October 14, 2012

Despite win, Buckeyes concerned by defense

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The Ohio State football team picked up its seventh win in as many games on Saturday- a victory that was good enough to move the team up one spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll- but you'd never know it from talking to the Buckeyes' players and coaches.

With as few as four minutes remaining their game against Indiana, the Buckeyes appeared to be headed towards a comfortable 18-point road victory. But after the Hoosiers managed to score 15 consecutive points in the span of less than minutes, it wasn't until OSU wide receiver Corey Brown recovered an attempted onside kick with one minutes and five seconds remaining in the game that the Buckeyes could seal what was ultimately a 52-49 win over the 2-4 Hoosiers.

Saturday's victory was ultimately too close for comfort for OSU coach Urban Meyer, who was unable to answer what exactly went wrong for the Buckeyes in the final minutes of the game, but he admitted that he was not pleased with the efforts of his defense.

"I don't know," Meyer said when asked what the problem with the OSU defense on Saturday was. "We have got to get something fixed."

The Buckeyes' defensive effort on Saturday comes on the heels of a performance against Nebraska last week that saw OSU surrender 38 points to the Huskers. For the season, the Buckeyes are now allowing opponents to score an average of of 24.6 points per game against them, which ranks them as the 54th scoring defense in the country.

After the game, OSU players were even more blunt than Meyer was when it came to critiquing their play.

"We came in there and we told ourselves that we were going to hold this team to maybe a touchdown," OSU cornerback Travis Howard said. "They putting up that many points, it's just horrendous."

Fellow corner Bradley Roby agreed with Howard's assessment.

"That's horrible," Roby said of the Buckeyes allowing 49 points to the Hoosiers. "We just gotta really just work on just finishing."

Regardless of the outcome, it's clear that a number of factors played a role in Saturday's dismal defensive performance for the Buckeyes.

For one, Indiana runs the same type of spread offense that has hurt the OSU defense all season. The Buckeyes' inability to stop players in space was made evident by Stephen Houston's 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Shane Wynn's 76-yard touchdown catch two quarters later.

Meyer said it's no secret that spread defenses have presented problems for his team all season, which is something that will need to change as the Buckeyes move towards their final five games.

"Spread offensives right now are really exposing us right now," Meyer said. "We are not good in certain areas and we were exposed."

The OSU defense has also been limited by a number of injuries, which kept as many as four starters out of the lineup at certain points on Saturday. Injuries to the Buckeyes' linebacking corps have depleted the unit to the point where Meyer has moved fullback Zach Boren to defense, in an effort to provide some experience on that side of the ball.

"I know injuries are an issue. When you take your starting fullback and start him at inside linebacker, you have a little problem," Meyer said. "I don't think you can pinpoint one thing right now."

Roby also admitted that injuries are becoming a concern for the OSU defense, but that it doesn't excuse the team's effort in Bloomington.

"A lot of people are banged up. Pretty much everybody that's playing right now is banged up," Roby said. "That's part of the game, so you can't really blame that on injuries or anything like that."

On a positive note for Ohio State, Saturday's effort still resulted in a victory, but similar outings against upcoming opponents like Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan might not be as kind to the Buckeyes. Despite the OSU offense being his primary focus on a weekly basis, Meyer is putting it upon himself to see that the Buckeyes get their defense to where it needs to be by the end of the season.

"Oh yeah. Yep," Meyer said when asked he would be getting more involved in the Buckeyes' game planning on the defensive side of the ball. "I wish I had the answer. That's not very good."


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