The Ohio State Buckeyes rolled into their idle week with a very bitter taste of defeat, thanks to the hands of Purdue. Now at 7-1, the Bucks are looking to get a bit of redemption this Saturday at home, as the Nebraska Cornhuskers get the unfortunate task of taking on a hungry and angry Scarlet and Gray squad.
With game week getting back to normal, Urban Meyer made his routine of meeting with the media prior to OSU’s next game. It was another short Q&A at the podium for the Buckeye coach, but like always, there was quite a bit learned.
Questions about what went wrong against Purdue, and injury statuses were just some of the topics Meyer addressed. Let’s take a look at the five most important answers from Monday’s presser, and see how that impacts OSU moving into their ninth game of the season.
1. “He’s been playing pretty good. But there is a little bit of a ripple effect. But you’ve got to get your five best on the field. But when Bowen got hurt, that was an issue, and then obviously Brady Taylor had that injury...”
Offensive line play has seen the best of times and worst of times through the first eight games for OSU. When quarterback Dwayne Haskins gets some time to throw, great things happen. However, the running game has steadily become stagnant. While we can draw up a canvas full of reasons for why OSU is having problems at the line of scrimmage, another reason is simply because of untimely injuries.
The injuries have sent a ripple across the O-Line, which could explain why Michael Jordan has found constant residence at the center position.
Branden Bowen was a starter last season, but missed the remainder of the 2017-18 campaign after the Maryland game on Oct. 7, 2017 due to a broken left leg. Since then, Bowen has been in and out of the injury reports. Earlier this season, he underwent a third surgery on that leg, but it appears that he may be returning to the field sooner rather than later. In the same injury boat as Bowen is Brady Taylor. Taylor was slated to be the starting center in training camp, but a knee injury sidelined him.
Meyer has been working with a depleted lineup, and is putting the five best guys he has on the line. However, through the first eight games, we’ve seen problems within the line, primarily on run blocking.
If Bowen and Taylor make returns in the final weeks of the season, will it be enough to change the course of the OSU run game? To some degree, yes. While coaching is a big reason why teams succeed on Saturdays, it becomes a little bit harder to get the job done on the gridiron when you’re working with just the five best available players on your depth chart, rather than the five best players on the team.
2. They’re both getting pretty close. They should be practicing today against scouts. Not quite full speed, but getting closer...there is a chance. We’ll know more today”
Speaking of Bowen and Taylor, they are practicing against the scout team, according to Meyer. While practicing is good, the operative phrase here is the duo not practicing “full speed”.
One has to think that if Bowen and Taylor aren’t playing full speed in practice, they certainly won’t be going out of the gate full speed on Saturday. Even though it’s against Nebraska, that seems like a risk not worth taking. If the duo aren’t going full steam ahead this week, then I’d forecast that they’ll be scratched from the depth chart for another game.
Next week would be an important one to get either back into action, as the Buckeyes travel to Michigan State. Especially if weather is a factor, a ground game will need to be established. Right now, that’s non existent; last season, the running game had so much life, that it set the expectations this season sky-high. And don’t forget: Mike Weber had a field day against the Spartans last season.
On the bright side: At least we now know they are practicing, and not sidelined for the season. So, a return is highly likely for both before the end of the season, which should help OSU’s odds in making it to the Big Ten Championship Game or even College Football Playoff.
3. “Oh, we worked and are continuing working very hard. There’s two areas, the run game and the red zone, and that was basically the whole devotion of the bye week last week on offense. On defense, it’s missed tackles and, you know, getting people on the ground when they get in space.”
Purdue exposed Ohio State big time. Luckily, it looks like Meyer has stared the problems down and is trying to fix them. Offense, as mentioned earlier, had running game deficiencies. The Bucks only picked up 76 yards on the ground against the Boilermakers — and you won’t win too many games in the B1G with those kinds of numbers.
On defense, the problems included poor angles and whiffed tackles. Purdue wide out Rondale Moore torched the defense, and on his last touchdown reception of the evening, highlighted the bad approach angles and missed tackles that OSU has been doing all season.
Just build the Rondale Moore statue now. Kid's gonna be a legend in West Laffy. pic.twitter.com/LwpsDcwjTQ— Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe) October 21, 2018
Now with a loss, this might be what it takes for the fire to get back on both sides of the ball. Ohio State was able to get by in the first seven games with relative ease, but nothing gets you in gear like a loss.
Granted, I’m willing to wager that the Penn State game took a lot out of the Buckeyes. The bye week enabled everyone to get a little time off to heal, as well as really focus on fixing the issues plaguing the Big Ten contender.
4. “I think there is urgency. I’m not saying it feels bad, but there is a tremendous amount of urgency. We understand November. We understand where we’re at. We understand what’s at stake, and we understand our shortcomings.”
Something that has constantly been stressed around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in the Urban years has been the ability to still be playing for championships come November.
Here we are, on the doorstep of the penultimate month of the year, and the Buckeyes are still in the AP Poll Top 10, and still control their destiny for the Big Ten East crown. Last season, after suffering a loss to Iowa in the first game of November, the Bucks went full steam ahead and rattled off three-straight convincing wins to end the regular season. Here we are this time around, with the loss to Purdue happening a little less than two weeks before the end of October.
If the urgency is back in the remaining weeks, then OSU might be the scariest team anybody in the Big Ten faces.
5. “I love Ohio State, I love our players, so the issue, I don’t want people to worry about me. I want to make sure we’re getting some things right around here, and that is what the effort is. That is 100% of what my focus is on.”
One of the emerging theories is that Ohio State-Meyer era could be on its downhill slide. Constant camera cutaways during games have shown, more or less, a distressed head coach.
Then again, his expressions could be because his team is making very fixable errors during games.
Nonetheless, Urban stated during the presser that the end of the era is not happening just yet, and that he will be the Buckeyes’ head coach next season. By putting the rumors to rest with still over a month of football games left shows that Meyer is committed to focusing on the team and getting them into championship consideration.
At this juncture in the season, distractions — just like injuries — can derail a team’s hope for conference and playoff trophies.