Ohio State’s offensive line didn’t have one of its best games at Michigan State on Saturday, at least not statistically.
Dwayne Haskins was sacked twice and faced pressure on a good amount of his throws. On the ground, the Buckeyes averaged only 2.7 yards per carry.
That said, Saturday’s game came against a Michigan State defense that still ranks No. 1 in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (76.5), second in average rushing yards per carry (2.55) and has 66 tackles for loss (40th in the FBS), and the Buckeyes won the game by 20 points, which is the greatest margin of victory against the 6-4 Spartans this season.
So, while Urban Meyer acknowledges that the offensive line does need to play better down the final stretch of the season for Ohio State to accomplish its goals, he didn’t feel bad about the unit’s performance in East Lansing.
“I think we can play a little bit better,” Meyer said during his press conference Monday. “That was a rugged day now. It's not exactly where we need to be. But I am satisfied with where we're at.”
Although Michigan State’s defensive front – particularly defensive end Kenny Willekes, who had 13 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss – had its share of success against the Buckeyes, Ohio State still graded three of its offensive linemen as champions for Saturday’s game: left tackle Thayer Munford, right guard Demetrius Knox and right tackle Isaiah Prince.
Left guard Malcolm Pridgeon and center Michael Jordan had the most profound struggles up front. Jordan had a number of off-target snaps, including one that resulted in a turnover in the red zone when Tate Martell was unable to corral a snap to his right. Meyer acknowledged Monday that he is concerned about the continued struggles Jordan has had with snapping, but said Jordan is continuing to work hard at improving that area of his game.
“At times. playing very good,” Meyer said of Jordan’s play at center this season. “I see a big body that works his tail off. And it is a little bit of a transition for him.
“He was out there (Sunday) working on his, how he holds the ball, and we're studying it and working extremely hard on it.”
With Brady Taylor, who competed for the starting center job before suffering a knee injury in fall camp, and Branden Bowen, who started six games at right guard last season before breaking his leg, now available to play after being sidelined for most of the season, Ohio State would have options if it wanted to try making any changes to its offensive line, such as moving Jordan back to guard – the position he started at the last two years before this season – or simply substituting someone out of the lineup.
That said, Ohio State hasn’t made any changes to its first-team offensive line all season, with the exception of the end of the Minnesota game, when Joshua Alabi filled in after Munford left the game early with an injury. And Meyer doesn’t expect the Buckeyes to make any changes to its offensive line at this point, though they have started working redshirt freshman guard Wyatt Davis into the lineup as a sixth offensive lineman/tight end in their past two games.
“Probably not right now,” Meyer said when asked whether could be a shakeup on the offensive line. “The next guy in would be Wyatt Davis.”
“It's not exactly where we need to be. But I am satisfied with where we're at.”– Urban Meyer on Ohio State's offensive line
While Meyer wants to see Ohio State’s offensive line play better this week at Maryland (Noon, ABC), which he says has a “rugged” defense like Michigan State’s, he was pleased with how the starting five up front finished the game against the Spartans, as they led the way for running back Mike Weber – who Meyer said had “probably his best game” on Saturday – to rush for 56 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries on Ohio State’s final two possessions (not including the game-ending kneel-down).
“Are we where we need to be? No,” Meyer said of his offensive line. “Do they grind and work and fight and spit and everything they can? We made a big point of the last, the fourth quarter in that game now … and that defense, that's as good a rush defense as I've seen.”