Ohio State defense ‘average’ in loss to Virginia Tech

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ohio State's Tyvis Powell on first loss

Credit: DaytonDailyNews


Kent State at Ohio State, noon Saturday, ABC, ESPN2, 1410

In a perfect world, Urban Meyer would take his Ohio Sate team to a deserted island every week. They wouldn’t hear the negative comments or even the positive ones. They wouldn’t bring their cell phones to this island — no Facebook, no Twitter and no talking to all-knowing uncles.

“First uncles are okay,” Meyer joked. “Third uncles are bad. They’re the ones with opinions that have no clue what they’re talking about.”

Third uncles abound across Buckeye Nation this week after the first regular-season loss of the Meyer era: 35-21 to Virginia Tech on Saturday. A fan base that expects not only Big Ten championships but national championships every season finds itself wondering if the Buckeyes can keep at least one of their long-standing streaks alive — their 38-game win streak against in-state opponents — when they host Kent State at noon Saturday.

The Ohio State offense took a lot of heat for its performance against the Hokies, but the defense deserves an equal share of the blame. Meyer described the defense’s performance as average.

“We didn’t pressure as much,” Meyer said. “The first two drives were bad, and then we settled down to play some really good defense for about two and a half quarters. We had one bad drive in the second half.

“For the most part I’m very pleased, but I want to get to the point at Ohio State where it’s shut-down, lock-down defense, and let’s keep it to seven points. I think we can make that happen as we continue to grow this year. There is still some new blood out there playing, and there were far too many mental mistakes.”

Through two games, Ohio State ranks 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense (26 points per game) and eighth in total defense (355 yards per game). The return of junior defensive lineman Noah Spence from suspension this week could help on that side of the ball.

“It’s going to be tremendous,” defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. “Noah’s a very talented player. He fits well in our scheme. He has a tremendous ability to get after the quarterback. That’s going to help a lot.”

The Buckeyes’ biggest problem Saturday was an inability to stop Virginia Tech on third down. The team refers to those situations as “money downs,” safety Tyvis Powell said, and Ohio State watched a lot of money go down the drain.

The Hokies converted 9-of-17 third downs, including 6-of-12 on third-and-long.

“We worked so hard to get in those third-and-longs,” Powell said. “They were completing them. It was frustrating. We talked about it on the sideline: ‘The only thing that’s keeping them in the game is we keep letting them convert on third down.’ ”

The Hokies converted all five of their third downs in the first quarter. They played better after that only to make key mistakes at the crucial point in the game, giving up a six-play, 65-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter after Ohio State tied the game at 21-21.

“Are we discouraged about the game Saturday? Absolutely,” Ash said. “Could we have played better in a couple situations to make a difference? Absolutely. Do we still have a chance to be outstanding? I believe so, and we all think so. It’s just the little things and attention to detail moving forward will help us in the long run.”