen even showed an ability to wear down Ohio State’s defense at times. The Buckeyes had the talent to avoid letting it hurt them in the win column this weekend, but Meyer and his staff know what needs to improve moving forward.
Navy’s quarterback, Keenan Reynolds, ran the football 23 times for 42 yards and a touchdown before being removed from the game late in the fourth quarter. Ryan Williams-Jenkins was Navy’s leading rusher on the afternoon with 118 yards. Navy left points on the scoreboard though, but missed opportunities may not have led to a different outcome. The Buckeyes remain undefeated in the regular season since Meyer was named the head coach. Ohio State’s two losses last season both came in postseason play.
Ohio State will return home to Columbus next weekend, and it should make for another good defensive battle. Virginia Tech will be the opponent, and the Hokies could bring one of the better defenses in the ACC to town with them. Virginia Tech’s defense should be bigger and stronger than Navy’s, so Ohio State will have to really work on getting more out of the offense.
Navy will head to Philadelphia next week for a game against Temple. The Owls are coming off a season-opening victory at Vanderbilt. Navy will not play a true home game in Annapolis until September 20 when they host another Big Ten opponent, Rutgers.