Ohio State has a problem with no easy fix. Well, correction, Ohio State has several problems, with no easy fixes to any of them. That’s obvious to just about anyone that watched their performance against Purdue today, as the Buckeyes were dominated for 60 minutes on the way to their first loss of the season, 49-20.
The biggest issue in this first loss of the season was a fairly new one, but when you look deeper into the last few weeks, it makes more sense. After several wins thanks almost entirely to Dwayne Haskins stepping up and saving a stale offense, the passing game finally dried up. Haskins’ fireworks tonight weren’t enough, obviously, despite the Mike Leach-esque number of attempts.
Purdue exploited the same things that every Buckeye opponent has tried to since Penn State established the pretty obvious game plan to get to Haskins. And this time, an anemic Buckeye offense had no answer. The severe lack of a rushing attack, the awful offensive line play, and a lack of creative play-calling were destined to doom Ohio State eventually, and they finally did tonight.
Most of those issues ultimately come back to that awful line play. Isaiah Prince has reverted back to his 2016, unforced error-prone form, Michael Jordan still hasn’t adjusted to playing center, and every other member of the unit is just decent at best.
None of this is new. Ohio State has had offensive line issues for years, and that, like many other parts of this team, is a result of poor coaching. Greg Studrawa— who was hired because he and Urban Meyer had been longtime friends— has been out of his element for three years. He was bad at Maryland, he was bad at LSU, and there was no reason to think that that would change at Ohio State, but Meyer hired him anyway.
Unfortunately, the offense isn’t the only problem. As per usual this season, the defense struggled to stop underneath plays, missed a ton tackles, and blew coverages all night long. The linebackers, led by the best man at Meyer’s wedding, Bill Davis, had little to no impact (save for Malik Harrison), and continued to take awful pursuit angles.
Greg Schiano was once again out-schemed by the opposing offensive coaches, and had no answers for Purdue played to their strengths all night— strengths that we’ve known about all season long— and allowing Rondale Moore to run free with a ten yard cushion at all times.
Those coaches— Davis, Schiano, and Studrawa— have all been instrumental in the creation of this deeply flawed football team; a culmination of years of elite talent masking growing problems. Ohio State is 7-1, yes. They’re still Big Ten contenders, yes. However, with a staff making this much money, there’s no excuse for being this consistently out-coached.
There are three coaches on this ten-man staff that I’d consider to be doing a good job right now: Larry Johnson, Ryan Day and Brian Hartline. Three out of 10— at a school like Ohio State (or any school, honestly)— is simply unacceptable.
Those hires, as well as this offseason’s additions of Alex Grinch and Taver Johnson, are on Meyer. All of the on-field and coaching issues come back to him. Ohio State’s incompetence in big games, their consistently conservative play-calling, their inability to score in the red zone against Purdue’s terrible defense, all come back to the head coach making 7.5 million dollars per year.
We can talk about all of this as much as we want, but deep down, we know that nothing will change. As long as Meyer is coaching this team, his conservative style, and his extreme tightness in big games will remain exactly as it has been for his entire tenure in Columbus. His hiring of close friends, and his timidness to fire those coaches when they inevitably fail, will only get worse.
None of these problems have any easy fixes, at least not anymore. Meyer is owed a hefty check regardless of how this experiment ends, unless he voluntarily steps away. Ohio State had the chance to fix their biggest problem in August, and chose to suspend it for three games instead.