Well it happened, the first regular season loss for Ohio State in 25 games occured Saturday night (Recap) and it’s time to reflect and project. The playoff chances seem laughable and the season looks bleak, for now. Over reaction by the fans always happens after a loss for any major college football program (“fire this coach, strangle this player, drink that poison”) , but this time a little concern seems warranted.
It’s not time to throw in the towel and buy your D’angelo Russell jerseys for basketball season just yet. With the Big Ten looking as stinky as ever, the chance for a conference championship is very doable and is now should be the teams #1 goal. The talent is there but my god do the coaches and players need to change some things for Ohio State to get to Indianapolis on December 6th.
Here is my list of what needs to change in order of importance…
7-8 men in the box with a blitz every play is something Buckeye fans can look forward to the rest of the season if a simple scheme change is not implemented. I’m no Vince Lombardi but the last play any coach would call against a suicide blitz is a play action vertical route down field-yet that is what happened and it happened frequently against Virginia Tech. As a fan I have never been more mad, frustrated or confused as I was Saturday night. The routes needed to be shorter, simple as that. J.T. Barrett was a sitting duck all night; he should be commended for being alive today. To be fair, there were a few (very few) short routes called, such as Michael Thomas’ 53 yard touchdown or the pass just out of Dontre Wilson’s hands on a swing play that was an easy 40 yard gain if caught.
WHERE WERE CALLS LIKE THAT THE REST OF THE GAME? A SCREEN, A DRAW, ANYTHING TO SLOW DOWN THE 8 HOKIES MAKING A BEELINE FOR A REDSHIRT FRESHMEN QUARTERBACK!!!
That’s the only time I’ll yell at you, promise. There has to be something we are missing; the only logical explanation I have is that Frank Beamer beat Urban Meyer in a high stakes game of poker. Out of chips Meyer went all in on a pair of aces and put up half is playbook as a payout.
The part that really worries me is the comments by the coaches afterward. Especially Meyer continually saying “they forced us to throw and catch the ball and we didn’t do it.” While true, they didn’t force you to run four go routes every play, or force you to abandon your whole offensive identity (if they even have one).
The talk of all preseason camp was of the running backs/h-backs and how they need the ball. Ezekiel Elliot, Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel. Jailin Marshall and Rod Smith are ready to make an impact and need the rock in their hand. Through two games almost 65% of the plays have been a called run or pass for J.T. Barrett. One would expect that number to be correct if number 5 was the quarterback, but a freshmen who hasn’t played a game in two years? Rod Smith only has two carries! He’s the guy who basically tied Elliot in the running back competition according to coaches. I don’t care how many guys are in the box, get the ball to your best players. A play action fake is not going to mean anything if the other team knows you’re not going to hand it off.
This is Ohio State, make teams adjust to you and not the other way around. If you are the Undertaker the last type of match you want to be in against Mankind is a boiler-room-brawl.
Am I as smart as Urban or Tom Herman? My A.C.T. and high school G.P.A. would say no. These guys know what they are doing and they will figure it out. However, a case could be made that they have been out-coached by teams with inferior talent in 4 of the last 5 games. It will be interesting to see the gameplan used against Kent State this Saturday; if it’s more of the same I will become very worried about the Cincy game in two weeks.
2. OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY
There is not much to say about the 2014 offensive line right now. Coach Meyer knows it, the players know it, and the opponents definitely know it- this unit is not very good right now. Virginia Tech exposed them (despite not a lot of help from the scheme) and there is a lot of learning on the fly ahead. There will be more ups and downs this season but with Ed Warriner I am not too concerned about the line issues in the future. A cream puff game this weekend and byes two of the next four weeks afterwards, there is no reason to believe this unit should not be ready to play at a high level come start of the big ten season. However, if the play stays at the path of the first two games then get ready to watch two other teams play in Indianapolis this December.
3. 3RD DOWN DEFENSE
“Frustrating, so frustrating.” All I could hear was Landfill from Beerfest saying that quote over and over in my head Saturday night. How many times this season has Ohio State forced an opponent in third and long only to give up an easy conversion? I’m going to give Chris Ash and Luke Fickell the benefit of the doubt here as I’ve already complained about the coaching scheme enough (Though the fact that Curtis Grant stays on and Michael Bennett comes off the field on third down is very puzzling). Ohio State fans just have to hope that these third down conversion rates will not be a trend this season. Sometimes the defensive backs are ten yards off the receivers only to give up an easy out route 1 yard behind the sticks. Other times the coaches dial up a blitz perfectly only to have the quarterback somehow Houdini is way out of the pocket to throw off his back foot to a receiver who makes a diving catch. It can’t keep happening or the big ten title will be out of the picture and I will be 6 feet under after a heart attack, unable to bore you with my weekly articles.
I’m going to be positive here and believe this problem/aberration will be fixed. The linebackers look improved, the secondary looks talented and these young guns will only get better.
If these 3 weaknesses of the men of the scarlet and gray (menofthescarletandgray.com) get fixed then I certainly believe this team will finish with no more than two losses and a good chance of heading to Indy. As long as Frank Beamer agrees to give the other half of the playbook back of course.