One of this offseason’s biggest points of emphasis by new Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day was for the Buckeyes to become more prolific throwing the deep ball.
That didn’t happen in Ohio State’s season opener at Indiana on Thursday.
While Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes to a 49-21 win, he did not complete any passes that traveled more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage through the air. While Barrett attempted numerous deep throws during the game, none of them resulted in receptions by his pass-catchers.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said it was frustrating that the Buckeyes were unable to find success in the deep passing game after working hard this offseason to improve on that area of weakness from last season.
"I think obviously we make such an emphasis on the deep ball that it’s somewhat disappointing that we didn’t hit a couple of them," Meyer said after Thursday’s game.
Barrett took responsibility for the Buckeyes’ lack of deep ball success following Thursday’s game. He acknowledged that he misfired on multiple downfield throws, most notably in the third quarter, when he overthrew the end zone on what could have been a 33-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcus Baugh.
The blame for Ohio State’s lack of completed deep balls should not fall squarely upon Barrett. He gave his receivers some opportunities to make plays on downfield throws, most notably on a perfectly placed pass that would have been a 41-yard touchdown had it not been dropped by a wide open Parris Campbell.
"You can’t throw a better deep ball than that," Campbell said in praise of Barrett.
Meyer expressed that it is on the wide receivers to be better on deep routes for the Buckeyes to have more success in that area, even though he was pleased with the wide receivers’ overall play.
"Wide receivers, I thought, played their tails off," Meyer said. "We’ll get better on the deep ball. Everything else was outstanding. I just wish we would have hit a couple deep ones. But we’ve seen them do it in practice, so we’re excited about what we have at receiver."
“we make such an emphasis on the deep ball that it’s somewhat disappointing that we didn’t hit a couple of them.”– Urban Meyer
Nonetheless, Barrett said the onus is on him to raise his performance as a downfield passer.
"I’m not one of those guys that I guess would hold it against a person, a dropped pass, because I’m going to miss throws," Barrett said. "I just got to do a better job executing."
Whether the Buckeyes really need effective deep passing to win football games remains to be seen. A lack of it didn’t stop the Buckeyes from putting up 596 yards of offense and winning by four touchdowns on Thursday. Ohio State made up for its lack of long completions by finding open receivers with room to run on crossing routes and other intermediate throws, including one that Campbell turned into a 74-yard touchdown and another that Johnnie Dixon turned into a 59-yard touchdown.
Meyer, though, seems to believe Ohio State will need a stronger deep passing game – perhaps as soon as next Saturday’s game against Oklahoma at Ohio Stadium – as he reiterated the need for the Buckeyes to be better on the deep ball in responses to four different questions during his postgame press conference Thursday.
"Those are just something we got to get better at," Meyer said. "It’s been a minute since we’ve hit some deep balls around here."