Meyer Calls Buckeyes Passive After Lackluster Win
By Brandon Castel
The best part about being 4-0 is the chance to go 5-0.
The worst part? Well, that was a little bit tougher for Urban Meyer to decipher after watching his Buckeyes limp through a 29-15 win over UAB with all the fire and ferocity of a boring math teacher explaining the nuances of complex algebra.
“We've got a long way to go,” Meyer said, his words dripping with disappointment.
“The fact is we're not a great defense, which is painful to watch. Missed too many tackles today again. And then offense, just a couple of times we're second and long, but we're not a methodically dominating offense.
“I mean, we're not a very good offense right now. So we have to get a lot better and fast. We're facing a good defense this week.”
Michigan State, the team Ohio State will face in its Big Ten opener next Saturday in East Lansing, had its own issues with Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Tailback Le’Veon Bell ran for 253 yards as the Spartans overcame a 7-3 halftime deficit at home against a winless EMU team, but the Buckeyes also got out of the gates slow in their game.
UAB actually led 9-0 – thanks to a blocked punt, which they returned for a touchdown – before Braxton Miller and the OSU offense erupted for 21 points in the second quarter.
“It's nonsense,” Meyer said with disgust.
“Just a flat missed assignment. We're playing a lot of young players. Injuries are kind of forcing some guys in. Just flat bust. So we can't have obviously mistakes like that, especially in this kind of game where the team has nothing to lose. And we didn't get it done. So we’ve got a long way to go.”
Along with the blocked punt, the Buckeyes allowed UAB to recover an onside kick to start the second half, and they gave up 403 yards of offense to a team they were favored to beat by five touchdowns.
It was so ugly at times Saturday, Meyer couldn’t even decide what part worries him the most heading into the start of Big Ten play.
“There's too much,” he said.
“Defense, offense and kicking game. We have to be better in all three phases.”
Braxton Miller missed at least three chances to connect with wideout Corey “Philly” Brown on long plays down the field. Two of them likely would have gone for long touchdowns if Miller had hit his receiver in stride.
But his passes were anything but. Twice he overthrew Brown on a deep ball down the field and a third time he underthrew his favorite target of the day. The Buckeyes also could have scored on a long touchdown pass from Miller to Devin Smith, but Smith couldn’t hold on to the ball in the corner of the south end zone.
The Buckeyes led 21-12 at the half, but the Blazers trailed by less than a touchdown with 10 minutes to go in the game before Miller scored the game-clinching touchdown from one yard out.
“I think we seem like a very passive team,” Meyer said after the game.
“We are on defense – we give up little screens, little bubbles. They didn't score a touchdown on our defense but we gave up a lot of yardage. That hurts – I sit there, I'm pained watching it. But we've got to be more aggressive on defense and play a little snugger coverage. If our corners are as good as we think they are, we have to go play a little man coverage on people.
“On offense, our explosive plays, our explosiveness is obviously nonexistent for much of the game. If there's one things we could make adjustments and fix it, it's more than one thing right now.”
The problem for Meyer, however, is that the time for adjustments is growing thin. This was the last tune-up of the nonconference schedule before the Buckeyes open things up for real with a monster game against Michigan State on the road next weekend.
It will be the first time Meyer has taken his team on the road this season, and mistakes are usually magnified away from the friendly confines of a team’s home stadium. If the Buckeyes can’t find a way to tackle better and create more big plays on offense, they could find themselves struggling to avoid another conference season like the one they had a year ago.
“You've got to think about where this team was now. This is not a finely-tuned machine right now. It hasn't been for a while,” Meyer said.
“So we gotta develop a finely-tuned machine. And obviously there's some growing pains. And it's not as easy as – I thought we'd be further ahead. It is what it is. We gotta get better fast and get better fast.”
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