By Jim Naveau
After another day to think about it, here’s a Monday morning grade card on Ohio State’s performance against Navy on Saturday:
Everyone already knew redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett wouldn’t be Braxton Miller. But there was great curiosity about what he could bring to the field.
Barrett threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns and one interception in his first college start. And he got better as the game went on, hitting 4 of 4 for 130 yards and both of his TDs in the second half.
But take away an 80-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith and a few nice gains in the running game in the fourth quarter and OSU’s offense was nothing special. The offensive line has four new starters this year and at times it showed.
Make no mistake about it, Miller will be missed. Ohio State converted only 2 of 8 third-down situations and is searching for a go-to player after having two of the best in college football last season in Carlos Hyde and Miller.
Grade: A- for Barrett, B- overall
Giving up only 17 points in the opener is not bad. But giving up 370 yards rushing is not good. Navy’s 370 was the most rushing yards allowed by an Ohio State defense since Michigan ran for 381 yards in 1995.
Ohio State’s defensive line didn’t dominate in the way it was expected to, but Joey Bosa did come up with one of the game’s biggest plays when he hit Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and forced a third-quarter fumble, which linebacker Darron Lee recovered and took 61 yards for a touchdown.
With Navy throwing the ball only four times, the linebackers got a workout against the running game. Curtis Grant had seven tackles and a quarterback sack. Joshua Perry had nine tackles even though Chris Worley got the start over him.
The verdict on the reportedly revamped OSU defensive backfield will have to wait for another week when they have to play pass defense.
Freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger was solid in his first game, hitting field goals of 46 yards and 28 yards. Punter Cameron Johnston dropped one of his two punts on the 1-yard line and boomed the other 58 yards.
There were no issues with kick coverage and kick returns were adequate. One kickoff by Kyle Clinton that went out of bounds was about all that went wrong.
No, it wasn’t exactly what Ohio State was looking for in its opener. But openers don’t always play out the way they’re supposed to. If OSU played this same game in the middle of the season the grade would be lower, probably a C or worse. But it’s not midseason yet.