What Went Wrong Against Penn State?

What a nightmare of a game that was. Let’s start off with a positive: Ohio State still controls their own destiny. If they win out and beat Michigan the last game of the season, they will be in the BIG Championship game. Even if Penn State wins out, Ohio State has the tiebreaker due to the fact that Penn State would have more losses. I’m sure every Buckeye fan feels real confident about our chances now. Hey, every Urban Meyer championship won had a loss during the regular season. Maybe it’s fate.

Okay, now get down to it. Ohio State got absolutely dominated in every phase of the game last night. Offense, defense, special teams, you name it. I really didn’t think the coaching staff could possibly have a worse coaching display than the Michigan State game last year, but they sure did top themselves. At least Michigan State was a good team. Penn State didn’t even have 100 yards of offense in the second half and they still won. Penn State’s one offensive weapon, Saquon Barkley, was shut down and Ohio State still lost. That’s terrible. Lets discuss every aspect of what went wrong in Happy Valley.

  1. Tim Beck/Ed Warinner:

What are these “offensive masterminds” doing? The Buckeyes started the season on a torrid offensive pace, scoring at will against teams. They put together a tremendous game plan in Norman against the Sooners. After that game, we really thought this offense was clicking. Take away the Rutgers game and the Buckeyes are averaging about 30 points per game in conference play. That’s not terrible, but that’s not exactly what we are used to seeing in an Urban Meyer offense.

There’s no rhythm in the offense. The play calling is incredibly predictable. If I can sit in front of my TV and call out play after play before they happen, you better believe opposing defenses can as well. If you’re reading this right now, Ohio State just ran another option run for a loss on first down. Surprise.

Actually, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised as fans. After all, the best quarterback mastermind Tim Beck has worked with is former Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. Do you all remember his mechanics? If not, seriously go onto YouTube and watch it. Now go outside, pick up a football and give it a throw. Congratulations you have better throwing mechanics than Taylor Martinez! Sorry, I’m still bitter Martinez won a BIG offensive quarterbacking award over Braxton Miller.

Back to this current team, the biggest complain I have about the play calling is the lack of Curtis Samuel touches. Last week, he went 25 plays without getting a touch against Wisconsin. Against Penn State, 24 plays before he got a touch. That’s inexplicable. The best offensive player on this team needs 20 touches a game, plain and simple. The coaching staff is overthinking this one. After Samuel’s 74-yard touchdown run, he got one more carry. One. Explain that one please. Just get him the ball.

  1. Zone 6:

I’ll be the first to say, I love WR coach Zach Smith. I love his energy and how much he cares about his guys. That being said, what has happened to Zone 6? They were off to a ridiculous start to the season and now the wheels have completely fallen off. So much of the offensive criticism has gone to JT Barrett, and quite frankly, it’s not all deserved. It’s hard to complete passes when the wide receivers are getting absolutely no separation on routes.

I think a cause of the problem is that these wide receivers generally do not seem to have any kind of specified role on this team. We know Noah Brown is the red zone threat. Throw it up to him and he’s going to come down with it. We know that Curtis Samuel is going to line up all over the field and create mismatches. But that’s absolutely it. What is the role of Terry McLaurin, James Clark, Dontre Wilson, Parris Campbell, KJ Hill, and Johnnie Dixon? Who is the possession receiver that can be depended on here? Who is the deep ball threat? None of these guys have stepped up and it’s becoming a huge problem. These string of disappointing performances from the wide receivers makes me wonder what Torrance Gibson could have provided to this offense with his dynamic play making ability.

  1. Special Teams Play:

How many times in Urban Meyer’s reign can we say that they’ve been outplayed on special teams? The answer is not many. The disaster of special teams starts out with Dontre Wilson returning punts. He had a fumble on a punt that he was extremely lucky was recovered by the offense. He’s made some questionable fielding of punts that reminds Buckeye fans way too much of Jalin Marshall and Ray Small. I really hope you guys remember Ray Small, which was a living disaster to watch. Plain and simple, this team needs to a new punt returner quickly. Names like Parris Campbell and Gareon Conley come to mind here.

Next, what in the world happened to the kicking game? Ohio State had a botched hold on a PAT attempt for a miss, a blocked punt and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown against them. That sounds like a bad string of games for a team special teams play. But no, this happened all in one game. The botched hold on the PAT doesn’t bother me as much. It was rainy and that never seems to happen to Ohio State. I can let that one go without much anger towards it

Even the blocked punt. Cameron Johnston has been so good for us that we all knew a blocked punt was going to happen at some point. As uncharacteristic as that was, that wasn’t even close to the most mind-boggling part of the special teams play. So if you’re still following along, that leaves the blocked field goal for a touchdown as the winner. First off, before the fourth down field goal attempt, the offense had no idea what they were doing on the third down play. Instead of regrouping and calling a timeout, they hiked the ball with minimal time on the play calling and got absolutely nowhere with the play.

So fourth down comes and Urban and the staff can’t decide whether they wanted to attempt the field goal, send the offense back out for fourth down or have Johnston try to pin the Nittany Lions deep in their own territory. Again, instead of regrouping and thinking this over with a timeout, Urban rushed out the field goal team. We all know how that went. Tyler Durbin was attempting the longest field goal of his career and had about ten seconds to lineup and kick the ball. The fact the staff didn’t use a timeout is going to bother fans for a long time. These are plays a team competing for a National Championship does not do. 

  1. The Offensive Line

We all know this Buckeye team is young. Statistically, they are the youngest team in Division 1 football. Coming into the year, they returned starters Pat Elflein and Billy Price on the offensive line. Over the past few weeks, Wisconsin and now Penn State has been getting constant pressure to JT Barrett. Barrett is a magician avoiding the pressure and running for a positive gain, but he needed some serious help against Penn State.

The frustrating part was that many times Penn State was only bringing three or four guys and still getting to Barrett. I’m not one to call out players and pin the game on them, but man did Isaiah Prince (#59) have a difficult time on the right side of the line. I’m not going to throw the kid under the bus. It’s his first season starting as a Buckeye and he was a high four star recruit coming out of high school. But it’s been clear that the past few weeks he’s been a huge liability on the line. Urban has said that the line has no real depth behind the starters, so it’s not like he can take Prince out and solve the issue.

Some people have questioned moving Michael Jordan to the right side to replace Prince and then bring in Brandon Bowen to take over Jordan’s spot on the left side of the line. Systematically, I do understand that claim, but I’m not sure Urban and offensive line coach stud want to completely alter the line after a loss. The disappointing part was that Prince seemed to trying to tell the staff and line that he needed help on the right side. No changes were made and Prince continued to get beaten play after play. It seems like having a tight end come to his side to help chip the defensive ends could have helped, but hey – I’m not the one making the big bucks to figure this out.

The only team that can beat the Buckeyes are the Buckeyes. But they need to get this team back together because they still have everything to play for.

Twitter: @Atalanca

(Picture via USA Today)

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