After Being Areas of Concern Early On, Ohio State's Passing Offense and Defense Continue to Improve

By James Grega on October 7, 2017 at 10:01 pm
Binjimen Victor

Following a 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, it appeared Ohio State's offense had fallen back into its bad habits from a season ago. 

The Buckeyes' pass defense, a strength from a season ago, was sputtering and ranked dead last in the country after two games. 

However, since dropping the home game to the Sooners, the Buckeyes have rattled off four straight victories, improving their scoring output in each contest. In that span, Ohio State has outscored its opponents 210 to 42, with 14 of its points allowed coming on a pick-six by its backup quarterback and a kickoff return for a score. 

Offensively, Ohio State has thrown for more than 300 yards in each game since its only loss of the year, and entered the game against Maryland ranked 13th in the country in passing offense. Now halfway through the regular season, quarterback J.T. Barrett has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,513 yards, with 16 touchdown passes to just one interception, and has added another three scores on the ground. 

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said after the game that much of the improvement in the pass offense can be attributed to an improved chemistry between Barrett and his wide receivers. 

"Receivers are making very good plays for him," Meyer said after the 62-14 win. "Even though some of those short ones are getting the 8-, 9-, 10-yard on the bubbles and that sort of thing. So I think the quarterback, receivers are working well together."

Ohio State's offensive line, despite losing Branden Bowen to injury, has also looked improved in the Buckeyes' last four games. The offensive line did not allow a sack in the win over Maryland and allowed just one against Rutgers the week prior. 

Breaking in a new offensive coordinator in Kevin Wilson, it took a few weeks for Ohio State's offense to begin to fire on all cylinders. Four-year starter Billy Price, who has yet to miss a start in his Buckeye career, said after the game that there were some growing pains early on in terms of Wilson getting to learn the in-game capabilities of his players. 

"You have to know the things that your players are good at, and the things they are bad at. I might not be able to reach a four-technique, but I might be able to reach a shade (defensive lineman)," Price said. "They are putting us in good positions and understand what a defense is trying to exploit and what a defense is trying to get our offense to do. Coach (Ryan) Day and Coach Wilson bring a different dimension to the offensive staff with their knowledge and things they have done in the past."

Defensively for Ohio State, the Buckeyes have gone four straight games of holding opponents to under 100 yards passing after ranking dead last in the country in pass defense through two games. 

Even though the opponents haven't exactly boasted high-caliber offenses, Meyer said he has been pleased with Ohio State's defensive effort in recent weeks. 

"Once again, very realistic, the team that went down there, they were running much more quarterback run against Texas. And obviously the top two quarterbacks got hurt," Meyer said referencing Maryland's 51-41 win over the Longhorns in the season opener. "So defense was just great effort."

Meyer added that while Ohio State's secondary play has improved, much of the credit for the rejuvenated pass defense has to go to the Buckeyes' defensive line, which collected five sacks in the win over Maryland. 

"I think you felt the defensive line in several games, and like Indiana you couldn't feel them because the ball was out so fast," Meyer said. "I don't want to take away our pass defense. When you hold them to, looked like 16 yards or something like that, passing, that's good secondary play.

"But I know why they didn't throw very much. The defensive line was all over them."

Ohio State is set to head to Nebraska next week to face a Cornhusker team that entered the weekend ranked seventh in the Big Ten in pass offense (228.8 ypg) and eighth in pass defense (228.0 ypg). 

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