The question to Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was about his starting middle linebacker, Raekwon McMillan. Meyer’s answer, though, was a general response about the Buckeyes’ defense.
“The interior of our defense, we were exposed a little bit,” Meyer said, referencing Ohio State’s defensive effort in its 38-12 win over Western Michigan on Saturday. “That’s something that’s going to be a lot of our emphasis right now.”
The Buckeyes were gashed a bit on the ground by the Broncos, specifically with runs up the middle, as Western Michigan totaled 169 yards rushing against Ohio State on 41 carries, good for 4.1 yards per rush.
After the game, players and coaches attributed some of Western Michigan’s success to schematic things. It’s an issue the Buckeyes know they’ll have to fix going forward as they travel to Indiana on Saturday to open Big Ten play.
The Hoosiers, of course, have the nation’s leading rusher in Jordan Howard. The UAB transfer has gained 675 yards and four touchdowns on the ground thus far in Indiana’s first four games of the season.
“Everybody is going to try us each and every way this year so we’ve gotta come into the game knowing that they’re going to try us and they’re gonna give us different stuff, different looks that we haven’t seen yet.”– Raekwon McMillan
“We’ve gotta focus on tackling, getting him down on the ground,” McMillan said. “When we make contact, not let him get yards after contact. Everybody is going to try us each and every way this year so we’ve gotta come into the game knowing that they’re going to try us and they’re gonna give us different stuff, different looks that we haven’t seen yet.”
As most Ohio State fans remember, Indiana brought a potent running attack to Ohio Stadium last year. The Buckeyes won, 42-27, but things weren’t easy. Jalin Marshall scored four-straight second-half touchdowns to help lift Ohio State, which struggled mightily to contain Indiana running back Tevin Coleman.
Coleman, who now starts for the Atlanta Falcons, had 27 carries for 228 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s game against the Buckeyes including a 90-yard touchdown run. Howard presents Ohio State with the same type of threat.
“It's more of a pride thing then anything else to defend against a good running back,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “You don't just want somebody running right through their defense. I guess that's something we're really upset about from last week is how they were able to cut through our defense on some of those plays.”
Meyer holds Ohio State’s defense to a high standard and, in his mind, the group didn’t meet those expectations, specifically in the run game, on Saturday against Western Michigan. And the Buckeyes will be challenged in a big way again this weekend against the Hoosiers’ potent ground game.
“In terms of handling good running backs, also it takes a full defensive effort and we know that our D-line is going to give it their all,” Perry said. “Our linebackers have to be prepared for that. When you get to the secondary involved a little bit too, just knowing what they've got to do and some of the ways that we can use them creatively.”