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Buckeyes Handle Rainbow Warriors, 38-0

Ezekiel Elliot rushes for one of his three scores. Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Buckeyes Dominate Despite Disjointed Offensive Performance

At first glance, looks can be deceiving. With a final score of 38-0, it would be easy to assume that the Buckeyes did what they were expected to do on Saturday against Hawaii - Score early. Score often. Put the game away early. That's what everyone expected, including myself in my Saturday morning preview.

Unfortunately, the game did not play out the way anyone could have imagined.

Defensively, the Buckeyes came to play on Saturday afternoon. They very obviously corrected the issues that had haunted them during the second quarter of Monday's game against the Hokies. Along the way, they limited a very obviously over matched Hawaii offense to only 165 total yards and 2 of 14 on third down conversions. They also turned the Rainbow Warriors over four times on the day - twice on fumbles and twice on interceptions.

To add insult to injury, the Buckeye could have forced two additional turnovers, but defensive back Vonn Bell twice dropped interception opportunities, the first of which went right through his hands and hit him in the face mask. That, folks, would be why Vonn Bell plays on the defensive side of the ball. He did make it up, though, as he rumbled his way to a touchdown on a fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter.

Joey Bosa Photo: Marvin Fong /  The Plain Dealer
The defense was also aided by the return of standout defensive end Joey Bosa from his one game suspension for a violation of athletic department policy. Bosa looked as though he hadn't missed a beat. He routinely made life a living hell for Hawaii quarterback Max Wittek, but was only able to take him down once. Unfortunately for Bosa, that one sack didn't even count as a holding penalty on Eli Apple rendered it null and void.

Also playing well for the second straight game was red-shirt freshman Sam Hubbard. Hubbard recovered a fumble forced by Darron Lee, which would ultimately led to a field goal. In limited time on the field on Saturday, Hubbard did well to make his presence known. It's hard to ignore his physicality and athleticism, especially against a team as over-matched as Hawaii.
While the defense was doing all it could to fully decimate the Rainbow Warriors, the offense was doing all they could to keep them in the game. Many wondered if the tight turnaround window between Monday night and Saturday would be detrimental to the Buckeyes. It was clear from the very start that the lack of prep time combined with a limited amount of time to recover would haunt them all day long.

While they were able to put 363 yards of offense on the board, it was as free flowing as you would think. Ezekiel Elliot was the only Buckeye having any type of regular success on the day. Elliot ran for 101 yards on a whopping 27 carries and three of the Buckeyes' four offensive touchdowns. Bri'onte Dunn scored the fifth. This is in stark contrast to Monday night when the Buckeyes almost all but forgot at times that they have the premier college running back in the country.

Braxton Miller also showed some success in the read option. He rushed eight times for 57 yards, 7.1 yards per carry, but was unable to break any big runs similar to the one he pulled off on Monday night.

Jalin Marshall drops a pass.
Photo: Marvin Fong / The Plain Dealer
The Buckeyes struggled mightily all day long in the passing game. The receivers, clearly gassed, or still rusty thanks to suspension, could not gain separation down the field. Cardale Jones was regularly forced into escaping the pocket due to the tight coverage. In addition, the swing passes and bubble screens that have become a staple of the offense were largely ineffective all day long. 

The end result of this ineffectiveness was numerous third and long situations. On third down, the Bucks went 8 for 17. That's a far cry from the offensive efficiency we've come to expect from an Urban Meyer run team. But again, it may of had more to do with tired bodies and a lack of focus than it did with anything Meyer was doing.

Mixing things up in order to get a spark in the second quarter, Meyer turned to J.T. Barrett to lead the Buckeyes. In his limited time on the field, Barrett moved the ball well, but he too ran into the same shortfalls the befuddled the offense when Jones was under center. Barrett ended the day 8 of 15 for 70 yards. Compare that to Jones' 10 of 18 for 111 yards and it's clear that neither QB excelled.

But, as previously mentioned, neither quarterback was helped by his corp of wide receivers. Dropped passes, lack of effort on plays over the middle, and poorly run routes all contributed to the offense's stagnation. Against an opponent they had a clear advantage against, this comes as a bit of a disappointment, regardless of what the final score might say.

However, for as poorly as the Buckeyes played on Saturday from an offensive perspective, that doesn't mean we should take anything away from Hawaii. Traveling from Hawaii all the way to the eastern time zone to take on the number one team in the country on a rainy and semi-cool day is no easy feat. For the better part of three quarters, the Rainbow Warriors made things extremely difficult until injuries and fatigue finally wore them down.

Meanwhile, as the Buckeyes move forward through the 2015 campaign, we should expect them to improve from week to week as the rust from the offseason wears off. And while it is easy to complain about the performance we saw on Saturday, we have to remember that no team plays perfectly ever week. If this is the Buckeyes' one hiccup, better it come in week two at home against Hawaii than further down the schedule against the likes of Minnesota or Michigan State.

With a full week's worth of rest, recovery, and preparation, the Buckeyes should look significantly better in all phases of the game when they take on Northern Illinois next Saturday at The Shoe. If not, and the offensive shortcoming present themselves once again, then it may be time to start worrying. Maybe not a full on panic, this team is too talented for that, but perhaps an ever so slight questioning of what exactly is going on.
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