Another flurry of pretty touchdown passes by Dwayne Haskins overshadowed No. 3 Ohio State’s defensive lapses.
The state of the defense is causing anxiety for Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer, who said Ohio State needs to get the problems cleaned up if they hope to sustain a march to the College Football Playoff.
The mistakes were glaring in the 49-26 win over Big Ten also-ran Indiana, which managed to move the ball consistently in the first half to keep the score close. Peyton Ramsey threw for a career-high 322 yards and three touchdowns, victimizing Ohio State defensive backs in man-to-man coverage and drawing four pass interference flags.
“Defensively not what we expected in the first half,” Meyer said. “Guys are making plays on us. A combination of poor pass rush and (defensive backs) not locking in on your guys. We’ve been fine against the run, but the pass has been killing us and that’s going to bite us, something we’ve got to get fixed.”
Ohio State’s defense was better in the second half, likely helped by the return of safety Isaiah Pryor, who was forced to sit the first half because of a targeting penalty the previous week against Penn State.
Maybe the Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) were a little fatigued after the emotional one-point win at Happy Valley, but in the first 30 minutes the defense gave up chunks of yardage.
A 45-yard rush by Stevie Scott helped set up an Indiana field goal to open the scoring. Ramsey had three completions of 30 yards or more, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Peyton Hendershot for the Hoosiers’ first touchdown. Another 30-yard completion set up a 19-yard touchdown pass to J-Shun Harris that gave the Hoosiers a 17-14 lead in the second quarter.
Ohio State burned three timeouts in the first quarter while trying to come up with a solution. Indiana piled up 406 yards of offense, with 317 coming in the first half.
If linebacker Tuf Borland was overly concerned he wasn’t showing it.
“Throughout the season sometimes if the defense doesn’t have it, the offense picks us up and vice versa,” he said. “That speaks the brotherhood of this team.”
But the lapses have been mostly on Borland’s side of the ball. Ohio State has given up 20 plays of at least 30 yards, only seven FBS teams have allowed more.
Those included the longest rush ever surrendered by an Ohio State team — a 93-yard touchdown ramble by TCU’s Darius Anderson — and the longest passing touchdown, a 93-yarder from Penn State’s Trace McSorley to KJ Hamler,
Fortunately for Meyer, he’s got a legit Heisman Trophy candidate running his offense. Haskins threw for a career-best 455 yards and six touchdowns. His two scoring tosses in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.
Also working in Ohio State’s favor this month is the soft schedule. The Buckeyes play Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska before facing Michigan State Nov. 10.
“At the end of the day you have to play great defense to get where you gotta get,” Meyer said. “And I’m confident that we will — because at times we’ve played great defense and we have to get everybody healthy and get back to that.”
Source: The Associated Press