10. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said earlier this week his offense was “on the border of being very good.” He shied away from using the word, “great,” but pointed toward controlling the line of scrimmage, blocking on the perimeter and running the ball effectively as things the Buckeyes did well in the Big Ten opener against Indiana. It’s the first time this season Meyer sounded relatively pleased with how his offense — somewhat scuffling to this point — had performed.
9. It might sound like nitpicking, but Meyer again pointed to three missed passes by quarterback Cardale Jones. It kept Jones from the 70 percent completion mark and denied him a 300-plus yard passing day. That’s two straight weeks Meyer went out of his way to pick out a trio or so passes Jones missed. Meyer termed it a “decent” day.
8. Why so critical of Jones? Maybe because those passes are why Jones has the job. Historically, Meyer offenses feature a dual-threat quarterback, someone who can burn the defenses as much with their legs as with their throwing arm. Meyer pointed out Josh Harris (Bowling Green), Tim Tebow (Florida) and maybe to a lesser extent Alex Smith (Utah) could all run. Braxton Miller had some phenomenal running years with OSU before moving to receiver this year.
7. Meyer likes a running threat at quarterback. “The threat of that cleans up defenses for you. That’s the extra component that you have in an offense.” In 2012, Meyer’s first year at OSU, Miller ran for 1,271 yards. In 2013, he ran for 1,068. When Miller was injured last year, J.T. Barrett ran for 938 yards in 12 games before going down with his own injury. Running quarterbacks have largely been an integral part of Meyer’s offense through his career — especially at Ohio State.
6. Zone reads, and options — or even designed runs — aren’t in Jones’ skill set. “We haven’t really done much at all this year,” Meyer said. “Obviously Cardale is not that type of player. He’s a very good runner, but he’s more of a scrambler than he is quarterback counter, quarterback power, those types of things. So we’re not where we need to be, but we’re not heavy on that right now.”
5. Jones’ inability to run like previous OSU quarterbacks — that doesn’t mean OSU’s offense is doomed to fail — accentuates the importance of hitting those long passes and not throwing ill-advised interceptions like the one Jones had against Indiana, one Meyer termed “inexcusable.” Meyer in essence sacrifices a big part of his offense — a run threat at quarterback — to have Jones’ big arm at quarterback. Hitting passes is what he does.
4. The Buckeyes’ run game has flourished over the last few games, though, even with Jones (averaging 3.2 yards per carry) not being a threat. Over the past two games, the Buckeyes have averaged 7.3 yards per carry. In the first two games, they averaged 4.0 yards per carry. Running the ball effectively is the staple of the OSU offense. When they do it well, not only do they get big yards and big plays, but it opens up the play-action passing game.
3. But if Jones misses on three-to-five big-hitter plays a week, it’s as if the Buckeyes ran well and set up the play-action pass, only to miss on an opportunity they created. If Jones starts to hit on those handful of deep shots per game, OSU’s offense will be really scary. After all, that’s why he’s in the game now, to make those throws — not to run the ball like most of the other Meyer quarterbacks have been able to do.
2. Not enough credit goes to the jelling of the offensive line. Guard Billy Price said the line is still a work in progress, but is far ahead of where they were last year when questions about personnel and experience plagued the line most of the year. The last two games have shown immense progress on the line, resulting in gouging runs by Ezekiel Elliott and a total of 1,028 yards in those games. Imagine if Jones hit all his passes.
1. This week’s game is another opportunity to hone skills. Maryland’s defense is porous, giving up 450 yards per game against lesser talent than it will see against the Buckeyes. Expect the Buckeyes’ offense — even with no threat of a running quarterback — to kick it up a notch against the Terrapins. Prediction: Ohio State 45, Maryland 10
In preparation for their matchup on Saturday, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer spoke on the Big Ten Coaches' Teleconference on Tuesday. Here are the highlights....
Ohio State LB Joe Burger talks about stopping Indiana's fake punt attempt...
25 words or fewer Early showdown in the Big Ten octagon: top-ranked and undefeated Ohio State at unranked yet undefeated Indiana. Two will enter, only one will emerge.
In the polls
While many of the national pundits are questioning the Buckeyes’ No.1 credentials, the two major polls tell a different story. In the Associated Press media poll, OSU is No.1 with 45 first-place votes, followed again by Michigan State (five), Mississippi (10), Texas Christian and Baylor. In the coaches’ poll, the top five are OSU (61), Michigan State (two), Texas Christian, Baylor and Mississippi (one).
The defensive scoring machine. It has produced a touchdown in six of the past eight games. Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington made it three straight for the D this season with his screen-pass interception and score against Western Michigan. The defense had one major gaffe in giving up a 55-yard TD pass, and was run on in spurts, but the bottom line is that OSU stands 10th nationally in scoring defense (12.3-point average).
What’s not hot?
The deep passing game, but it’s warming up. On the way to a career-high 288 yards passing, Cardale Jones missed on three deep flings because he pulled the string, and one of those was intercepted. But he also hit Jalin Marshall on post-cut for a TD that was right in stride. Understand, there aren’t many quarterbacks nationwide who have to finesse a 55- or 60-yard throw, but Jones does. As offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said, if you’re not right on the money, you want to be long because anything else is throwing it up for grabs.
What went right?
Running back Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line showed signs of getting on the big-play track. He earned his ninth straight 100-yard game (124) and scored a TD. Elliott also showed off hurdling moves reminiscent of his high-school state champion track days in St. Louis. His longest run against Western Michigan, however, was only 26 yards. Four games into last year he had 323 yards (55 carries), and he wound up with 1,878. So far this season, he has 455 yards on 77 carries.
Braxton Miller out of the wildcat formation has looked more like a tiger in a cage the past three weeks. Hawaii, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan attacked upfield as soon as Miller took the direct snap, and all three bottled him. At this stage, his shift to hybrid back still seems more like an experiment than a solution, especially with his propensity on runs to try to make moves rather than simply plant a foot and go.
No significant injuries were reported, not even for linebacker Darron Lee, who left on a cart midway through the first half but returned and finished the game.
Indiana, which is off to its first 4-0 start since 1990. Not that the Hoosiers have mowed down giants, with wins over Southern Illinois, Florida International, Western Kentucky and Wake Forest. But with quarterback Nate Sudfeld at the helm, they’ve found ways to get it done.
This week’s challenge
The Ohio State offense was rolling before running into Indiana in the next-to-last game of the 2014 regular season. It took the four-touchdown heroics from Marshall (one on a punt return) to help the Buckeyes win 42-27 after they found themselves trailing 20-14 midway through the third quarter. The burden these Buckeyes bear is one of great expectations because despite gaining more than 500 yards and winning handily against Western Michigan, questions remain. When a team is the defending national champion and still the stout No.1, at least as many folks are watching for the slip as they are enjoying the trip.
Urban Meyer spoke to the media following Monday's press luncheon, as did assistant coach Chris Ash. Here are the highlights.
Urban Meyer Updates
+ Defensive champions were Tyquan Lewis, Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, Raekwon McMillan, Joshua Perry, Eli Apple, Tyvis Powell, Vonn Bell and Darron Lee were co-players of the game. There were no champions on offense. "One of the worst executed performances since we've been here."
+ Jalin Marshall and Erick Smith and Vonn Bell were recognized for special teams and Chris Worley was the player of the game.
+ Meyer talked to one of the quarterbacks yesterday and will talk with the other one today. He said people ask him how he expects his quarterbacks to play well without looking over their shoulder, and his answer is "how do you not?" No quarterback has beaten out the other and neither is playing great. Great programs have players who always have to look over their shoulder. That's what depth is.
+ On the offense and the quarterbacks: "It's more coaching than player performance."
+ He does not know who will be starting quarterback this week. Cardale Jones has gotten most of the physical reps this season in practice.
+ "We did not prepare out guys" for Northern Illinois playing a 3-4 front. They will take a much more aggressive approach this week.
+ A bunch of different things stood out to him on offense, and none of it was good. "We didn't play very well." It's a variety of things.
+ Transition with a coaching staff always has its adaptations and adjustments. "I wish we were playing tomorrow." The communication is slowed down right now between the coaches. "Those are all things we're going to get cleaned up." The play calling is not as quick as it was last year because the process is different.
+ Meyer encourages his place-kicking specialists to have gurus that they can go to in the offseason.
+ Regarding limiting turnovers, Meyer said you evaluate each one and see how it happened. That will then impact future opportunities. It's a fight for the ball, so Meyer could see it being players trying too hard to make a play and stay on the field. "I think there's something to that."
+ They did not do a good job of getting the ball to their playmakers. "We'll get better." He likes the direct snap to Braxton Miller. "We're not going to stop that." They may not do as many as they did against Hawaii, but they will continue to do that.
+ The second interception by Cardale Jones made it the right time to take him out of the game.
+ Going from the hunter to the hunted has affected the offense right now for some reason. Defense and special teams are at a hundred right now, they are fine. Regarding the offense, "We're sitting back and we're not going to do that anymore."
25 words or fewer Definition of you’ve made it in major-college football: winning any game 38-0 and having people question what went wrong. The Buckeyes have made it.
In the polls
Ohio State maintained its tight grip on No.1 in the coaches poll, again holding 62 of the 63 first-place votes. The Buckeyes lost their unanimous hold on No.1 in the Associated Press media poll, getting 59 first-place votes, and look who has the other two: Michigan State, which sits No.4 behind Alabama and Texas Christian. Just like in 2006, when Ohio State and Michigan were on a collision course that whole season for “the game of the century,” plots now have been set for Michigan State at Ohio State on Nov.21.
The Ohio State defense, which completed a shutout against a team whose forte is the forward pass. Remember just a couple of years ago when a team that could throw had at least a scorer’s chance against the Buckeyes? With Joey Bosa back next to Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, Tyquan Lewis and, at times, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes, the front — augmented by linebacker Darron Lee (two sacks) — brought pressure all day. Then safety Vonn Bell delivered the fatal blow, a 14-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
What’s not hot?
Coach Urban Meyer said the east-west stuff is as basic to the Ohio State offense as the north-south stuff. But it was obvious from the start that Hawaii had flown in from the West intent on taking the east-west stuff away. Not even Braxton Miller could break through. It took the Buckeyes a long time to realize that their money gains were going to be the straight-at-’em run and pass plays — power football, with superior talent reigning supreme.
What went right?
Diversity. What sets the Ohio State offense apart from most others nationally is its ability to attack in a lot of ways, and with talented players doing it. That showed against Hawaii when the Buckeyes stowed the sling at times and went with the hammer — Taylor Decker, Billy Price, Jacoby Boren, Pat Elflein and Chase Farris blocking pretty much straight ahead and Ezekiel Elliott, Miller and company running to daylight.
Back to the drawing board
Make that the lineup board in the offense’s meeting room. Is it going to say Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett at quarterback all season? The definitive statement, actions-wise, appeared to be made by Meyer when, after replacing starter Jones with Barrett in the second quarter without much change in effectiveness, he went back to Jones to start the second half.
There were no injuries reported, but just like in the Virginia Tech opener five days earlier, it was a physical affair.
Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley did, when Hawaii quarterback Max Wittek threw it right at him. Conley was engaged with a receiver in the right flat when he turned at the last second to find the ball headed toward his bread basket. He grabbed his first collegiate interception, accentuating a second strong game as a first-year starter.
Northern Illinois (2-0), which owns victories over Nevada-Las Vegas (38-30) and Murray State (57-26). The Huskies are coming off five straight 11-win seasons. Led by quarterback Drew Hare (50 of 64 passing for 718 yards with six TDs and no interceptions), the Northern Illinois offense has averaged 594 yards while the defense has given up an average of 433. Wide-open throttle best defines the Huskies’ approach.
No MAC cupcakes
The next two opponents, including Western Michigan, were forecast to challenge Toledo — an upset winner at Arkansas on Saturday — for the Mid-American Conference West Division title. These aren’t the cruise games that national pundits would have you believe. But then, the Buckeyes will have a regular week to prepare for each, unlike the flurry they experienced in playing their first two games with only four days in between.