In Ohio State’s 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, a number of the Buckeyes’ familiar offensive issues re-emerged. From struggles in pass protection, to receivers having a tough time getting open, and the inability to consistently complete passes downfield, the game followed what has now become an unwelcome pattern.
The evening also mirrored the majority of Urban Meyer’s losses as Ohio State coach in another way. Quarterback J.T. Barrett had more carries (18) against the Sooners than the team’s running backs (16). It’s the fifth time in Meyer’s seven losses that the quarterback position has finished with as many or more carries than the running backs, a trend that spans three different OSU offensive coordinators.
That started with the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, and the oft-criticized choice to have Braxton Miller keep it on a crucial fourth down play instead of handing it to Carlos Hyde. Miller had 21 carries that night, while the rest of the team rushed it only 19 times.
It happened most recently in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, when Barrett’s 11 carries for minus-2 yards equaled the 11 carries for 91 yards for Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber.
In between, Barrett had 24 carries in the 2014 loss to Virginia Tech, compared to 15 for other Buckeyes. Barrett had 15 of the Buckeyes’ 29 rushes against Michigan State in 2015, a game in which Ezekiel Elliott got only 12 handoffs and then popped off afterward about the playcalling.
There was no similar outburst from any player on Saturday night, but offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson acknowledged that getting away from Weber and J.K. Dobbins was an issue.
“The quarterback run game is a part of our deal. I do think, though, that the tailback needs to be the featured guy,” said Wilson.
The Buckeyes did enjoy some success on the ground against the Sooners, especially when Weber and Dobbins had the ball.
Weber was limited by a recurring hamstring issue, but finished with 29 yards on just three carries. Dobbins rushed 13 times for a game-high 72 yards and his first career touchdown.
Afterward, Meyer was fairly blunt about the offense going away from Dobbins and Weber.
“I wasn’t happy with it,” Meyer said.
“J.K. was hitting the ball pretty hard and doing some good things. Mike Weber did some good things. And we’re just not getting enough flow on offense.”
Wilson said part of the issue was the Sooners’ defensive scheme.
“The way Oklahoma played tonight, we thought it was best to spread them out to try to run the ball. That being said, J.T. was the viable read guy. They made him keep the ball,” he said.
“I do think our tailbacks need to be our runners. They’re great runners. J.T.’s a nice complement,” Wilson continued. “We’ve got to work hard to have a running game (where) he complements the running game and is not the featured guy.”