Ohio State started its second half of the college football season much like it ended the first.
Coach Urban Meyer’s third-ranked Buckeyes downed a solid but overmatched Big Ten opponent.
Both opponents played far better on offense than their numbers entering the game indicated they should, and both bottled up the Ohio State running game for the most part.
Ohio State’s passing game was so good those things didn’t matter in the final result.
Few of the questions Urban Meyer’s team faced heading into week seven were answered, but the head coach sounded like the 17th-year veteran he is when assessing Ohio State’s seventh win of the season.
“I learned a long, long time ago — I guess not that long ago — enjoy every win, and like I said, come back tomorrow and get to work,” said Meyer.
The head coach, his assistants and the players who spoke after the game all expressed some version of the same sentiment: They want to get better.
For the defense, that means tightening up the pass defense, getting more pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run.
“I think if you polled the defensive coaches and the defensive players, there would be some level of disappointment in some of the things you mentioned,” said Alex Grinch, a Grove City, Ohio, native who is in his first year as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the Buckeyes. But also awfully excited to be 7-0 talking to you right now.
“The conversation would be a whole lot different if it wasn’t. The guys made some plays in the second half to win the game, but going into week eight it’s time. We keep saying it. Patience is running thin for us as coaches. You always put it back on you as a coach to make sure you put guys in the best situations to be successful and then ultimately give them the tools to make that play.”
While a young defense has had some issues all season, the shortcomings of the running game are relatively new.
Ohio State managed a season-low 92 yards rushing against Minnesota, and running backs Mike Weber (13 carries for 51 yards) and J.K. Dobbins (10 carries for 35 yards) both averaged less than four yards per attempt.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson intimated the running game might benefit from cutting down on how many different plays Ohio State has tried to run to maximize a passing game that has been nearly unstoppable all season.
“You can scheme it up, you can talk about pressures and movement, you can talk about numbers, but still running the ball is a little bit of an attitude, and I think again to be as good as we need to be we have to find what we’re going to hang our hat on,” Wilson said. “We keep doing a lot of formations so we get a lot of plays and you pop in here and there versus getting some rhythm, getting consistency.
“It’s a talented group of linemen. We’ve got some backs and we’ve got to tighten it up to be the team we want to be.”
Next up is a trip to Purdue to face a squad that has won three games in a row to get to 3-3 in its second season under head coach Jeff Brohm.
The Boilermakers have one of the top offenses in the country, ranking 10th in the nation in total yards (510.2 per game) and seventh in passing yards (330.8).
The Purdue defense has given up a lot of yards (414.3 per game, 92nd nationally), but their 23.2 points per game allowed is a respectable 44th in the country.
“The saying right now that I’m using is enhance our strengths and let’s fix our weaknesses,” Meyer said. “We’re going to have to get some things fixed. What we’re going to do is enjoy our win (and being) 7-0. Not many teams are 7-0. Get some things fixed and get ready for the trip to Purdue.”
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