While Ohio State’s Greg Schiano might be considered one of the best defensive coordinators in college football and one of the top candidates for a head coaching job this offseason, he was out-coached by a first-year offensive coordinator on Saturday.
Three days after the Buckeyes’ 55-24 loss to Iowa, in which Ohio State gave up 487 total yards and more points than it had allowed in any game since 1994, Schiano didn’t shy away from pointing the finger of blame at himself for the Buckeyes’ defensive struggles. Schiano also praised the Hawkeyes, whose offense in its first year being orchestrated by Brian Ferentz, for putting together a game plan that outsmarted he and his fellow coaches.
"(Iowa) did a very nice job," Schiano said Tuesday. "We didn’t do a great job coaching. We didn’t get our guys to understand what was happening. They did a very good job."
There were plenty of areas to which one could assign blame for Ohio State’s poor defensive performance on Saturday.
Ohio State’s defensive line failed to put pressure on Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley, while its linebackers and safeties struggled in coverage, allowing the Hawkeyes’ tight ends and fullback to combine for five receiving touchdowns. The Buckeyes’ defense against both the pass and run at all three levels, and were unable to force any turnovers.
Schiano, however, said all of those struggles came back to his shortcomings in preparing for the Buckeyes for Saturday’s game.
"We had our opportunities to get off the field, we didn’t do it," Schiano said. "When you don’t get off the field on third down, often times you live to see a lot of plays that you never needed to see, for a lot of different reasons. But we need to get all of it fixed, and it falls on me and our coaching staff to get that done. We have great players. We’ve got to get them in a position to go make plays, and we’ve got to get it right fast."
While it might have looked to the untrained eye as though Iowa ran its usual offense against the Buckeyes on Saturday, Schiano said the Hawkeyes actually used different concepts than usual, which led to the Buckeyes defense being ill-prepared. That’s a credit to the Hawkeyes’ coaches, Schiano said, as well as to their players for being able to execute a new offensive game plan at such a high level. Nonetheless, Schiano said that was no excuse, as he should have been able to make the in-game adjustments needed to combat the Hawkeyes’ game plan.
"They did a lot of things that presented issues that they had not done before," Schiano said of Iowa’s offense. "But at Ohio State … you have to expect things that have not shown up on tape, and I didn’t do a good job of getting our guys adjusted during the game. It’s disappointing, but as a coach, especially as a coordinator, you have to be able to get things fixed faster than we did."
Much of the criticism of Ohio State’s defense since Saturday’s loss has been pointed specifically toward the linebackers, whose play was a glaring weakness in Kinnick Stadium. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, when asked about the linebackers during the Big Ten teleconference on Tuesday, acknowledged that position group did not play well on Saturday, though he did not feel that was indicative of their play for the entire season.
"This past week was not good at all," Meyer said of the linebackers’ performance. "At times, they’ve played very well."
Starting middle linebacker Chris Worley said his unit "didn’t play well enough to win a game," and as a senior leader and captain of the team, he felt personally responsible for that.
"If you’re not playing well, that’s a reflection of you," Worley said. "I definitely took it as a reflection on me. No matter how hard you play, if you make mistakes in this game, you’re going to give up some things and we definitely did as a defense last week."
Schiano, however, once again pointed the finger at himself when asked about his linebackers’ struggles.
"To me, that comes back to us," Schiano said. "We have good linebackers. We have to get them to do their job. And if they’re not, then you have to examine why. And that to me is coaching. That’s why you coach. It hurts. But it’s our job. Look in the mirror and figure it out."
“We have great players. We’ve got to get them in a position to go make plays, and we’ve got to get it right fast.”– Greg Schiano
Regardless of where the blame for where Saturday’s defensive failure might belong, there’s no question that the Buckeyes defense needs to play better this Saturday against Michigan State, which has thrown for 400 or more yards and averaged more than 500 total yards in its last two games against Northwestern and Penn State.
Worley says the Spartans run some similar concepts to the Hawkeyes, which will put the Buckeyes to the test and enable them to prove that they have improved in the areas that plagued them last week. Schiano says Michigan State’s offense has some different elements as well, however, which means he must do a better job in getting his defense ready for new wrinkles than he did last week.
"They’re as multiple as any team we’ve played this year," Schiano said. "We really have to be on point. They do everything from gun-run game to what we saw the other day: multiple tight ends and heavy people, unbalanced sets all the way to what we do – gun-run, spread. And everything in between, if that makes sense. So this is a final exam for sure. We got our work cut out for us."