Back to Basics for the Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on October 15, 2012 at 7:00p

Fundamentals are the foundation of sports, the first set of details one learns when starting out a new athletic activity. The past two weeks – and much of the season – the Ohio State defense apparently forgot some of those lessons learned in the Pop Warner league. 

Indiana kicked off plenty against the Buckeyes on Saturday.

The Buckeyes have given up 38 and 49 points, respectively, to Nebraska and Indiana the past two weeks. Not what you’d expect from a 7-0 team that’s ranked in the top 10.

On Monday, Meyer said the issue boils down to a handful of things.

“Eliminate the big play,” he said. “Instead of just complaining and whining and making noise, we have to put a plan together. That’s eliminating big plays. How do you eliminate big plays? No. 1, four to six seconds of relentless effort, No. 2, missed tackles and No. 3, leverage on the ball.

“It’s been absurd how many big plays we give up.”

There are a multitude of excuses the Buckeyes could use to shed light on their nightmarish outing, some of which Meyer rattled off – injuries, lack of depth, staying an hour from Bloomington and busing in, etc. But he refused to blame outside influences on Ohio State’s struggles. 

“We’re not into that, and I won’t accept that here with our staff or players,” Meyer said. “So we have a long way to go. The good thing is, when you coach a team that’s 7-0, you have their attention.”

Criticism of the defensive coaching staff, especially defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, has been loud since Saturday night’s 52-49 win at Indiana.

Ohio State allowed 481 total yards, six touchdowns and its most points in 18 seasons – when Fickell and Vrabel were teammates. To no one's surprise, Saturday's performance earned the defense zero game champions.

But despite the downtick on that side of the football, Meyer remains confident in his staff.

“I’m not happy at all with what’s going on on defense,” Meyer said. “That includes players, coaches, and I think we can all get better. It’s a team effort. We’ve got good coaches, good players and we’ll move forward and get better.

“It takes time. It’s not the same staff it was a year ago. There are new guys in that room. But I feel good. They’re [a] good team and great coaches. We just need to see more production on that side of the ball.”

The formula Ohio State has used its past two games – outscore its opponent – is not something Meyer wants to make a trend. He’s coached in four different conferences and it’s the same everywhere: defenses win out in the end.

“At some point, you have to play some really good defense,” Meyer said. “The top two right now is Alabama and Florida, the two best defenses in America. And that’s not by accident that they’re 1-2. The great teams we’ve had over the years – yeah, we scored some points, but at the end of the day, defense wins games.”

As poorly as the defense played, the offense was just as good. For the second straight week, Ohio State had two 100-yard rushers. The high rushing total – 353 yards – contributed to a season-high 578 total yards. Three different positions represented the tri-offensive players of the week – quarterback, running back and offensive line.

Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde gained more than 300 rushing yards combined, and left tackle Jack Mewhort was largely responsible.

“We gave three players of the week, and that was my decision,” Meyer said. “I just felt that all three of these guys had a major impact in the game.”

Mewhort graded out 91 percent, which, in Meyer’s words is “extremely high for an offensive lineman.” He opened running lanes, didn’t allow a sack and put his defender on the turf 12 times. Unofficially, that might be the most times that has happened since Orlando Pace was making more pancakes than IHOP.

Hyde, meanwhile, had another game where the majority of his yards came after contact. Miller earned a grade of 86 percent, high for him even though he’s in the thick of the Heisman race. 

“A lot of times he doesn’t grade high because he gets tired and doesn’t finish on fakes,” Meyer said. “His action without the ball was tremendous in this game. That opened up a lot because one thing about having a player like Braxton Miller, you've got to defend him whether he’s got the ball or not.”

A major headline surrounding the team was Zach Boren’s shift to linebacker. But Meyer said it couldn’t have happened without two other Buckeyes.

“That move could not have been made if you didn't have Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett,” he said. “Just can’t do it.” 

Heuerman had two catches against Nebraska, including a touchdown, and played H-Back at Indiana with Boren on defense. Heuerman graded out a champion, with Meyer calling it his best games as a Buckeye.

On the injury front, Nathan Williams should be back this week, while Jordan Hall is doubtful. Williams suffered a concussion last week that failed to improve as the week continued. Hall is still suffering the effects of a torn PCL. Meyer and running backs coach Stan Drayton said Hall hasn’t healed as quickly as they expected.

Ohio State and Purdue kick off at noon Saturday in Ohio Stadium.


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buckeyedude's picture

Reading is fundamental.
And so is tackling.
I learned it at an early age, having 6 older brothers, but it's not like these guys can't get with the program. Just frickin DO IT!



bassplayer7770's picture

Sure, tackling still needs to be addressed, but what about the plays such as Houston's long TD run where he burst through the line and there was NOBODY there to even touch him?  What happened there? 
I can only imagine this is going to be a very rough week of practice.

LouGroza's picture

In our past Buckeye football memories, we always had a very good defense that could almost always keep us in games. With each coming season we dreamed of an offense that would be a super-efficient machine. But then came the season and as always "DAVE" reared its ugly head only to once again show us that the punt was indeed the best play in football. But we always had the defense that would keep us in games, most every game no matter if dave fizzled. That is what we are all wanting to get back to defensively. You can just go to hell, DAVE. Now it seems to be the exact opposite. Unknown defense, but wow can we score. Urban has seen and gets it and we will be back to that defensive point again but not without growing pains.

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

I long for the days where holding a team under 100 yards of total offense did not seem out of the question...

Twitter: @conquestnorman

mcollier's picture

Small correction: Urban has been a head coach in four confernces. Defense is still important in all.
Mountain West- Utah
Florida- SEC

theDuke's picture

...that was our "trap" game right...?


Chris Lauderback's picture

"Fundamentals are a crutch for the talentless." - Kenny Powers

Poison nuts's picture

Since we can't up vote the staff, I'll just say thanks.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

K.F.P. Just an awesome take, Chris. Please just avoid the dental dam as a STD solution and you're good.

BeijingBucks's picture

Funny part is... Fick and vrabel were part of great defenses... Vs traditional B1G offenses. I'm fine with a defensive mind that was not a great player but can adapt to the rapidly changing offensive landscape. 
If Coombs is the one teaching our backs to play 10 yards off... I'd call him into question too. 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

d5k's picture

Believe it or not there's a lot more to coaching defense than saying Hey stand 10 yards away from that guy. Not to mention that we actually aren't playing soft cushions since the MSU game.

cjkanski's picture

I'm not as football savy as some, but Roby & Howard standing 5-8 yards off the line of scrimmage seems pretty soft to me and they've lined up there a lot these last 2 games.

"I could *BLEEP* forever. *BLEEP until I drop" - The Count


BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Against quick pass offenses, you allow the sort completions, but have to have sure tackling. if you crowd the line, you're chasing the receiver from behind. If/when they play a more traditional drop-back quarterback, they'll get in the receivers faces with safeties helping on deep balls. This allows the front seven time to harass the quarterback.

GoBucks713's picture

I think it really comes down to these guys playing as a group as opposed to 11 guys out there trying to make the big play. They new to stop trying to rip the hall out or blow someone up. And the line play hasn't been that great. It's almost like the front four is just playing contain instead of pressing the like back. But what do I know, I played basketball. 

-The Aristocrats!

Tim's picture

Ugh, it was painful to watch Saturday.  I was out of town so I didn't have a great view on a lot of plays, but it was really frustrating when it seemed like we had 9 players on the field and 8 of them were on the opposite side of the play.

Seabass1974's picture

With the team feeling as though this win was a loss, I almost feel sorry for Purdue. Almost. This  coming game will be a shitstorm the likes Purdue has never seen before.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

My wish is we finally stomp the crap outta a team. Hold em' to less than 100 yds offensively and blow up the scoreboard like its nobody's business. Purdue 3 - OSU 72. Penn State's white pants will be changing color a lot sooner than 10/27 : )

buckeyedude's picture

I can't remember what year it was, the early 90s I think, but it was a Cooper coached team, and we smoked Purdue like 63-7 or something. Not saying that is going to happen this Saturday, though it would be nice.



Urban John Simon Meyer's picture

That's just greedy.
I like it.

Maestro's picture

Fundamentals, schmundamentals, f%^k Purdue.

vacuuming sucks

brylee's picture

This team is playing to the level of its competition.  As a result, they collectively took their foot off the gas, and let IU climb back into it.  A couple of dropped passes, another missed onside kick, piss poor punt blocking, etc. are all a result of failed fundamentals...Is it coaching?  Possibly... More likely though it is a result of some of our players just not being that good.  A good defense does not miss tackles, for the sake of trying to strip the ball, and going for the big play...  This is purely undisciplined play, and the only reason some of these guys haven't found themselves riding the bench is because of our depth problem.
That said, because we are playing to the level of our competition, 12-0 is still a possibility, because B-Rax and Co. can run up the score seemingly at will...something we have been wishing for years.

spqr2008's picture

"Since Orlando Pace was making more pancakes than IHOP."  Lines like that are why I love 11W

Grayskullsession's picture

Ill give the defense a pass this year because in the grand scheme of things this year is pointless without a bowl game, but at the very least I NEED to see improvement.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

Earle's picture

I find it disturbing that Meyer seems to be saying that the #1 issue with the big plays is a lack of effort.  That is the worst indictment of this defense I can imagine.  Putting Boren in there should help in that regard, but it has to be 11 guys giving "four to six seconds of relentless effort".

Snarkies gonna snark. 

timdogdad's picture

i still think in the back of the d players mind is that.. it's indiana, we'll just show up and win 52-10.  49 pts has to get their attention.    just need to work on playing better fundamentally.     

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I think we just saw tOSU's defense play it's worse game of the year (and possibly all time). Hopefully, the effort, the fact that it was a B1G doormat Indiana and they actually came back, and that the offense bailed them out is the wakeup call that the Silver Bullets need.  Not just the players, but the coaches too.  I have said this a few times this season (as have a few others including in this thread) that tOSU seems to be playing to the level of their "competition".  Getting up for revenge games against a ranked MSU team and a ranked Nebraska team was easy and they played up to that level of competition.  The Indiana game could have easily been a loss....but it wasn' could have been worse.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama