Coming into the season, the play of the offensive line was supposed to be a strength for Ohio State.
Then, in last Saturday’s season opener vs. Buffalo, OSU ceded four sacks – a continuing theme from the last two seasons, during each of which the Buckeyes had one of the highest sack percentages in the country. After the game, head coach Urban Meyer called the total “unacceptable” – and it would have been worse if a sack of Braxton Miller inside his own 5-yard line that also resulted in a lost fumble would have not been wiped off the board because of a Buffalo penalty.
Much of the fans’ blame seemed to fall on sophomore Taylor Decker, who was making his first start at right tackle and who ceded three of the sacks, but senior left tackle Jack Mewhort and others were beaten a few times as well – especially by potential first-round draft choice Khalil Mack, who had 2.5 sacks.
“Well, we get beat a couple times and it gets exposed,” Meyer said. “For the most part we played OK. You just can't get exposed. The player they had, his stock in the draft just went up a little bit after playing against us. He did a very good job. He manhandled some guys and did a good job.
“So whenever that happens, what do you do? You go back to your fundamentals and keep working and keep grinding. I have the utmost confident in our offensive line and their position coach, what he did with them a year ago and what he is doing with them now, that they will play much better, and they have to.
“But give credit where credit is due. There was issues, and the biggest issue is a fantastic football player that, I mean, he could play anywhere at any school in America, that kid for Buffalo.”
OSU should also get some help this week as senior center Corey Linsley is expected to play more. Linsley was taken out in the second quarter as he continues to rehab from a foot injury suffered last year vs. Michigan, but his playing time is expected to increase each game this year.
Sophomore Jacoby Boren played fine in his stead, but Linsley does add to the line.
“We played him I think 17 plays, and I wanted to put him back in,” Meyer said. “We had the decision on the sideline, let's just keep going as is. He'll play more and so he'll just keep gradually getting better and better.”
Believing In Magic
When Urban Meyer worked as a television commentator last January for a couple of games in the Bowl Championship Series, he brought a little bit of magic with him back to Columbus.
Meyer worked the Fiesta Bowl contest between Oregon and Kansas State, and he left with a thought in his mind to copy a page out of the playbook of former UO head coach Chip Kelly, who was known for going for two-point conversions early in games.
With that, “magic” – the Buckeyes’ swinging-gate two-point formation – was born.
“I went to the Fiesta Bowl and I watched Oregon do that early in the game and I just know it drives defensive coaches (nuts),” he said. “You have to work on it, and it's also a chance to get some cheap points. We have been working on that since last February. It worked pretty good.”
Indeed it did. After OSU’s first touchdown, OSU lined up with long snapper George Makridis in the center of the field with kicker Drew Basil and backup QB Kenneth Guiton behind him. Buffalo didn’t have the numbers to match up, and Guiton ran the direct snap into the end zone for two points.
The next time Ohio State scored, the team used the same formation, but this time Buffalo put more numbers to the middle of the field. The starting offensive line camped out to the left with Jordan Hall behind it, and the senior running back took Guiton’s pass and scampered into the end zone untouched thanks to OSU’s numbers advantage.
The 16-0 lead and aggressive nature of the call was appreciated by players like senior safety Christian Bryant.
“I think we were just trying to prove a point that our offense isn’t going to be that type of offense that just sits back and isn’t the powerhouse that they think they will be,” Barnett said. “I think Coach Meyer did a great job of calling those types of play – not being too conservative.”
But will Buckeye fans have to get used to seeing that all season? Time will tell.
“I don't know how often we'll do that, I don't know that,” Meyer said. “We usually decide that on Wednesday. But it's in the package.”
Don Coryell was a quarterback guru as a head coach at both San Diego State (1961-72) and with the San Diego Chargers (1978-86), becoming known as “Air Coryell” for his high-flying aerial offenses in an era of run-first attacks.
But even the late Coryell would have had a hard time believing just how much San Diego State threw the football during last week’s 40-19 loss to Eastern Illinois. SDSU quarterback Adam Dingwell tossed 63 passes while trying to lead the comeback effort, completing just 27 for zero touchdowns while tossing four interceptions, dropping three fumbles and being sacked three times.
But don’t necessarily expect the Aztecs to toss it around as many times against the Buckeyes. Last year, San Diego State averaged 23.8 passes per game – 112th in the country according to cfbstats.com – and the Buckeyes think the Aztecs will end up closer to that number than the season-opening total.
“I would look forward to it, but knowing that through scouting and looking at the film, that’s not really them,” cornerback Doran Grant said. “They’re a running team. But you always have to be prepared.”
There could be a complicating factor, though. San Diego State running back Adam Muema, a potential NFL draft pick Meyer has raved about who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last year, suffered an ankle injury after rushing 10 times for 17 yards in the opener. He is expected to play vs. the Buckeyes but could be limited.
“If their running back is still in the condition that he’s in, I expect them to pass a lot more or at least maybe 40-plus times if their running back isn’t 100 percent,” Bryant said. “But going into the game, I feel like our defense – especially our secondary – we feel like if they throw the ball, we’ll make them pay.”
Facts And Figures
Ohio State enters the game with the nation's longest winning streak at 13 games. It is the 15th winning streak in school history of 10 or more games. The streak is the sixth longest in school history with 22 consecutive wins from 1967-69 the longest. Meyer’s longest streak is also a 22-gamer in 2008 and ’09 at Florida.
Ohio State and SDSU are meeting for the fourth time, with the Buckeyes earning wins vs. the Aztecs in Columbus in 2001, 2003 and ’05.
The Buckeyes are 7-1 all-time vs. current members of the Mountain West Conference.
Ohio State will try to improve to 2-0 for the fourth consecutive season and seventh in the past eight years.
Miller (2,063 career yards) needs 18 yards rushing to pass Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75) and become Ohio State's recognized all-time leading rusher among QBs. Terrelle Pryor ran for 2,164 yards from 2008-10, but his stats are not recognized by the university.
Hall needs 45 more all-purpose yards to reach 3,000 for his career. He is 17th all-time in OSU history in the statistic, with Michael Wiley (1996-98) next on the list with 2,991 yards.
Nickel back Tyvis Powell, who redshirted the 2012 season as a true freshman, is the first Buckeye to start in his first Ohio State game since CB Bradley Roby, a 2010 redshirt, did so against Akron in the 2011 season opener.