Second Half Dominance Fuels 42-24 Victory for Buckeyes

Braxton Miller - Photo: Fox Sports

Talent and Second Half Adjustments Guide Buckeyes to Victory

At the end of the first quarter on Monday night, it looked as though the Ohio State Buckeyes were well on their way to thoroughly embarrassing the Virginia Tech Hokies with a 14-0 lead. By the time the second quarter came to an end and both teams headed to the locker room, Virginia Tech had claimed the lead, 17-14, stolen the momentum and had all of Buckeye nation holding their collective breath.

Then Urban Meyer brought his team together, settled them down through whatever magical sorcery he has at his disposal, and regrouped his team before taking the field for a truly dominant second half of football. In the process the Buckeyes put to rest the nightmare scenarios running through Buckeye fans' heads before putting the finishing touches on a 42-24 victory.

Oh, and in case you missed it... Braxton Miller is back! And Cardale Jones started at quarterback! But we'll get to all that in a moment.

In the first quarter, the Buckeyes looked every bit like the consensus #1 team in the country. After forcing a three and out on the Hokies first possession of the game, the Buckeyes took control of the ball on their own 36 yard line. Eight plays and 64 yards later, the Buckeyes were up 7-0 when Cardale Jones connected with Curtis Samuel in the end zone for a 24-yard score.

After forcing Virginia Tech into punting again, this time after six plays, Ohio State took over at their own 20-yard line. On the first play of the drive and his first carry of the game, Ezekiel Elliot took it 80 yards to the house to build a 14-0 lead. The route was seemingly on.

Then the second quarter happened.

Almost inexplicably, once the second quarter started and the Hokies started making plays, the Buckeyes started floundering on both sides of the ball thanks to questionable play-calling on offense and an over aggressive pursuit of the ball on defense.

For almost no discernible reason, the Buckeyes seemingly abandoned traditional runs with Ezekiel Elliot. Instead, they opted for QB options that Jones couldn't quite run or wildcat formations with Braxton Miller. Neither produced much during the second quarter and led to obvious passing situations, the types of situations the Hokies feast on. One such series resulted in a tipped ball and interception that led to a Virginia Tech score.

Defensively, the Hokies took advantage of the Buckeyes' aggressive nature. They twice burned the Bucks on throws back across the field to receivers that broke out late to the left while their quarterback, Michael Brewer, rolled right. Both of those scores, along with a field goal, came off of Buckeye turnovers - a missed field goal, interception, and muffed punt.

It was evident early on that the absence of Joey Bosa would be a bigger factor than most would originally have thought. While Sam Hubbard played well in his absence, Hubbard does not command the level of respect or double teams that a player of Bosa's caliber can. As a result, other players have to work smarter and harder. While the latter part was definitely true, the former was absent as the Buckeye's D was sloppy and repeatedly burned in the second quarter.

Then in the second half, Jones connected with Miller down the sidelines, and after tiptoeing his way past a defender, made his way to the end zone for his first career touchdown as a receiver. And just like that, everything seemed right in the world. The Buckeyes were back to being the Buckeyes - playing a much more focused and determined style of football.

The 54-yard pass was encouraging, especially given the fact that these are things Miller has never had to do. But, if he is going to continue to get himself open and put himself in a position to make plays, then this has all the makings of being a worthwhile experiment for both him and the Buckeyes. Then things got absolutely ridiculous a few series later as Braxton Miller did something we've seen him do time and time again.

Here, watch for yourselves.

That 53-yard scamper was a thing of beauty. If these are the types of game changing plays Miller is going to bring to the table as a wide receiver/H-back, then this has all the makings of being one of the best position changes we may have ever seen. That was vintage Braxton Miller, making opposing defensive players look silly in their feeble attempts to tackle him. Sign me up for more of this. Heck, sign Cardale Jones up for more of this too. He was pretty excited.

Meanwhile, as the Buckeyes were busy racking up points and Madden like highlight reels, the Hokies were struggling their way through the second half. While the Buckeyes refocusing and finding their mojo played a huge role in their second half turnaround, the injury suffered by Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer was just as critical to their success.

In last season's disappointing loss to the Hokies, Brewer torched the Buckeyes. In the second quarter of Monday night's game, it was looking like more of the same from a year ago as Brewer led the Hokies to a 17-14 halftime lead on 11 of 16 passing for 156 yards. He was also hit repeatedly by the swarming Buckeye defense and got up slow on a few occasions prior to half time.

Then Adolphus Washington happened. All 300-plus pounds of him.

A broken left collarbone later and the Hokies were stranded with their back up QB, Brenden Motley, a run only quarterback who had only ever thrown one other pass in two years on campus. From that point forward, Virginia Tech could not move the football and only mustered up one other scoring drive during garbage time.

Speaking of garbage time, one other fascinating thing happened on Monday night. With the game securely in hand, Urban Meyer went to his bench and put in his back up quarterback. You know, the same quarterback who set numerous records on his way to leading the Buckeyes into the Big Ten Championship game.

J.T. Barrett made his way into the game and quickly reminded folks of exactly what he could do. In his first series, Barrett broke an option wide open for 40 yards and then promptly connected with a wide open Michael Thomas in the end zone for the Buckeyes' final score of the game.

Now that game one has come and gone, the Buckeyes can get down to the business of defending their national title. From what we can see from the earliest results, there will be a heavy does of Cardale Jones, 9 of 18 for 186 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT, while also adding an additional 99 yards and TD on the ground. He played well in his first time out as the named starter and did his best to defend the decision of Urban Meyer. Barring any sort of disaster, it appears the Buckeyes' offense is in good hands.

We will also see a much heavier does of Braxton Miller than anyone could have probably imagined, at least heading into the season. This could ultimately change with the returns or Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, and Corey Smith, but for one game he was clearly a focal point, and for good reason. Miller finished with 62 yards and a score on the ground in six attempts and 78 yards on two receptions in numerous targets.

Ezekiel Elliot also did Ezekiel Elliot type things, once again, as he began his campaign to win the Heisman Trophy. Elliot ran for 122 on only 11 carries. While it is understandable that OSU would want to limit his carries early in the season, it would be a bit more encouraging if they would give him the ball during time when the offense is struggling to move the ball. In addition, Jalin Marshall cannot return soon enough to take over punt return duties. While Elliot is a gifted athlete, it is clear that fielding punts is not his are of expertise.

With the win, the Buckeyes will have the remainder of the week to rest up before beginning their home schedule this Saturday against Hawaii. With the Buckeyes back to full strength and with their plethora of suspensions seemingly behind them, look for this Saturday's game to be significantly less stressful.
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