Billy Price sat at a table in Ohio State’s postgame interview room and thought long and hard before he delivered a response to a question.
The Buckeyes’ starting right guard knew what he wanted to say, but just couldn’t find the right words.
“It’s just one of those things,” Price finally said after giving it some thought. “Some games you struggle with the run, some games you struggle with the pass. I know our coaches are going to dive right into it tomorrow and give us a great game plan next week to make sure that doesn’t happen with Wisconsin.
“We’ve just got to get better.”
That’s not a quote you usually hear after a three-touchdown victory — and that’s what this was, a 38-17 win for Ohio State against Indiana, let's not forget that — but it was clear something was off with the Buckeyes’ offense Saturday afternoon and, in particular, with the passing game.
Ohio State managed just 93 yards through the air against a Hoosiers pass defense that came into Saturday’s game ranked 11th in the Big Ten. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett finished just 9-of-21 through the air with one touchdown and one interception.
Ohio State entered the game averaging 244.3 yards per game through the air so it was certainly a strange site. It’s part of the reason why Price was having trouble explaining what happened, and Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer shared a somewhat similar sentiment.
“Left a lot of pass offense on the field,” Meyer said. “That was the alarming thing.”
Two plays in particular stood out as missed opportunities for Barrett and the Ohio State passing attack.
The first came early in the first quarter when Curtis Samuel had several steps on his defender, but never had a chance to catch the ball as Barrett underthrew him by quite a few yards. The second came in the third quarter when James Clark had his defender beat and Barrett missed him — this time with an overthrow.
Barrett shouldered the blame for those two miscues, and more.
“They’ve got a good defense over there and I think they did a good job of preparing for us. But with that, I have to do a better job of recognizing coverages and distributing the football,” the redshirt junior quarterback said. “I don’t think I played my best game by any means. With that, I have to do better. I think the receivers did their part, the tight ends did their part, I just have to do a better job of distributing the ball.”
This lack of production in the pass game certainly isn’t alarming by any means. The sky is not falling. But it definitely is an area Ohio State has plenty of room for improvement.
The Buckeyes ran for 290 yards against Indiana on Saturday, but at some point Meyer said a team will be able to shut down Ohio State’s running game. The Buckeyes are going to have to make some plays through the air to win a football game.
“We had some minor mistakes, a couple balls that should have hit that didn’t,” wide receiver Parris Campbell said. “We’ll learn from it and we’ve just got to clean it up. … We’ve just got to get back to practicing and that way next game we can make those.”
The game Meyer was referencing in which a team could stop Ohio State’s rushing attack could be the next one. The Buckeyes travel to Madison next weekend for a primetime showdown with 11th-ranked Wisconsin.
A balanced offensive attack will be key if Ohio State hopes to improve to 6-0. The Buckeyes are hopeful that’s exactly what happens.
“Today, we had our struggles in the passing game, but that’s part of the season. It tends to happen when we don’t want it to happen, but we’ve still got to find a way to win the ballgame,” Barrett said. “With that, I think before this game I think we were achieving what we wanted to as far as a balanced offense. It didn’t happen to be that way [Saturday], but it’s one of those things that we just need to keep on getting better.”
“We’re not perfect by any means, but gotta keep getting better.”