Can You Fix a Defense in Six Days?

By Kyle Rowland on December 3, 2013 at 9:15a
Luke Fickell's defense has been questioned for two years.

If you read any message boards following Ohio State’s 42-41 win over Michigan on Saturday, you may have come away thinking the Buckeyes lost. That’s because of the doomsday attitude toward the Rusted Bullets. Ohio State’s once-proud defense, despite a bevy of talented players, resembles something from the 1980s era WAC instead of Columbus.

Championship-caliber defenses have come through Ohio State like Model Ts off a Ford assembly line. With the dawn of each new season, the amount of players lost to the NFL and graduation are irrelevant. The Buckeyes trot out a top-flight unit regardless of how many new starters take the field. Silver Bullets never lose their shine – until they do.

Michigan gained 600 yards Saturday, just the second time in school history Ohio State has ever yielded that many yards. When defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was asked what went wrong, he was incredulous.

“Did we win? Did we win?” he asked reporters on Monday. “Because I’ve been up there quite a few times in my 18-year career here and have not always been able to come away with the win.

“Momentum and things happen and we didn’t play great on the defensive side of the ball. So there are a lot of things to correct.”

At the top of list is pass defense, an area that’s plagued the Buckeyes going on two seasons. Devin Gardner completed 32 passes for 451 yards and four touchdowns, including three during a fourth-quarter comeback bid. It was bad enough that after a victory over their arch nemesis to stay in the national championship hunt, linebacker Ryan Shazier said it felt bittersweet.

“We’re pretty disappointed,” he said. “We’re a lot better than that. We had a bad game. We had too much emotion at the beginning and they got in front of us. They started off early and we just had to start calming down. We just have to do better.”

Confidence from head coach Urban Meyer isn’t lacking. He believes the unit will improve during six days of practice leading up to the Big Ten Championship Game against 10th-ranked Michigan State. In his own words, they have no choice.

What was once an alarming pass defense has evolved into a four-alarm fire. Time and again, Michigan rolled Gardner to the right, only to have him come back left and throw across his body, more often than not, to an open receiver in the flat. Screen passes have turned into Ohio State’s kryptonite.

“We’re pretty disappointed,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “We’re a lot better than that.”

Shazier said the misdirection plays are effective because you rarely see them executed. Fellow linebacker, sophomore Joshua Perry, made reference to facing the facts.

“When you turn on the film, you’ve got to realize there were some mistakes made,” Perry said. “It’s nothing too urgent, like we’ve got to throw out the whole defense and start over again. We just have to correct what we know how to do.”

They’ll have to do so on short rest, though Fickell didn’t seem too bothered by it. Nor did the players. Adrenaline can work wonders, as can age. But with a blueprint now available to thwart the winners of 24 games in a row, Fickell believes awareness is critical.

“You’ve got to move on, but it all comes down to awareness,” he said.

It wasn’t long ago that the Buckeyes ranked ninth nationally in total defense. That number has since plummeted to 30th, largely because the pass defense is taking on more water than the titanic. Ohio State is allowing 256 yards passing per game – 101st in the country and 11th out of 12 Big Ten teams. Linebacker Curtis Grant’s return, which isn’t known at this point, could be a boon for the Buckeyes.

Minimal depth at linebacker has contributed to some defensive woes. Also at issue is the balancing act of playing aggressive but not too aggressive. The Buckeyes lead the nation in sacks, but over pursuing or not getting home on blitzes led to several explosive plays for Michigan.

“We were exposed,” Meyer said.

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, a Walsh Jesuit grad, shared that viewpoint, saying he and the Spartan offense is licking their chops. Cook’s production has steadily increased throughout the regular season. There’s still a sentiment that Michigan State’s offense is nothing but a plodding, low-scoring unit, but Cook has thrown for 2,119 yards and 17 touchdowns. Play like they did last week and Meyer said emphatically that the Buckeyes won’t win.

Said Fickell: “We can’t change who we are. We can’t step back and ask our kids to change their demeanor and not be aggressive and not get after the quarterback just because of one situation.”

In Ohio State’s corner is the fact the Spartans don’t have someone who can burn the defense like Allen Robinson, Jared Abbrederis or Jeremy Gallon. And to Fickell’s facetious “we won the game” comment, he is right. The Buckeyes have done it 24 consecutive games, whether the defense played lights out or struggled.

“Every single week we have objectives, and the last objective last week was win,” Fickell said. “And you know what? We came away with a win.”

All they need again this week is one more point than the opponent and it’s off to sunny Southern California.

“We’ve got to get better at what it is that we do and we’ve got to focus on what we’re going to do,” Fickell said. “That’s the name of the game. Every play, every time you go out, every practice, we’ve got to get better. That’s an attitude we’ve had from the beginning of the year.

“No excuses, we’ve just got to get better.”



Thunderbrow's picture

Great article. If it were me, and thank Saint Woody it's not, I'd have them spend six days doing nothing but tackling. Ohio State has played twelve games this year. I've spent twelve Saturdays yelling at the television for them to stop trying to make the highlight hit and wrap somebody up. Anybody. Hug each other for all I care.

I mean everyone heals people, comforts people, learns from you, learns from me, whatever.

gumtape's picture

Hit somebody, ANYBODY!

High and tight boo boo

lax20's picture

Amen to that.  Fundamentals is key.  Michigan ran alot of misdirection which can devastate an aggressive defense.  That was the achilles heel last Saturday.  When I use to coach, I emphasized play your position and do your job the other 10 have a job to do also.  One key fact for a defensive player, most notably LB and DB, is to stay home.  The Silver Bullets failed to do that.  One other observation was the Buckeyes did not bring the heat with blitzes when Gardner had a bad wheel.  They had no push with four.  They should have brought six.

osu07asu10's picture

There were times in the scUM games where we got pressure on Gardner and he stepped up in the pocket or was fairly elusive.  I'm not sure we will see the same shiftiness from Cook.

If we can get to the QB, we can stop the misdirection plays from developing. Also, I hope we get to Cook and rattle him early. Combine that with the big stage butterflies and I think we'll see a QB closer to game 1 than game 12.


acBuckeye's picture

The whole point of running misdirection and screen plays is to get the ball out of the QB's hands quickly. Getting to the QB won't solve our issues on those plays. Having our back 7 in the right spots on those plays is what will stop them. Every time scUM ran one on Saturday, we had a max of 2 guys near the ball-carrier, and those guys were easily blocked. We can't do that again.

rdubs's picture

I am sure others have said this, but I don't think the issues in The Game were the same ones we have seen all season and are not a case of everything being broken.  First off, missed tackles have actually not been a huge problem this year, but they were against ttun.  I don't expect that to continue this week because it hasn't been a pattern all year.  Secondly, Borges broke a season's worth of tendencies in one game.  If I were a ttun fan I would be pissed because all of the constraint and misdirection plays were clearly effective but were rarely used all season.  Borges more than made up for the weaknesses in pass protection because the linemen literally didn't have to block anyone on the screens.  This made some of their bread and butter plays a lot more effective because we were on our heels.  
Unless MSU comes out and calls a whole bunch of plays they rarely used all season, I don't think there will be anything close to a repeat of last week.  Also they don't have the same dynamic players that ttun has.  Gardner's legs killed us, Connor Cook won't escape so easily and they don't have a Funchess or a Gallon to attack us with.
Our problems won't be fixed in a week, but MSU likely won't be able to exploit them as effectively as ttun did.

BuckeyeBred's picture

Great points, RDUBS. 
I know our guys love making TFL and disruptive plays in the backfield, but we need to increase our intelligence a little up front.  When you see a lineman only put one hand on you and then pretend to be a statue for two whole seconds... screen!  I mean, how come our guys aren't sniffing that out?  When I watch other teams defend the screen, there is usually one DL and one LB holding back saying.. "hey, that was a little too easy".  I've heard our problem has been "triggering", but I think it's better stated as needing a higher awareness up front.
We will see if the Walrus tries a few of these techniques.  I imagine he will - although I don't remember too many screens and/or misdirection plays back when we were cursed with him.  I also don't expect us to be so over-aggressive against MSU and play more sound. 
I'm with you - the combination of a less dynamic MSU offense and a week after a bunch of trickery should calm us back down.

droessl's picture

We will see if the Walrus tries a few of these techniques.  I imagine he will - although I don't remember too many screens and/or misdirection plays back when we were cursed with him.  I also don't expect us to be so over-aggressive against MSU and play more sound.

Or when he did draw up screen plays, you could cook a hearty beef stew before the play was developed. 

GrayDay's picture

Well said. Also really looking forward to Ross' take on what happened.  Have to give the other team credit both for great plan (which I think Ross laid out for them, by the way) but also for exceptional execution.  Our tackling was disappointing, and short pass coverage non-existent, but not sure if the latter was more a result of scheme choice.
I'm guessing Luke figured the Keystone Cops thing UM had been doing all year had to emerge eventually, so he had guys just keep the ball in front of them and be ready for the mistakes to come.  It finally did on the 2-point conversion.

OSUBias's picture

I know we have been beating this particular horse to death and then starting over, but this is the biggest issue with the defensive effort on Saturday.

(which I think Ross laid out for them, by the way)

Ross is great, but how in the hell can he game plan to beat our defense and our defensive staff doesn't figure out that's what is coming? I know the missed tackling was one thing, but the bigger problem was that they had guys wide open all day. That is either a bad scheme or blown assignments, either one of which has at least some portion of blame to be placed on the staff.

Shitter's full

southbay's picture

Borges broke a season's worth of tendencies in one game.

So true.  Seems like that's what everyone does when they play against tOSU.  We're those guys.

Oyster's picture

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Bollman still at MSU? 

FitzBuck is clearly the winner.  Not even close.

Red Shirt Ensign's picture

Just because Bollman became a scapegoat doesn't mean he can't hurt us...  We had many good years with him too!

"Captain, over here, I've found someth... AHHHH!!!!!!"


Oyster's picture

Bollman did not run the offense when Tressel was the coach.  Anyone who thinks it was somebody other than Tressel calling all the shots needs to step back and look at how he ran the program.  He became the butt of jokes for the interim season of Miller up the middle, try it again, pass for 20 yards, punt.

FitzBuck is clearly the winner.  Not even close.

Buckeye Scottie's picture

Exactly.  Here is how to take down The Walrus:
Defensive Priority #1: Stop DAVE on 1st Down
Defensive Priority #2: Stop DAVE on 2nd Down
Defensive Priority #3: Don't fall for Dave Play-action on 3rd Down

00Buck's picture

I have only (1) one thing to say to our defense.......... Victory finds a way to heal ALL wounds.......go Bucks kick some SPARTEN ASS !!! 

Upon this Rock, I build my house....and Let no man put asunder

Bamabucknut's picture

The Buckeye OFFENSE bailed out the Buckeye defense......AGAIN....thats why we won.

SavannahBuck's picture

I feel like a point that hasn't been brought up, or maybe it has and I missed it, is how amped the defense seemed at the beginning of the game. Shazier made this point as well. It's Michigan, we are all amped, but there is a difference between being up for a game, and running around out of your mind trying to kill things. Granted, the defense wasn't great once they settled down, but they were better. I'm not THAT worried about the defense. We know we can rush the passer. We have good corners, and one great corner, if he plays to his potential. I will agree that Pitt Brown has been a liability this year. I also think that Michigan State's offense, moreso than Michgan, plays into what this defense does well, stopping the run. I am less worried this week than i was last week, even after that defensive performance. They will be amped but calm this week, and they will play within themselves, and with the offense playing the way they are, that is all that is needed.

RedStorm45's picture

They were better?  Three touchdowns in both halves.  Heck, 20 points in the FOURTH QUARTER ALONE.

IGotAWoody's picture

NO TDs for the bad guys in the 3rd quarter. That is better. And the Hyde fumble turned momentum back to the Wolveweenies. Yes, the defense gave up 20 pts in the 4th quarter, but without that fumble, I think we have a much different final score.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Rusted Bullets indeed.
I just hope the whole shit is reversed.  The Game turned out to be the slugfest and hopefully Mich St will be the blow out.  I can't take two of those in a row. 
Whatever happens Luke needs to get his shit together.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

dwcbuckeye's picture

I don't know for sure if Silver rusts but a better term might be "tarnished" bullets

RedStorm45's picture

or if they're Coors Light...Skunked Bullets.

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Not unless the WaterBoy has a Bobby Bouche type afternoon...who oddly enough, Fickell looks like.

Luckily, if we really need to, we can ball control with our run game and hide our defense on the sidelines, so to speak.

SouthernBuck's picture

Firstly, I'm not making excuses for our defense...they looked bad. I would be interested to see our offense's time of possession versus the time of possession our offenses had during one of our good defensive years.  It seems like our defense is on the field a lot.  Of course making a few stops would help but even when they do make a stop our offense strikes quickly and the defense heads right back out there.
If there is anyone out there with the time to post this I would appreciate it.   

Enzo's picture

3 and out would keep the defense off the field. I'd rather see how many times they accomplished that. The offense would be a lot more prolific if it had more possessions. Bigger leads would allowed for second string guys to get more playing time.
Fickell is a great recruiter by all accounts, but I'm not a fan of his coaching.

SouthernBuck's picture

I agree!  I just wonder how much more time the defense has been on the field this year due to our offense being so fast.  Do you suppose that the lack of lengthy rests and lack of in game coaching time has any effect? 
Again, I'm not making excuses just wanted other opinions.

BucksfanXC's picture

The pass D was awful, but lost in that is that the run D was too. The fact that we made UofM's running game look even OK means we played terribly. Those running backs and that running game for UofM was and is terrible and it was partially missed tackles, like that 38 yrd from De'von Smith, but it was also a lot of just hitting holes for 3+ yards, which shouldn't have happened at all let alone multiple times.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

extemporary08's picture

Interesting stat that the Buckeyes lead the Nation in sacks...

Bolt's picture

I know, I had to keep reading that back...did I read that correct??

Jdadams01's picture

Props to Vrabel. He is getting production out of First, second, and third teamers.

Bolt's picture

And especially considering all the youth on the line. There sure is a shit-ton of talent on that line though.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

The defense is inconsistent, not broken. Hopefully, this will be one of the weeks that they play well. 
One factor that might help, which others pointed out above . . .
Cook is not a statue, per se, but he's also not especially mobile. He's run for 1.5 yds/carry average. For comparison, Iowa's Jake Ruddock has 3.6 per. In contrast, Nate Sudfeld and Tommy Rees - who are "statues" - have negative rushing yards.
Good news, bad news: MSU is 12th in sacks allowed, which means that Cook's low rushing numbers aren't being dragged down by lots of negative yds plays; on the other hand, of course, they make it tough to get pressure on him.
If Buckeye defenders can beat their blockers, though, Cook will probably buckle.

avail31678's picture

Last year we went all-in to stop the run (and we did contain Leveon Bell), hoping that MSU couldn't throw the ball at all.  But MSU did find the way to throw the ball some.  And with a less-than-stellar offense last year, we still won (albeit close). 
With a similar defense this year, and a similar offense in MSU - yet with our much improved offense, I have to think we'll be OK.  We really have just got to stop leaving guys incredibly wide open, and have got to stop allowing such huge plays.  And we'll be OK.

buckeyepastor's picture

I agree that TTUN did a great job using our aggressiveness against us and the MSU does not have the same level of playmakers or an athletic QB.  But it went deeper than the pass defense.   Our front got gashed several times by Toussaint, for Pete's sake.  Michigan's final rushing numbers were far from great, but they did way more on the ground than I expected.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Keep in mind, too: the Buckeyes offense is stock full of veteran leaders, whereas the defense is very young and lost its best leader to injury early in the season. So, the inconsistency is not surprising. Let's hope they play their best football this Saturday.

RedStorm45's picture

After 12 games, "young" is kind of a poor excuse.  The secondary is all upper-classmen as well (with the exception of Powell and Burrows/Reeves if they get in).

O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Our collective youth is a huge factor. You can say it shouldn't matter but it does. Look at how the game slows down for quarterbacks from their first year to their second and third seasons. Same goes for defenders. Over time they learn to instantly recognize a screen and do all the little things that come with game experience.
For the record, Sparty's #1 ranked D starts 6 seniors and 3 juniors. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Thanks for the assist. This report suggests that MSU's experience and continuity play a major role in their success this season.

Buckeye06's picture

I'm over this completely.  They played like crap.  Everyone knows it.  They are better than that.  Everyone knows it.
Overpursuit is what killed us.

blazers34's picture

Hats off to Curtis Grant.  Guy has improved to the point that we cant wait for him to come back.  Good on him.

stittracer99's picture

Yes, I wouldn't have thought that we would so sorely miss his presence, but we have. Our blitzes have much more ineffective without him. I believe CG is the second best blitzer on the team, behind Shazier. But the thing is, I would rather send Grant on the blitz and have RDS drop back into pass coverage, as he is much better than any other option we have in that regard. RDS in coverage on the flats with Grant bringing the heat UP THE MIDDLE gives our D a much better look. Blitzing off the edge has been hurting us because the QB steps up and rushes for first downs. Spence and Bosa can hold contain on the edge just fine if we bring a middle blitz.

OSUBias's picture

This is an interesting point regarding blitzing. I think blitzing Grant sometimes pays better dividends, too. First, we typically blitz him in the A gap or inside the tackles. Even when he gets picked up (which happens often, I don't know how many sacks he actually has) he typically either destroys the pocket or frees up one of the lineman. Second, although Shazier is more likely to get home, he is also more likely to come off the edge and get nudged behind the QB, causing the QB to step up and possibly opening up running lanes (see Illinois and TTUN games). Third, although neither of them are great in pass coverage, Shazier is quicker and thus, quicker to recover. He's also a much better open field tackler. Makes more sense to have him in space.

Shitter's full

southbay's picture

I agree, but that nagging injury is a worry.  I thought he would be 100% or close enough last week, but I guess not.  Maybe this week...

carence's picture

I think this week will be a different defensive output. Meyer said that the team was so worried about running their mouths to ichigan that it became an issue. I think we will get back on track this week.

Right Again's picture

Maybe (probably) I'm over simplifying things, but...It seemed like all Fick and the D had to do was study the MSU tape.  They clearly found the secret sauce to blowing up the UM Offense.  I fail to buy that we don't have the same athletes on our defense...

avail31678's picture

Yeah, but the problem is UM did everything they hadn't done all year long.  In fact, we may very well HAVE studied the MSU tapes and it ill-prepared us for what UM was doing.  Borges threw everything but the kitchen sink at us.  We hadn't prepped for that.
What we need is our coaches and players to be able to adjust quickly when that happens in future games.  They did that some in the 3rd quarter, but it fell apart again. 

Hovenaut's picture

Keeping on the positive, there has to be some improvement on defense this week.

We have filled the Braxton Miller position.

Denny's picture

My favorite part about winning all those games in a row is how everything is broken and we must panic at all times.


Oyster's picture

I'm not worried.  Although I will say I like the less exciting games better, so does my blood pressure.

FitzBuck is clearly the winner.  Not even close.

nm_buck's picture

scUM played the game of the decade on Saturday.  That offense has sucked for the last 6 games.  They were DUE.  Plain and simple.  It came at a time when we came out a little too amped and our over-pursuit helped them.  
I have faith in our defensive front... I have faith they will stop the run.  If we can pressure Cook, I think we can get him to make some mistakes.
I'd really like to hear his exact quote on how they are 'licking their chops'.   My guess is they'll more likely be licking their wounds.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

Gametime's picture

Let's not make excuses for our defense. We didn't "just get exposed" this has been a problem all year. It's not hard to reinforce tackling. If a guy dives at ankles or puts his head down, take him out for the rest of the series (I'm looking at you Roby). If I was coaching I wouldn't tolerate it - head up, wrap, drive, gang tackle, strip. I want the silver bullets SWARMING again.
With that said, I don't think Fickell's (Heacock's) D and Whither's D meshes. Whither's D is dependent on pressure on the QB, which forces QBs to make quick decisions and throws, which plays more to the DBs playing soft because that doesn't give routes time to develop and the DBs can focus on watching the ball and ball-hawking.
Fickell (Heacock's) scheme doesn't create as many turnovers, but requires more press-man and much smaller cushion in coverage. It's designed to force more 3-and-outs, not necessarily be disruptive.
So essentially what we have is a conflict in defensive philosophy that's directly contributing to our defense getting gashed. With Whithers playing the DBs so far back, it takes away the small cushions that Fickell/Heacock's D would normally have and because the Fickell scheme isn't an aggressive pressure scheme, the coverage makes for easy completions underneath.
We can't have this blend of schemes, we can only have one or the other. I'd say stick to the original Fickell (Heacock) scheme on 1st & 2nd down, then on obvious passing downs and 3rd down, run the Whither's scheme.

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

FailtotheVictors's picture

Are you a casual observer/fan or a coach?

- Respect the Rivalry -

Gametime's picture

I'm just a fan now, but I played the game up to college level and I fell in love with Xs & Os in middle school (mainly because of Madden/NCAA Football, lol). A little research & film study doesn't hurt either, but I'm honestly flattered by the question. :)

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

OSUNEA1986's picture

Just want to add "credibility" to your assessment: Matt Finkes explained this after a game on The football fever. It helped me understand and observe this discrepancy going forward.
It must be quite challenging for the players as well. I agree that Fickell's plan should be the main menu based on the performance I've observed with his scheme this season. I think it gives a depleted and young secondary/linebacker corps the ability to rely on their talent and instinct as opposed to "thinking" about where they are supposed to be on any given play.

RedStorm45's picture

Doran Grant was guilty as well.  A LOT of missed tackles.

Buckifan4Life's picture

I seem to remember being totally disgusted at how far back our corners were in the Nat Champ game against Florida. Chris Leak chipped away with slants and short passes all game long. That was Heacock's defense and I never forgave him for that. What has happened to jamming the receiver off the line? Our defense is constantly in zone coverage and receivers are wide open in the seams. Unacceptable this late in the season. Tackling is another whole issue. They have been better overall, but still are having trouble wrapping up. Watch Alabama's defense. Those guys form tackle well. I concur with regard to having two defensive coordinators, one has to go. It doesn't seem to be working out so well.

acBuckeye's picture

The zone has to go. It isn't working. We have athletes. Throw them out there and let them cover w/o having to think about it.

acBuckeye's picture

I thought with pressuring the QB more, you'd want tighter coverage on the receivers so the QB has nowhere to throw the ball?? It seems counterproductive to me to blitz and then play off the receivers. All you'd have to do is run a slant or quick out. Slants and quick throws over the middle have killed us this year.
And i have a hard time believing that if Fickell truly is the defensive playcaller, that he's the one wanting his corners to play tighter. I'd say 75% of the time our corners are 5+ yards off the line.  That doesn't add up to me.

Gametime's picture

ACBUCKEYE, that's because that's how the Heacock scheme is supposed to work. On early downs the cushion is about 3 yards. That way the DBs can be close enough to the receiver to disrupt quick outs and slants, then play softer in the 5-7 range (to the sticks) and keep everything underneath and make sure tackles on 2nd/3rd and long situations. That's played with a soft zone from the LBs also to limit underneath windows so they can read and react and Safeties help to not get beat over the top while usually rushing four - hence "bend but don't break."
Now, the Wither's scheme is different this way; rather than playing the receiver, the emphasis is on playing the ball. You get a 5 yard cushion so the DB can run with the WR if they go deep (with Safety's playing "centerfield" a la Ed Reed). The mentality of DBs in this system is also different in that you know that a quick pass is coming, slant, drag, in, out, or dig. If the QB reads hot, then the expected coverage window is shorter and it's more aggressive in that DBs would be reacting to the ball rather than the WR, looking to jump routes, tip balls, and create INTs/Pick-6s versus the former.

That's why things are messed up right now, we're playing the DBs off like Withers wants, but Fickell (and Urban I believe) want to be able to get pressure only rushing four (which doesn't really work all the time). That's why've seen so much success when we have these delayed blitzes with our LBs (especially Shazier).

Between goals and achievement is discipline and consistency. That fire you have inside to do whatever you love is placed there by God. Now go claim it. ~ Denzel Washington

Enzo's picture

Let's switch to the Saban scheme. If it plays for the offense, kill it.

acBuckeye's picture

So in other words, both Fickell and Withers prefer playing their corners off at the LOS, while one wants them to look in the backfield, and the other wants them to play the WR. It's making much more sense to me now why this isn't working.

CALPOPPY's picture

Gametime, I gave you a helmet sticker. No idea what you said but the crack pipe Yosef avatar made me laugh.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

BuckeyeStrong2's picture

I agree with you 100%! While I may not have all of the technical parts down as eloquently, it is plain as day (to me) that something is wrong with how our D is run. I want to take an AR-15 to my TV every week when I see our CB's playing 8-12 yards of cushion, only to get destoryed by quick slants or bubble/screen plays. 
We SHOULD have the athletes to be playing man/bump and run every single snap! I hope Urban gets a little more involved with our defensive coaches in the off season.


Young_Turk's picture

Thoughts on the defense, and "did we win".
Yes, we won.  But, they scored with 30 seconds left, and had the roll of the dice 2 point conversion FOR THE WIN.  Full credit to Tyvus, but the last couple times I watched the replay, it looked to me like either the receiver did not curl in as expected, or Gardner threw an inaccurate ball.  Meaning it was as much a scUM mistake as a game winning play by the defense. 
I understand Luke needs to give credit to the team for the win, but I hope his inner dialog has a greater sense of urgency to fix the holes in the D.
I think our defensive backs needed to fight thru scUM blocks with greater urgency.  They were content to hold on to them as dance partners, need to fight thru that and make a play.
I did not see so much over-pursuit. 


Zimmy07's picture

I agree with that completely.  Either the ball was not thrown in the right place or the receiver did not go to the right spot.
If UM ran the play correctly it probably would have been a matter of whether the receiver held on to the ball after Powell hit him a fraction of a second later or whether he dropped it.
There is a chance that the receiver might have been tackled before getting in the end zone if he was supposed to curl in as well, I guess.

RedStorm45's picture

Agreed.  If Gardner throws that to Dileo's outside shoulder, or basically right where he turns, I think they get two points.  Dileo kind of cut off his route or sat where he was because he saw Powell jumping the route.  But he was open, Gardner just threw it a little ahead of Dileo.  Apologies on spelling of Dileo, I just guessed.

stittracer99's picture

C'mon guys, the defense didn't play very well all game long, but you need to give them a little bit of credit when they do make a play. Watch the play again, the reason the throw wasn't on target was because Gardner got rid of it earlier than he needed to due to the pressure that was in his face. Add the great play by Powell and you get the result that we got. We can sit and here and say that "if they made this play or that play, they would have won", but they didn't. And they didn't because our defense didn't let them.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

TTUN fixed a putrid offense in 6 days so why the hell not?

Class of 2010.

misterbulbous's picture

I know this is just words on paper, but I can't help but think that UM was extremely motivated given the two constant themes of the rivalry week:
1.  UM's offense (and offensive line in particular) is HORRIBLE
2.  UM has a knack for destroying OSU's undefeated seasons in the past.
Those guys at TTUN had to have heard that over and over and over last week.


Bosa, Spence, RDS and Bennett HAVE to get pressure on Connor. HAVE TO. This is not negotiable. I pray Coach Vrabel lights a fire under their butts.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

FailtotheVictors's picture

Pitt Brown and Josh Perry are frequently caught out of position.  Pitt has some issues diagnosing plays/routes, and Perry can't get depth in his drop.  The more I watch film, the more I wonder if Perry has the tools necessary to compete at a BCS level.  He rarely makes plays! Our depth at LB is going to kill us. Their inability to get depth leaves gaping wholes.  
This defense wont be a true OSU defense until we have 3 true linebackers who make plays and can line up a defense.  We are missing a vocal leader like Wisco and MSU who can get everyone in position. 

- Respect the Rivalry -

GV9's picture

We have one but he's still out after a broken ankle.  

BuckeyeStrong2's picture

I would put Vonn Bell out there to get PT instead of Pitt, I counted at least FIVE plays that it looked as if he was out of place, and it was taken advantage of


BacknBlack's picture

Stop the loose (5-8 yrds.) coverage on the outside. I know this is a result of CB being out however find somebody you can trust to play safety.
While upper classmen and returning starters have experience this group is lacking something. After week 3 the need to play more underclassmen was evident. #97 proves this point. 

acBuckeye's picture

It's not b/c CB is out. They did it even when he was playing. It's a philosophical decision for all the corners to play the ball instead of looking at the WR all the time. The problem is, Roby's terrible at it b/c he too often gets caught looking in the backfield while his guy runs right by him.
I read somewhere before that this is Fickell's doing. If Withers was the sole DC, he'd have his corners playing tighter coverage and not looking in the backfield, while being more aggressive with the front 7.
The problems really arise when we are aggresive with the front 7 and the corners are off the receivers..... that's why slants and screens have obliterated us this season.

BacknBlack's picture

Well said. Fickell is the DC however his strategy has changed under Urban. He lacks the experience running this type of defense, and is not able to utilize the type of players being brought in.
Change the scheme or find someone else to run it.

CGroverL's picture

If Fick is the DC, then why is his job title "LB/co-DC"? On top of that Withers title is "asst. HC/co-DC".
That alone makes me think that Withers is pulling Fickell's strings just as Heacock did. There are many differences in the coaching staffs under Tressel and Meyer. The #1 difference though is the thing that stayed the same...Fickell. Fick has been a driving force behind many great Buckeye defenses and also behind two 3-star LB's named Hawk and Laurinaitis. The PASS defense has had its issues....I see the blame being put on the secondary and possibly the new guy (Withers) and not Fickell.
Maybe Fickell does need someone to hold his hand...and someone is. So why does everyone blame Fickell? If Fickell was the sole DC, I could understand it, but this seems like just another time that Buckeye Nation is looking for a scapegoat and making wrong decisions on who it should be, if there even should be one. Normally, a problem in the secondary is blamed on the secondary coach, but all blame Fickell who is the one man that bleeds scarlet and gray more than any coach or player on the team.
It really makes me ill to see these negative words about a man that has been a LIFETIME BUCKEYE that wants nothing but Buckeye wins, titles, and to remove this stigma that has surrounded our beloved program.
If there is a picture in the dictionary next to the meaning of "true Buckeye Warrior", it should be a picture of Luke Fickell.

"I hope they're last in everything". One of Meyer's comments when speaking of TTUN after being hired at Ohio State.



BacknBlack's picture

I don't see anyone questioning Lukes dedication to the program. We are aware of his contributions and know him as a capable DC (co-DC to be specific). However the issues we are seeing in the secondary are a product of the pressure or lack there of by the linebackers.

IGotAWoody's picture

I'd have to disagree with that. The issues in the secondary are with DBs who are giving too much cushion. While the LBs have their issues, too, much of that has to do with injuries that forced us to come up with creative solutions. I'm hoping that Curtis Grant will be healthy for this game, as we're gonna need our 3 best LBs against MSU's run-oriented attack.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

Buckifan4Life's picture


We are watching the same defense then...

Furious George 27's picture

ichigan used a lot of misdirection in the passing game to keep OSU off balance which opened their run game.... If I were a TTUN I would be mad that they waited till the Game to get creative.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

allbucksallthetime's picture

If I were a scUM fan I'd be furious after last Saturday.  Agree or not, scUM has firepower on "O" in Gallon, Dileo, Funchess, and Butt, plus 4 and 5 star recruits everywhere on the line.  To play as poorly as they did all year speaks to very poor coaching and game-to-game decision-making by the staff.
It wasn't like scUM all of a sudden found play-makers last week.  They were there all along.  While they can be optimistic going forward, they still have the same coaching staff in place.  Their under-achievement going forward is most likely.  Go Bucks!  @#$% scUM!  

buck-I.8's picture

Give Vonn Bell a shot at Pitt Brown's spot. I fail to see how he could be any less consistent. 

acBuckeye's picture

Yes. Was there a play that Pitt was involved in Saturday where he wasn't falling down before the ball was thrown?

4thandinches's picture

And it went for a TD.

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

buck-I.8's picture

Yeah I think that was him that decided that the best way to keep Butt from catching that TD was to lay down at his feet and hope he trips/drops the ball. Reminded me of Travis Howard trying to cover Abbrederis last year.

BuckeyeStrong2's picture

I have been saying this since Christian Bryant went down!


andretolstoy's picture

I'm done griping about the Defense. They know they have to improve, or we lose. Period.
I'm thinking about our offense this week. Against ScuM we looked as if we were starting the game to establish the run in order to pass. I think this was the right move. However, we started to establish it early on pretty successfully, and then sort of abruptly stopped. I think this sort of messed up the rhythm and perhaps even hurt the D a bit.  I think if the entire 1st Quarter was Carlos, perhaps things wouldn't have been so close? Perhaps not ...
Against, MichSt. I think we have to do the opposite, establish the pass first, and then hit them with Carlos to finish them off.
A few cents/sense of mine ...

AJW_16's picture

In the latter years of the Tressel Era I think we all took Brian Rolle, Ross Homan, and especially Jermale Hines for granted. Those dudes made plays in space, and Hines especially was adept at blowing up screens.
Was I disappointed with the defense against UM? Yes. But it was not totally unexpected. Its been a three year trend, and until the staff can replenish depth in the defensive secondary the defense will struggle. I'm fully expecting a close game against Sparty because the defense will not be able to get off the field next Saturday.
Not trying to be overly critical - just trying to call it as I see it. I think this team has a chance to beat anyone because of the offense, but there is no doubt in my mind that the defense (and again, the linebackers and secondary) are the Achille's Heel.

"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you." 

4thandinches's picture

Am I the only one who disapproves of the way that Fickell handled this situation? His reasoning for not performing well was very generic and nondescript. It was almost like, its the biggest rivalry in sports, what did you expect? 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

Dublin68's picture

"Ohio State is allowing 256 yards passing per game – 101st in the country and 11th out of 12 Big Ten teams"
can the passing defense get any worst. Two more games for Fickell and he will be gone...Good luck

lsjSnail's picture

Can only hope. The interview with him after practice or whatever was ridiculous. some woman asked if they would be doing live tackling this week and Fickell answered with a shitty "Do you think we didn't tackle well against UM" in a very asshole like manor. She should of said YES I do think tackling was bad because it was and everyone around was thinking the same thing.

ChazBuckeye's picture

Even though OSU won the game, there is obvious holes that need repaired in this defense. First, as Kyle pointed out is Grant missing time.  The middle looks like SHIT!  Yes, I realize Williams is young, but man is he struggling out there.  I hold my breath when I see he's out there and not Grant.  Not to mention, how in the world does Grant sit out 'The Game' but Gardner plays with one leg and almost beats OSU?  Sorry but that I have a problem with. Were they saving him for MSU?  Sure wouldn't have mattered if OSU lost to TTUN.  Luckily that didn't happen!

Said Fickell: “We can’t change who we are. We can’t step back and ask our kids to change their demeanor and not be aggressive and not get after the quarterback just because of one situation.”

This statement is about as stupid as I've ever heard from this guy.  Sorry if I'm offending the Fickell lovers crowd, but this is a ridiculous statement.  They have to change what they're doing.  They don't have to blow it up entirely, but to beat MSU (and FSU especially,not to get ahead of ourselves before that aforementioned game) they have to change in order to win.  Sorry but Fickell's approach is the problem and it's semi-complacency.  In order to stay ahead of what MSU is planning to do, OSU much change and evolve as well (perhaps practice form tackling...and stop the GD's not working, despite, "Did we win?'  Calling BS on that too).  It's not happening don't have to be a seasoned coach to figure this DC situation isn't working out.  The talent is there!

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

andretolstoy's picture

Not sure if I would characterize it as stupid but the staff has a knack of defending each other and the players from, perhaps, things we really do not know too much about?
I noticed this statement as well. As we all know, most likely, we see coaches saying one thing for the media but doing the opposite in practice.
It's hard for me to believe that no one is going to mention to Bosa that intensity and reckless abandon in pursuit are great, but there are times as a DE you should stay home.
Again, we have huge wholes in our LB and DB core this year. We can harp and harp about coaching and execution, but we're not there yet. The inconsistency (and that's all it is) is a sign of youth.

ChazBuckeye's picture

That's Fickell's quote and personally, IMHO, it was stupid not to take accountability as well as not commenting about enacting change.  It's always excuses and no accountability when discussing this years defense (and last years too).  If the wheel is broken (or at the least flat), then you must fix it.  He should have told the media that to at least save face.  
I'm really hoping your second short paragraph is correct.  I'll be honest, I'm worried that MSU's QB, who's not that good, may look like Tom Brady against this defense.  If this situations stays the way it is, it's inevitable that another 300+ yard passing day for an average QB is on it's way again Saturday night.
Just a side point:  Personally, this defense IS MUCH different than the 2002 NC team D (I've seen some comparisons here and there about that stat).  I realize that team gave up the most passing yards in OSU history, but they're no where near the same.  You mentioned why, it's youth.  However, that is an excuse, valid as it may be, needs to stop.  Will that be a viable excuse if we lose this weekend or get torched by FSU, if that's who OSU ends up playing...??? I don't think it will be enough to save Fick from "moving on" to a MAC school if OSU's defense gets exposed again.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

andretolstoy's picture

Youth and lack of talent is not an excuse, it's a fact. I see Bosa over pursuing, and I see youthful vigor and lack of soberness written all over it. It doesn't mean he hasn't killed it most of the season, but this particular game he let his emotions get the best of him. Not sure how you coach emotions, not unless you're Mr. Miyagi. Perhaps his pregame hype-song should be, N2Deep - "Back to the Hotel" instead of AC/DC - "Thunderstruck?"
The weakness in the backfield, well? Not sure if that is youth or just lack of will or heart. Nothing personal, but I was surprised to see Roby All-Big Ten. I was expecting so much more from him. I guess that taught me a thing or two about expectations, no? 
Coaching problems in DBackfield? Sure, I agree. I just don't think this part can be heaped on Fickell entirely. And they're the crux of the "problem(s)" this year.
I sure remember a few years back folks going nuts on Heacock. Today, folks are begging for Heacock? Seriously? Those teams had twice the overall experience and talent than our last two defenses. The 2002 Defense? Who compared this defense to that one?
Fans be trippin'...

calebhouser9's picture

Call me optimistic, but I really believe last week's "let down" or whatever you want to call it defensively will motivate the boys to really come out and play their best Saturday in Indy! I have confidence in this staff, players, and scheme. Sure, everybody plays off or has a bad game and in our case, we still win. Go Bucks! Ready to watch Saturday in person! Let the confetti fall scarlet and gray style! 


TW's picture

Hope you right.  I kind of have the same feeling in some respects but also see so many missed tackles and a scheme that gives up 8-10 yards on obvious passing downs.   Dont quite get that.


OSUFlash's picture

C. Grant is not the answer to a piss poor defense. He played most of the first half and did basically nothing along with Perry and Williams. Why is Trey Johnson not being rotated in??? Seriously, are Grant and Perry that much of an upgrade over him? I think not!


ChazBuckeye's picture

My point was more stepping up and playing, even if you have a high ankle sprain.  You did see #98 play hurt right?  So my point was, why couldn't Grant play???  He was out there for a series or two.  But not the whole game.  Would it have made a difference, probably not.  But my point was some on this team need to step up and play, even if they're a bit banged up.  I give it to #98 for the way he played and personally, he looked better than our whole defense combined.  Until Tyvis stood right in the way of a pass right to him.  That would be the best defensive play called the entire game.  Not sure if you read the article on Sunday, but that call came from Coach Coombs, not Fickell.  

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

OSUFlash's picture

I hear you and I'm not arguing but trust me, I have the game DVRd Grant played most of the first half and was almost completely ineffective. I'm sorry, even healthy I'm less than impressed with his play. And I say the same for Perry and Williams.
Hawk, Carpenter, Schlagel, Freeman, Lautanitis, Homan and so on should be standard procedure for OSU so this is very frustrating. If Mitchell and Trey Johnson aren't starters next season and the Silver Bullets are still MIA we have a serious systemic problem at talent and or coaching at the position.


buck-I.8's picture

Yet another mention in todays Boarding House on bucknuts of Mike Mitchell practicing well, as he has all season, at LB. Just have to wonder what's holding him back, with Grant chronically hurt, and Cam Williams stinking up the joint.

Enzo's picture

Meyer said he's being red-shirted.

buck-I.8's picture

I understand that. My issue is, since we don't seem to have a feasible option at MLB, and if Mitchell is and has been "practicing well at LB", what is keeping him from playing as a true freshman?

Enzo's picture

What's keeping him from playing is that Meyer made the decision to red shirt him.

buck-I.8's picture

I don't think you understand the principle behind redshirting. 

Toilrt Paper's picture

A redshirt. Has he played a minute thus far?

BoFuquel's picture

I'll still take our D over TSUN  State's O.  GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

angelique's picture

Nobody stops anybody these days.    You got 5 huge 400 pound gorilla's that form a wall and behind that wall is a Quarterback who has never done a lick of work in his life, except for throwing a ball and he only has to throw this ball 10 to 20 yards.    Then you send the five quickest guys in the world out all over the field with sticky gloves on I might add and it simply means each team will score 4 or more touchdowns every game.   And you play the entire width of the field.   No different that basketball.   Whichever team scores the most points win.     Just score every time you get the ball and NO TURN-OVERS!!!!!!!


D. Anthony's picture

His "did we win, did we win..." comment sounded like an old Ryan Leaf sound bite :)  lets hope we are signing his praises next week at this time.

D. Anthony

TW's picture

Don't have a direct quote but I do recall Fickel in a news conference indicating he was not concerned with missed tackles due to the team flowing to the ball and lots of bodies in place to make the play.  This was the gist of his comment.  In my view this is a recipe for disaster as evidenced by a number of games this year including SAT. You might decrease injuries but if you are not having live tackle drills the most important aspect of  defensive football  suffers.  Still cant get over having Mich pinned on the 3 yard line and having the corner play 10 yards off.  Easy first down.  What are they thinking?  We dont want to give up a big play?  2 missed tackles and a 99 yard big play. Scheme and fundamentals.  Go Bucks!! 


Blackbeards Delight's picture

Wow, how many of you are Iacono's Pizza delivery drivers! The D is a porta john explosion beyond the front four and RDS. If Miller is more accurate in the passing game this week the D short comings won't matter. I expected more development of the D this late in the season. Inconsistent? I would say consistently mediocre in pass D all season. 

Crunchy Peanut Butter Bitches.

- Me


FailtotheVictors's picture

What happened to our Swagger?? We lost our swagger.  Silver bullets d used to be play with fire and intensity.  We don't look confident. 

- Respect the Rivalry -

buckuar's picture

My thought is this...
The defense played poorly against an offense that was throwing it all out there. This was TTUN's NCG, Bowl Game and Spring Game all wrapped up in one. They were caught off guard and I believe they get it corrected this week. 
A larger concern I had were the two nearly perfectly thrown balls to WIDE open receivers that were dropped. Make those and we armchair coaches aren't running around on message boards like our hair is on fire. 
It's the little things. UFM will have things under control.  I think there are 123 (and one transitional) other teams that would like to have our defensive problems right now while sitting on a 24 game win streak. 
Win and we're in. It's that simple. 
F _ichigan. The whole state. 
Go Bucks

Seattle Linga's picture

If the future repeats the past we will need some immediate change

BeijingBucks's picture

I miss Mike Doss type guys in the secondary. I remember watching the Miami replay and being struck with how those D players, especially Doss oozed swagger, quickness and unbridled fury... In a massive frame.  Every play those Miami players knew they was gonna done get hurt. 
This D is just young not untalented. Give the same defenders 3 years together and you can stop worrying about scheme. Next year MSU is gonna be tested on D but Bucks will be on the upswing. 
Love how we are complaining about too much emotion and aggressiveness... Seriously?



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

BeijingBucks's picture

Even those guys needed a last play defensive stop in the end zone at cincy!



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

jamesrbrown322's picture

The bottom line is that there is just not as much talent on D as that to which we have become accustomed. How many first rounders start on D for the Bucks? Shazier, maybe, and Roby, probably, according to current draft grades. Now Spence and Bennett may or may not get there, but the talent that is there is young (Bell, Apple, Mitchell, Johnson, etc.) and inexperienced. Let's see what happens with the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes. They could really change the face of the D.
All I know is this: Without Shazier, OSU is not undefeated. He is the best instinctive LB OSU has had since Laurinaitis..maybe Hawk. I think he is a surefire NFL talent and it's crazy that he'll probably be a second rounder. Fingers crossed that an Ohio team drafts him so that it's easier to root for him.
I love Fickell, and want to see him get every chance to succeed, but I do worry that perhaps D-Coordinator is just more than he can handle. What's Heacock doing nowadays.....

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Dillon G's picture

This isn't the first time Urban Meyer's defense has been skunked by a michigan team that couldn't block their way out of a wet paper bag. Mike Hart and Co. managed....98 yards? And 3 points against the Vest. Yet they put 41 and 500 yards against his holiness (albeit he only took snaps) in the bowl game.

andretolstoy's picture

I just listened to the Fickell interview. He was obviously defensive, but he did say some things that were omitted in this piece, 'like obviously we have things to work on' 'obviously we know we didn't tackle well' etc...
I guess I'd be pissed too if folks who really have never played the game, fans, reporters etc continually question my competence. Not saying I completely agree, but there is some obvious frustration on Fickell's part because we are definitely short on personnel the last two years. Not sure we've this thin in the last 10-15 years.
And when Fickell said, "we can't change who we are", he was specially talking about a question about intensity. He is specifically saying that if we make that sort of change, now, that will hurt our intensity.' This article makes it seem like he is unwilling to change anything ...
Coupled with the photo - this turns into a nice little hit piece on Fickell. Nice guys ...