Slowly but surely, it appears the defending national champions are shaking off their early-season malaise. Maybe? Possibly.
Following up on their best first half of play since the season opener, Ohio State put together a solid final two quarters in subduing stubborn Western Michigan 38-12. The poster boy for bouncing back from whatever it was that ailed them the first two games was Cardale Jones.
Benched in each of the last two games, Jones easily put up his best statistical performance of the year, throwing for a season-high 288 yards and two touchdowns in completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. That said, there are still issues for Jones to work out — specifically, throwing your man open instead of waiting for him to come open then letting the 12-gauge blast.
On at least four occasions, and it was probably more, Jones had receivers open early and delivered the ball late, resulting in the balls being underthrown. Most were knocked down, while one resulted in Jones’ lone interception on the day. Still, there were encouraging signs that showed Jones may have shaken off at least some of the cobwebs that have clouded his on-field vision through the first quarter of the season.
Another positive sign? Ezekiel Elliott with a season-high 124 yards on just 16 carries. Given the struggles in the passing game, some would say the carries are still too few and far between, although the uptick in production showed that the veteran offensive line, which has been in as much or more of a funk than the quarterbacks early on, have turned the corner as well.
The play-calling could also use some work, but that’s another story for another day.
The one thing Ohio State has had going for it throughout its 4-0 start to the season that has extended its nation’s best winning streak to 17 straight is its defense, and Saturday was merely par for the course on that side of the ball. After a few hiccups early against what’s a decent Broncos offense, the Buckeyes limited the MAC squad to 338 yards of total offense. That’s nearly 80 yards under their season average coming in.
With the win, the Buckeyes have completed the non-conference portion of its slate. Up next is the Big Ten opener next week against an Indiana team that’s a surprising 4-0.