Wednesday, October 17

Defense implodes again while Miller, Hyde run past Indiana

In a rare move from a typically offensive-minded coach, Urban Meyer stood in front of his entire defensive unit and coaching staff in the team meeting on Sunday and called out to the struggling group. "I'm not happy at all with what's been going on on defense. Players, coaches - I think we can all get better,” said Meyer in the wake of giving up 49 points in last Saturday’s 52-49 victory over Indiana.

While the defense, which has allowed a combined 87 points in the last two Ohio St wins, continues to struggle, Meyer’s spread offense remains untouchable as Braxton Miller amassed 360 total yards and three touchdowns to go along with Carlos Hyde’s 7.1 yards per carry.

I am not that concerned with the fact that Ohio St only beat the Hoosiers by three points, as the game was never really in doubt until IU scored 15 points in 35 seconds with the help of an onside kick late in the game. The Buckeyes were the better team and it showed for the entire 60 minutes, but the missed tackles, big plays, and injuries by the defense are certainly worrisome.

I guess when you’re scoring over 40 points a game you can get past these defensive blunders, but eventually things are going to have to get better on that side of the ball or the Buckeyes won’t be able to continue their winning ways. Meyer realizes this more than anyone, and is personally making it his mission to improve the unit and get back to the defensive standard Ohio St fans have been used to for the past decade. "Instead of just complaining and whining, making noise, we've got to put a plan together. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense."

Game Recap
OSU got the ball first and stormed right down the field for a 75-yard drive that was capped off with a Philly Brown rushing touchdown. After each team traded a few punts, Miller threw a beautiful bomb to his playmaker Devin Smith that should have been a touchdown but was dropped on a drive that ultimately ended in a Drew Basil field goal. Indiana answered with a 59-yard touchdown from Stephen Houston and the quarter closed with the Buckeyes up, 10-7.

Houston picked up where he left off to start the second and quickly scored again to give the Hoosiers the lead. Brown had a couple of catches and Hyde made a few nice runs on Ohio St’s next possession, but Basil’s 35-yard attempt was no good after Braxton missed Philly on a third down play. The punters were back on the field for the next four series, the stalemate being broken when one of Indiana’s was blocked by Travis Howard. Bradley Roby recovered the block and found the endzone for the third time this season to put Ohio St back on top. Two minutes later Brax was looking for Smith on a deep ball yet again, and this time the two connected for a 60-yard scoring strike. The teams headed to the locker room with OSU holding a 24-14 advantage.

After a solid performance from the Buckeye defense in the first half, all hell broke loose in the second. Hoosier QB Cameron Coffman suddenly looked like Peyton Manning, leading scoring drives on three of their four 3rd quarter possessions. The first resulted in a Mitch Ewald FG on a drive where Buckeye DB Doran Grant was repeatedly victimized. This was immediately answered on the next play when Miller ran 67 yards for a touchdown. The run was standard Brax, as he made two nice moves to get by a couple of defenders near the line of scrimmage and then just ran past everyone else on his way to the endzone.

With Ohio St up 31-17, the game looked pretty well in hand, but Indiana would just not go away. Miller was intercepted in the endzone on a 2nd and goal play and Coffman wasted no time taking advantage by hitting Shane Wynn for a 76-yard score. The Bucks came back by driving 75 yards on the ensuing possession thanks to two IU 15-yard penalties. The latter came on a late-hit of Miller after he ran out of bounds, and for the fourth consecutive game he had to head to the sideline after being shaken up. Kenny Guiton came on and threw his first TD of the year, although all he did was shovel it off to Hyde and let his bruising back do the rest. Indiana responded with another field goal and we headed to the final frame with Ohio St leading 38-27.

Braxton was back in on the next series and for the third time of the evening threw a great deep ball to Devin Smith that Smith dropped for the second time. Thankfully Carlos Hyde was there to bail Smith out with two runs over 20 yards on the drive and a 1-yard touchdown. The see-saw battle continued as Coffman took the Hoosiers right back down the field and D’Angelo Roberts’ touchdown made it a 45-34 ballgame.

Looking to atone for his earlier drops, Smith caught a slant pass that was good for a first down on a third-and-four play, then broke free for a 46-yard touchdown. It was funny because when he first caught it I quickly said that I was shocked that Smith actually caught a pass that wasn’t a touchdown. Apparently I spoke too soon.

After each team punted, Indiana had the ball with four minutes remaining, trailing by 18 and needing a miracle from their backup QB as Nate Sudfeld came in to replace an injured Coffman. Sudfeld quickly led a 74-yard touchdown drive then was handed the ball right back after a successful onside kick. It took Indiana only 35 seconds before Stephen Houston got a hat trick on his TD catch from Sudfeld. Cody Latimer ran in the two-point conversion and all of a sudden the Hoosiers were lining up for another onside kick down by only three. The kick was pretty good as it rolled around for a few seconds giving Indiana a shot at it, but Philly Brown was there to recover and after two Braxton kneeldowns the Buckeyes escaped with a narrow victory.

Game Ball
I went back and forth deciding which of the two offensive standouts should get the GB, and I feel like Hyde should have at least one this season as he has been nothing short of remarkable, but what Braxton Miller has been doing on the field the past few weeks is otherworldly. Ever since I called him out for looking like can’t-tie, he has really stepped up his passing game. He went 13/24 for 211 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT against Indiana, and also should have had two more long touchdowns added to that total if not for the aforementioned Smith drops.

While his passing has improved, his rushing remains unmatched. He carried 23 times for 149 yards and another score on the ground on Saturday. Geno Smith is doing his thing down in Morgantown and Collin Klein is a serious running threat at QB himself for Kansas St, but Brax is really starting to generate some Heisman buzz, and rightfully so.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
With Nebraska and Penn St having bye weeks, there wasn’t a whole lot of big news in the conference last weekend. The best matchup saw Iowa rally to beat Michigan St in double overtime. Le’Veon Bell is really good and the MSU defense is one of the stiffest in the country, but it just doesn’t look like QB Andrew Maxwell has what it takes and this Spartan team is starting to look seriously overrated. Northwestern is the first Big Ten team to become Bowl eligible with their win over Minnesota, michigan cruised past a hapless Illinois squad, and Montee Ball passed fellow Badger Ron Dayne to set the Big Ten career touchdown mark in Wisconsin’s rout of Purdue.

With the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions both ineligible for the Big Ten Championship, it looks like Wisconsin could go under .500 in the conference and still be heading to Indianapolis. The Legends side could be a dog fight, as Iowa and michigan currently hold a one-game lead over Northwestern and Nebraska, with Michigan St quickly fading out of contention.

Quick Hits
- The injury bug reared its ugly head yet again as LB Storm Klein had to leave the Indiana game. With the linebacking corps increasingly decimated, FB Zach Boren came to the rescue, as his eight tackles led the team. Meyer is calling Boren’s switch to defense “temporarily permanent.”

- Speaking of injuries, DE Nathan Williams missed another game, this time staying at home with a concussion. He fully participated in practice on Monday so he should be 100% this week for Purdue. RB Jordan Hall and LB Etienne Sabino remain out.

- With this victory over Indiana, Ohio St bumped its all-time record to 272-0-1 when scoring 35 or more points. With all of the points that occur in college football, this record is astounding to me. They’ve never lost in a shootout? Ever? Crazy.

- The past six games the Buckeye defense has allowed 162 points. Compare that to 159 that the 2002 National Championship team gave up in their entire 13-game season. I know I already talked about OSU’s defensive woes, but I just like bringing up the ‘02 team and how awesome they were.

Up Next: vs. Purdue (3-3, 0-2), 12:00, ABC
Something has to give this week in Columbus, as the Buckeyes’ maligned defense will go against a Boilermaker offense that has been sputtering the past few weeks in blowout losses to michigan and Wisconsin. After averaging 463 yards of offense in non-conference games, Purdue was sitting at 3-1 and was a dark horse for the Big Ten title. Then they combined for 465 yards while getting beat 44-13 by the wolverines and 38-14 by the Badgers and find themselves back in a familiar place, the Big Ten basement.

Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve continue to split time at quarterback, with neither one showing enough to take the reigns. Akeem Shavers came into the season regarded as an All-Conference caliber running back, but has failed to crack even 75 yards in a game thus far, while seeing his carries plummet to 10 and 9 respectively in Big Ten play.

If anything is going to get this Ohio St defense going, it’s this Purdue team this week. I’d like to say that they will take advantage and put together a dominating performance, but after the last few weeks I just don’t have a lot of confidence. No matter what the defense does, I expect Braxton and Hyde to inflict the same amount of damage to this porous Boilermaker run defense as they did against Indiana and put up more than enough points to leave The Shoe with another win.
Prediction: Ohio St 45 Purdue 28


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