Before Saturday, season-long trends suggested that Ohio State could be heading for a major letdown. As it turns out, numbers never lie.
In a gut-wrenching game from beginning to end, No. 11 Ohio State fell to the Purdue Boilermakers 20-49. Heading into the open week, the Bucks must pick up the pieces and prepare for a tough back end of the season to compete for a second straight Big Ten championship.
In today's Inside the Box, we will talk about why Haskins needs a running game behind him, how the entire defense is falling apart, and why this loss stings more than most.
The Awful Running Game Hurt the Buckeyes’ Passing
Stop me if you have heard this before: Ohio State cannot run the ball. It is impossible. Despite having an offensive line full of 310+ pound men and two backs with over 2,000 career yards, the Ohio State Buckeyes cannot manage more than three yards an attempt on the ground.
Because of this, Ohio State is forced to throw the ball. Fortunately, the team has the best passer in school history. The Buckeyes have been able to hide nearly all of their flaws up to this point behind Haskins’ gaudy numbers.
Going into the open week, Dwayne Haskins has passed for 2,801 yards with 30 touchdowns while completing 71% of his passes. He is rewriting Ohio State’s record books and will challenge many of the conference records.
While most of his performances have been efficient and calculated, he struggled a bit on Saturday night. Am I being unfair by picking apart his 470-yard performance? Maybe, but we saw a side of the Buckeyes’ offense that should never have to be utilized.
It is often said that the short passing game is an extension of the run game. So, when Ohio State fails to run the ball effectively, the coaching staff must resort to throwing a ton of short passes to compensate.
The result? The lowest yards per attempt of the year.
Putting this number on Haskins is unfair; without a running game, he was forced to throw the ball 73 (!!!) times, often times in front of the chains. Haskins accounted for 86% of the team’s total yards, another season-high mark. He is carrying this offense.
If we learned anything on Saturday, it is that a one-dimensional offense will not be able to compete in the Big Ten. As long as the Bucks fail to move the ball on the ground, they cannot count on winning anything.
The Whole Defense Struggled
Ohio State’s defense has struggled for most of the season with flashes of potential. Now, everything must be reevaluated.
The strength of this defense is supposed to be up-front. The Rushmen, even after losing the best player in the nation, was seen as one of the best defensive lines in the country. Dre’Mont Jones is seen as one of the top linemen in the nation, Chase Young is the supposed heir to Bosa’s throne, and Robert Landers is a bulldog up front. The line has not lived up to the hype.
The Rushmen have recorded their three lowest tackle-shares of the season in the past three weeks.
I know that the defensive line’s role is not always to tackle the ballcarrier, but this regression is not normal. It would be different if the line was getting involved in other ways, such as hurrying the quarterback or taking up blockers, but the unit has struggled immensely over the past three weeks.
In addition, the linebackers were nowhere to be found all game. Some pointed to the scheme, but even then, there is no reason that a starting linebacker should record just one tackle in four quarters. Excluding Malik Harrison, who had ten tackles, the starting front seven of Chase Young, Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, Jonathan Cooper, Pete Werner, and Tuf Borland, combined for 11 tackles.
While disparaging the entire defense, why not take a look at the secondary as well? Rondale Moore torched the Buckeyes for 170 receiving yards, the most given up by DBU since J.D. Spielman of Nebraska’s 200-yard effort last year. A true freshman who chose Purdue over the likes of Ohio State and Alabama, his 43-yard catch-and-run was just one of three 40+ yard touchdowns allowed. The Bucks are now tied for fifth in the nation in plays over 40+ yards allowed.
On Saturday night, all of the trends that have been in the shadows this season finally emerged. The Buckeyes were beaten up front and disorganized in the back. Giving up 49 points was unexpected, but far from impossible given their recent play.
Nothing Went Right for the Buckeyes
Ohio State played poorly last week.
The Buckeyes scored zero touchdowns on three red zone attempts last week against Minnesota, who just lost to Nebraska. This week, it should not have been able to get any worse. Instead, Ohio State scored zero touchdowns on five red zone attempts. Six points in five red zone trips will not get the job done against an offensive team like Purdue.
It is not as if the Buckeyes could not move the ball against the Boilermakers. With 546 yards, 31 first downs, and five red zone trips, Ohio State had plenty of opportunities to score. Rather, the scarlet and gray stalled twice inside the twenty, one of which was inside the two-yard-line, and settled for three field goal attempts. The Bucks’ touchdown percentage of 56.76% is among the worst in the nation, coming in at No. 98 nationally.
Based on their previous yards per point average, the Buckeyes should have scored 42 points. Instead, Ohio State struggled to put up 20 and lost by 20+ to a Big Ten West opponent for the second year in a row.
Red zone failings, however, do not tell the whole story. When penalized on offense, the Buckeyes did not score any points. Ohio State was flagged five times on offense and there was only one incident where they were flagged and then gained another first down (the offense was flagged later again on this drive and forced to punt in the ensuing plays). Essentially, anytime the offense was flagged, the drive was over.
Defensively, untimely penalties boosted the Boilermakers’ offense. Two big penalties contributed to Purdue’s first scoring drive and a roughing the kicker call on a third-quarter punt led to seven points for the home team.
It is tough to win when you make as many mistakes as Ohio State did in this game. In the past, the Buckeyes’ talent was enough to push them through. On Saturday night, however, they were simply outcoached and outplayed.
While the season is anything but lost, things will not be getting any easier for the Buckeyes. The scarlet and gray must win out to have a chance at the conference championship and a matchup with No. 5 Michigan looms in the distance.