The Ohio State Buckeyes have cruised their way to 6-0 this season. After a homecoming win against Indiana, it’s onward and upward for the Bucks, as they look to add another win this Saturday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
On Monday, head coach Urban Meyer briefed the media with some thoughts from the Buckeyes’ latest win, answered some questions, and previewed—albeit very quickly—the upcoming game with the Gophers. It was a shorter press conference than usual, but there were some key takeaways. Let’s take a look at four things that stood out from Monday’s presser.
1. And a lot of those are five-man pressures that Dwayne has time and gets the ball out. The run game, it’s a little more complicated than that. We gotta do a better job as coaches and better job, obviously, with players, just executing the run game.
Balance on offense has been one of the things Meyer has stressed over the season. A potent running and passing attack can do some damage, and with the weapons of Dwayne Haskins, J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, this OSU offense can create some yards against the opposition. However, the box score tells a story of unbalance.
In last weekend’s game, Haskins accounted for all 455 Buckeye passing yards, It was a near record setting day for the Potomac, Md., native, as the all-time Ohio State single-game passing record was 458 yards. However, if the goal—outside of winning games—is to balance the offense, then things aren’t going too well. Between the three rushers who had the ball against IU (Dobbins, Weber and Haskins), they combined for 48 carries, 154 yards, touchdown, and a fumble. That’s a modest amount of rushing yards, but not earth shattering, considering the talent in the backfield.
Offensive line struggles have been highlighted before as a viable reason for why the ground game has been lackluster. Haskins can get time to throw, but when Dobbins and Weber take the carries, the opportunities for big gains up the middle have been few and far between. While the rushing numbers aren’t where Meyer would like them to be, one fact remains: OSU is still unbeaten.
The next few games (Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska) will give Ohio State more time to fine-tune their operation on the ground.
2. We’ve overcome significant injuries. Most notable is Nick Bosa. And we’re still finding ways to win games. And just really good people on this team. We go out to practice and guys want to get better.
When defensive end Nick Bosa went down with an injury during the TCU game, a forecast of a long-term injury left many wondering about the Buckeyes’ defensive line—one of the strengths entering the season. Chase Young and Dre’Mont Jones were good, but could they fill the void left by the injury of Bosa, an All-American?
Three games have passed, and the defensive line still is a force to be reckoned with. Young made a game-saving tackle against Penn State, and the line stepped up against Tulane and Indiana to seal victories. But D-line isn’t the only position that’s had to deal with injuries.
Weber missed some time and wasn’t 100 percent entering Penn State week. Linebacking was dealt an injury before the season started, as Tuf Borland (Achilles) was still recovering. And the secondary has had to rotate around, too. While it wasn’t injury related, someone had to fill the gap left by Isaiah Pryor, who missed the first half against the Hoosiers due to a targeting call in the second half of the PSU contest.
The ‘Next Man Up’ mentality is something Meyer has done well with at OSU. No matter who goes down, someone else is always there to fill the void. As we move into the back half of the schedule, wear-and-tear will take hold. It’s good to know that whoever is slotted behind the starters on the two-deep charts is game ready if the time calls.
3. But that’s a skill set that’s very difficult that we ask them to do. And we just gotta continue to work to get better. The risk/reward on that, once you get great at that you’re playing great defense now.
Penalties have, once again, been a problem for Ohio State. Holding, unsportsmanlike conduct, and pass interference have been some of the signature calls over the last couple games for OSU. Meyer spoke specifically on the P.I. penalties, and how to combat them.
Sticking with wide receivers in various coverages is hard. It may look easy, but being glued to the wide out and making stops is a game of risk and reward. In the past, a handful of highly talented (and highly drafted) cornerbacks and safeties have come through Columbus. Each year, it seemed like someone was leaving for the NFL Draft in the first round.
It’s not necessarily a talent vacuum that’s been left, but the consequence of learning and improving at the position. Big pass plays have been given up against Oregon State, Penn State and Indiana. And against IU, touchdowns were engineered by beating the OSU secondary.
Working on the penalty problem is a step in the right direction, and it’s not an overnight process. But, the pass defense has to step up their game as the homestretch of the season approaches.
4. Third and one is tough right now. That’s another weakness. So a weakness right now is balance on offense and those short yardage. We had a couple of close ones Saturday.
There are a still facets of the game that Meyer and Co. can improve upon. One of them is the third-and-short situations. Last Saturday, OSU was not only stopped on a third-and-1, but was stopped on the ensuing fourth-and-1. Even with Dobbins, arguably the best RB on the team, the Buckeyes couldn’t pick up a yard on two seperate downs.
Utilizing Haskins in the short down situation has also been unveiled, with similar results. The Hoosiers swarmed on Haskins went he tried to take the ball on his own; in the box score, he ended with seven carries for seven yards.
This might be the more pressing problem to get solved, as a failure to convert on third down can lead to stalled drives. In road games, where the crowd and momentum are even more of a factor, getting stuffed on third down can spell disaster. Purdue is the next road contest for the Bucks, and it’s been scheduled as a night game. If OSU can’t move the sticks on third down, then fire up the sirens, because the Buckeyes will be on upset alert.