Starting safety Jordan Fuller was a game-time scratch, the most experienced linebacker on the roster in Tuf Borland played just 10 snaps and multiple players took their first-ever dose of collegiate football action Saturday.
But for Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, none of those factors — or any other for that matter — serve as valid excuses for giving up 31 points to Oregon State.
The Buckeyes, who won going away by a 77-31 final, gave up 392 total yards to the Beavers' offense while surrendering scoring plays of 80, 78 and 49 yards.
While Schiano did mention the game film showed "a lot of good stuff," he harped on the fact that there are many areas with extensive opportunities to improve.
"There's a lot of good stuff on the tape. So I wasn't disappointed other than, there were some plays I was disappointed with," Schiano said. "Anytime you miss any tackles ... we really need to work on our angle of entries. We had two (defensive pass interference penalties) called on us. We gave up too many big plays. That's not acceptable and that all comes back to coaching."
Fuller's absence certainly hurt the Buckeyes. He was a game-time decision and worked out before kickoff. But according to acting head coach Ryan Day, the coaching staff decided it'd be best to hold him out.
Without him in the lineup, Ohio State's pass defense gave up 196 yards and were hit with two defensive pass interference in the same drive, midway through the first quarter.
"We hope to have Jordan back (against Rutgers)," Schiano said. "One thing Jordan gives you is a kind of a sweeper back there, an insurance policy. He's a very good tackler in space. I like our odds with him. He's an experienced guy and one of the best in the country. Certainly, we missed him."
It's not an acceptable performance. But there were a lot of good things, too.– Greg Schiano
While Fuller watched from the sidelines, sophomores Jahsen Wint and Isaiah Pryor started and experienced multiple growing pains. But it's something Schiano says can be corrected.
"There was a lot of good things (Wint and Pryor) did and there was a lot of learning that they could take from that tape and that performance," Schiano said. "We knew we were going to have a new mike linebacker and two new safeties. That's like starting a new catcher, a new shortstop and a new pitcher. Right up the middle. We knew there could be growing pains. But at least we have a leaping off point."
Ohio State's linebackers may have been under an even larger microscope. After an up and down year in 2017, the group got its first chance at redemption. With Borland seeing limited action, sophomore Baron Browning started at mike in between the outside linebacker duo of junior Malik Harrison and sophomore Pete Werner.
While there were bright spots, Ohio State looked out of place on screen passes and displayed poor tackling on several long scoring plays. The good news is 82 percent of Oregon State's offense came on seven plays.
"You saw Tuf, I think he had 10 plays and that was kind of his pitch count," Schiano said. "That's all part of his recovery. We look for (Borland's) playing time to increase. I thought Baron did a nice job in there. Like I said last week, I think we have more than three linebackers that should play, so we're going to do that."
As for the defensive line ... well, that group looked to be in mid-season form while racking up four sacks — the Buckeyes had five as a team, one coming from Werner — alongside five tackles for a loss, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown.
Ohio State will try and turn its defensive miscues into corrections against Rutgers, Saturday in Columbus. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
"Good lessons to be learned," Schiano said. "It's not an acceptable performance. But there were a lot of good things, too. We scored a touchdown on defense and that's really the way we like to play football around here. We got to play a ton of people. I think we learned a lot. People always say you make your largest improvement between Week 1 and Week 2. I think when you're a young unit, that multiplies."