For enthusiasts of The Ohio State University, the ultimate goal of winning a national championship is on the forefront of the Buckeye’s mind on a yearly basis. The 2021 season is no exception, despite the Buckeyes fielding an extremely young squad. Youth and inexperience were fully on display for a majority of Ohio State’s first game of the season; a 45-31 victory over Minnesota.
A Learning Experience
This particular season opener was notable for a few reasons. Firstly, it was the first game back for die-hard college football fans who were unable to attend during the 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This created a hostile environment for the Buckeyes who began the season on the road versus a fellow B1G school. Usually, the Buckeyes begin the season with a less challenging opener; normally a smaller division one school. This more difficult beginning to Ohio State’s schedule will certainly aid them going forward as the opener provided the young Buckeyes with a fantastic learning opportunity. Being able to successfully come from behind on the road with a first-year quarterback shows that Ohio State is already growing. That is an extremely scary thought for not only the rest of the B1G, but for the rest of the country as well.
First-year starting quarterback CJ Stroud was one of the most intriguing storylines that stemmed from Ohio State’s opening win in Minnesota. Stroud undoubtedly struggled at times during his first collegiate start, despite an impressive final line of 13/22 for 294 yards in addition to four touchdown passes. Despite this, Stroud looked uncomfortable in certain moments, missing receivers on longer vertical passing plays. Whatever Ryan Day said at halftime certainly resonated with Stroud, as he led the way for the Buckeyes in a lopsided third quarter that went in Ohio State’s favor 21-7.
An area in which Ohio State fans should be concerned though is defensively, as the Buckeyes’ secondary left a lot to be desired on Thursday night. The Scarlett and Gray were without the services of senior cornerback Sevyn Banks and junior Cam Brown, which forced them to go very young at the position with redshirt freshman Ryan Watts and true freshman Denzel Burke forced into action. Head coach Ryan Day is hopeful that his two veteran corners will both be back in time for Ohio State’s next game, a showdown with Oregon at The Horseshoe.
Ohio State also struggled to contain the Minnesota rushing attack. The Gophers benefitted from 163 yards from star running back Mohamed Ibrahim before the halfback unfortunately went down with an injury late in the third quarter. Defensive coordinator Kerry Combs will have to figure out his team’s run defense woes, as their opponents in the B1G will certainly look to exploit it.