Haskins Reaches High Altitude, Readies For Penn State Showdown

By Jeff Rapp, September 26th, 2018

After Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins completely baffled his fourth opponent in four tries this season, he faced a room full of reporters on Saturday evening – and an opening question usually reserved for conversations involving surrealism.

“Is this what you imagined or better than what you thought?” the reporter queried. It was an appropriate start to the conversation. After all, the redshirt sophomore QB had just shredded visiting Tulane in a 49-6 victory by completing 21 of 24 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns. Even more impressive, he did it in a single half, ceding the offense to backup Tate Martell in the second half.

“Probably better than what I thought,” admitted Haskins. “I never put into an idea of what I could do, just wanted to go out and win games, play really great and really proud of how great my surrounding people are – receivers, tight ends, O-line, running backs, doing a great job.”

Haskins clearly has had support. The offensive line has been sturdy both in providing protection for the strong-armed Haskins and opening consistent holes for running backs J.K Dobbins and Mike Weber, who have been virtually interchangeable in OSU’s 4-0 start.

And the pass catchers are doing their job as well. On Saturday, Parris Campbell connected early and often with Haskins and finished with eight catches for 147 yards and two TDs, including a 37-yarder that Haskins dropped right on the mark in the end zone.

“Today we were challenged – it was a lot of single coverage all over the place,” OSU head coach Urban Meyer said, “and that touchdown to Parris Campbell over his left shoulder, what a beautiful throw and catch.”

With Haskins completing 21 throws and Martell adding another 10, the QBs spread the ball to 14 different receivers. Also hauling in scoring passes were Terry McLaurin and Austin Mack, who redeemed himself after losing grip of several tosses from Haskins in the win at TCU a week earlier.

After seeing his Green Wave get washed away by the Buckeyes, Tulane head coach Willie Fritz, who owns more than 200 wins at the collegiate level, said, “I have played a lot of good football teams over the years and that’s the best football team I have played.”

He also raved about Haskins.

“Big; tall; he’s a very poised quarterback,” Fritz said. “Watching him on tape you would have thought he is a third-year starter. He handles things really well out there. He’s got a big arm, good touch. He’s hard to bring down.”

The plaudits continued into the beginning of the week as the 6-3, 214-pound Haskins was named the Big Ten’s co-Offensive Player of the Week. It’s the second time this season that he’s won the award. He also tossed five TDs in the season-opening wipeout of Oregon State to claim B1G POW honors. No other QB in conference history has had a pair of five-TD games in the first four weeks of the season.

Through the first four games, Haskins is completing 75.7 percent of his passes (87 of 115) to rank second nationally. His 1,194 passing yards tops the Big Ten and is No. 10 nationally – a total that is even more eye-opening when considering he has sat out entire halves of games.

In fact, Haskins is 68 of 90 (75.5 percent) for 831 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the first half of games this season.

As for his 16 total touchdown passes, that figure ranks second in the country and also is the second-most in conference history through four games. Purdue’s Kyle Orton managed to connect on 17 scores in the first four games of the 2004 season back when the Boilermakers were renowned for playing “basketball on grass.”

The Buckeyes, of course, also run the football. In fact, there was conjecture that Meyer, in his first game back from suspension, might tone down the throw game and go back to featuring what he calls “Q runs.” That didn’t happen to the relief of OSU fans who are enjoying the air show.

OSU’s new QB has been unflappable so far.

When asked what stood out from his view back on the sideline, Meyer said he was most impressed with the skill and precision of Ohio State’s passing game, namely Haskins.

“If you don’t have a dual threat quarterback, you better be extremely accurate and make that be legitimate, or it’s going to be hard to run the ball because they’ll load the box on you,” he said.

Meyer said Haskins’ early play is reminiscent of the time he coached All-American QB Alex Smith at Utah and when Cardale Jones “got hot” when he took over the OSU offense during its postseason run to the 2014 national championship.

“I’m pleased with his performance,” the coach said. “ I remember when I watched him throw at one of his workouts, either right before we signed him or right after, and you could see he had that part of the
game. That’s just a part of it. He’s getting the command of everything, and the players are just responding to him, so playing very well.

“He’s answered the bell.”

Haskins vaulted into Heisman Trophy discussions after his big night in the win over TCU on national television. Next up is another showdown games, and perhaps the most daunting one on the league schedule, as the Buckeyes travel to Happy Valley to take on No. 9 Penn State, also 4-0.

Most of the experts and analysts hailed PSU’s Trace McSorley as the Big Ten’s best quarterback heading into the season. Haskins, however, didn’t bite on the idea that he could foil that observation on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC).

“I just want to show how dangerous the offense is, and with me at the helm, a lot of plays can be made,” he said. “Every game, whether running or throwing, trying to make as many plays as possible.”

A reporter then asked Haskins if the Buckeyes are ready for a challenge like Penn State.

“For sure,” he said.

“What do you mean by that?” the reporter added.

“Thinking about Penn State,” Haskins said.