Ohio State Wins Opener But Its Defense Needs Significant Work

By Derrick Webb on September 1, 2018 at 6:45 pm
Oregon State Beavers running back Artavis Pierce (21) scores a touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half at Ohio Stadium.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In a season-opening 77-31 win over Oregon State, Ohio State's offense looked liked a fine-tuned machine.

The Buckeyes' defense? Not so much.

While quarterback Dwayne Haskins and company continued to pile up points, their defense continued to miss tackles, give up big plays and allow the Beavers to provide answers — especially on the ground.

"Yards count and points count and those are obviously blunders on the day," co-defensive coordinator said. "Nobody cares about the 'why.' We'll find out the 'why' as we evaluate things on film and we'll get those things corrected."

After a lengthy halftime rain delay, Oregon State needed just three plays to score twice to begin the second half, coming on rushes of 80 and 78 yards from Artavis Pierce. The Beavers' first score was also a big play, coming on a 49-yard pass from Conor Blount to Trevon Bradford.

In total, Ohio State surrendered 392 total yards, 196 of which came on the ground. 

"We made a lot of mistakes in the second half that could easily be fixed," junior defensive end Nick Bosa said. "Even in the first half, we made some mistakes. Once we fix those, we can take this momentum and build on that. We knew (Pierce) was a good player. But those are easy plays for us if we just stay aggressive."

Last season, the linebackers were heavily scrutinized for the group's play at times.

Coming into Saturday's contest, the status of sophomore linebacker Tuf Borland was up in the air after he suffered and Achilles injury in the spring. Borland did see playing time and sophomore starter Pete Werner was a bright spot.

But those bits of good news couldn't overshadow the glaring holes the defense sometimes featured. Some of that could have to do with facing an unfamiliar opponent with a new offensive coordinator and an offensive-minded head coach.

"There's a lot of unknowns and there's always unknowns heading into the first week," Grinch said. "From a preparation standpoint, I think guys handled it well. You know, some missed opportunities. One play was a TFL and they run the exact same play and it breaks for a gain. That doesn't make it OK."

In the secondary, it's important to note that junior Jordan Fuller, one of Ohio State's usual starting safety, was ruled out before kickoff with a hamstring injury. Fuller is the Buckeyes' most experienced defensive back in every capacity.

That left Ohio State relying on two sophomores — Isaiah Pryor and Jahsen Wint — as its last line of defense. That duo, along with several other Buckeyes, learned a valuable lesson on the fly.

"I think it's a huge learning experience for a lot of guys," Grinch said. "There's several guys that made their first starts as college football players today. It's different. You're playing a power five opponent and all eyes are on you. There's certain plays all those guys would like to have back but overall, a real positive experience."

Long story short, the Buckeye have work to do.

"We've got a lot of work to do," sophomore defensive end Chase Young said. "When our younger guys go in, they don't take pride like they're a (starter). They have to walk around like they're a one, it doesn't matter if they're a two or three."

Ohio State will have its next chance at getting its defense on track when they host Rutgers in Week 2.

"We have to get to the bottom of it," Grinch said of the team's defensive issues. "We have to make tackles and make sure the play that breaks for five (yards) doesn't turn into 15. We have to make sure we're swarming to the football. We allowed some extreme (big plays) today that good defenses don't make."

View 153 Comments