Ohio State's offense put up 609 total yards and scored another seven touchdowns on the way to a 49-26 beat down of Indiana but amid the barrage of points, the Buckeyes managed just 154 yards rushing on a feeble 3.2 yards per carry.
The inability to generate much on the ground, despite Ohio State's aerial success, isn't lost on Urban Meyer who met with the media on Monday and discussed the state of the Buckeye running game.
Q. Halfway through the regular season, how do you feel about your offensive line? What do you like about the offensive? What needs to improve with the offensive line?
COACH MEYER: We had five champions for several weeks right in a row. This week we didn’t play particularly well. So we gotta get back to — I think protection was very good. We’ve got to get back to the word “balance.” We’ve been saying that and we’re going to work again this week at that.
Q. With the offensive line, you mentioned, it seems like they’re holding up very well against the blitz and pass protection, but when teams are loading up against the run, it’s inconsistent. What’s the difference there when teams are loading up against the run and the pass, and what have you seen out of your guys handling both?
COACH MEYER: You’re correct about the pressures. And a lot of those are five-man pressures that Dwayne has time and gets the ball out. The run game, it’s a little more complicated than that.
We gotta do a better job as coaches and better job, obviously, with players, just executing the run game. Because it’s not always that. It’s not always a loaded box.
Once again, that’s — the weakness of our team right now is balance on offense and obviously pass defense.
From Meyer's perspective, a lack of consistency in execution combined with defenses selling out to stop the run sounds largely to blame for the running game's woes. Considering the shuffling the offensive line had to go through in spring including inserting first-year starters at left tackle and left guard while shifting Michael Jordan to center and breaking in a new tight end rotation – all while shifting from a rushing attack hell bent on featuring the quarterback – maybe we shouldn't be so shocked at the growing pains.
|OPPONENT||RUSH ATT||RUSH YARDS||YARDS PER CARRY||TOUCHDOWNS|
As we've highlighted before, the rushing yards per game fell off four straight games following the opener and the yards per carry have bottomed out the last two weeks.
The classic chicken or the egg scenario unfolds from there. Yes, Meyer's comments and film study from 11W's Kyle Jones highlight the execution issues but there's also the reality opponents are often stacking the box and bringing a host of blitzes in an effort to force Dwayne Haskins to beat them.
|YEAR||RUSH (RK)||PASS (RK)||TOT OFF (RK)|
|2012||242.3 (10)||181.5 (105)||423.8 (46)|
|2013||308.6 (5)||203.3 (90)||511.9 (7)|
|2014||264.5 (9)||247.1 (52)||511.6 (9)|
|2015||245.2 (11)||188.8 (100)||434.1 (41)|
|2016||245.2 (11)||213.9 (81)||459.2 (31)|
|2017||243.2 (17)||262.8 (36)||506.0 (7)|
|2018||201.0 (41)||364.3 (3)||565.7 (5)|
Obviously, Haskins, the receiving corps and pass pro have accepted that challenge in spades but it has occurred somewhat at the expense of the running game.
Before this year, the best passing yards per game average posted by a Meyer offense at Ohio State was 262.8 yards last season, or 101.5 less yards per game than the 2018 air raid has managed through six games.
Behind the passing attack's 364.3 yards per game, Ohio State sits at No. 5 in total offense, also the best of the Meyer era, with 565.7 total yards per game.
Considering the sheer amount of total yards generated and the ridiculous success of the passing game, it's realistic to expect the running game to lag behind previous years from a yardage output standpoint as the staff plays to the strengths of its signal-caller.
At the same time, there's no arguing the offensive line must clean up mistakes in carrying out assignments and generating a push that will by default elevate the yards per carry to a level worthy of a championship-caliber offense.
The weather might not always cooperate with the passing game which isn't lost on Meyer so we should expect a heavy dose of rushing attempts over the next few weeks in an effort to get the running game on track for the stretch run.