Ohio State’s Pass Defense Needs Fixed in a Hurry

Damon Arnette Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield might be the best player Ohio State will face this year. That being said, allowing 386 passing yards and three touchdowns on a completion rate of 77 percent is inexcusable.

Ohio State had difficulty defending the pass against Indiana in its Week 1 victory — allowing 420 yards through the air — which left many to correctly predict Saturday’s outcome if the Buckeyes didn’t fix those issues.

They didn’t. And yes, Ohio State’s issues extended well beyond the secondary in Saturday’s 31-16 loss in Ohio Stadium, but defensive coordinator and safeties coach Greg Schiano provided an ominous foreshadowing if the secondary’s play was to continue.

“I think our problems in the secondary tonight were different than [against Indiana],” Schiano said. “It doesn’t make it better or worse. It wasn’t as much one-on-one coverage. It was more mistakes and we need to do a better job coaching.

“When you make mistakes, it’s the coach’s fault. We need to get that fixed in a hurry.”

Mayfield was masterful in scrambling out of the pocket, throwing on the run, fighting off blitzes and forcing the linebackers to bite on his run fakes. All of that allowed him to throw into a space where his receiver, tight end or fullback would have space to run after the reception.

This was most evident on Oklahoma’s four-play, 92-yard drive that took the lead for good, 17-13 at 2:17 remaining in the third quarter. Mayfield completed three straight passes for 17, 42 and 18 yards on his way to what would be the game-winning score.

On the touchdown pass to wide receiver Lee Morris, Mayfield faked the handoff which caused linebacker Malik Harrison to come in off his assignment, leaving Morris wide open between him and safety Erick Smith.

Schiano said that for now, he’s not thinking strictly about personnel changes, rather the big picture.

“Well, we have to evaluate everything,” he said. “That starts with yourself, starts with me and then work down through. You don’t have a lot of time to do it when you’re in the season, you’ve got to go. You’re going to have to figure it out quickly.”

There’s no denying that Mayfield was spectacular Saturday night. After a disappointing performance in Norman, Oklahoma, against the Buckeyes last season, he buried the same team that made him look pedestrian a season ago.

Ohio State did have three eventual first-round picks in last season’s secondary, so a drop-off was expected. But it’s clear through two games that there will need to be major changes to the passing defense if Ohio State is to compete for a conference title and possibly play into the College Football Playoff.

“People are going to make some first downs; you have to stop them,” Schiano said. “You can’t give up big plays. We gave up too many big plays tonight. To me, that all goes back to coaching. We have to figure out how to do that; how to get [the defense] to be able to play within their skill set and make the plays necessary to win.”

9 Responses

  1. After watching Virginia being more effective against Indiana for the 1st 3 qtrs of their game than OSU was against Indiana it didn’t bode well for the OSU-OU game.
    But we had some good excuses:
    OU had home field advantage, oops OSU had the home field
    OSU had a 1st year coach, oops OU had the newbe coach
    OSU’s best recieiver (tight end) was injured, oops that was OU
    OU had the better recruiting class for the last 5 years, oops that was OSU
    Well, I can’t figure it out. Hope we qualify for a bowl game this year.

  2. I wonder how the Bucks like that flag implanted in the middle of their field and disrespected post game. They better get a lot better, or, get used to it. As they say action talks…………..

  3. I am tired of the OSU defensive backs not turning around when the ball is in the air and strictly defending the pass by looking at the face of the receivers. You will NEVER intercept the ball and you will likely get tons of pass interference calls.

  4. So being an NFL factory has a downside. We don’t have seniors anymore. The best DB’s in particular keep jumping ship early. Maybe we would be better off with 4-star talent that were on the team for four years.

  5. Spot on, our D only held OK once and that after a 2nd and 30 that was just about converted on 3rd down.

  6. 9 team captains but no leaders? A leader would have been
    running up and down the sideline encouraging the team? Where was the press coverage? The D backs played soft like we did against Florida in 2006. Why not run Dobbins 25 times (Hyde v MSU or Elliot v MSU)?

  7. This team right now appears to be a series of dumpster fires. The first fire is the secondary. It is a sieve with guys out of position and simply looking lost. It’s two weeks into the season and secondary members are yet to turn and look for the ball. The second fire are the linebackers who consistently get lost in coverage opening up soft spots for receivers to simply sit down and wait for the ball. The offensive line is still very weak on the right side. Bowen gets pushed all over the place and Prince thinks he is a matador waving at quick defensive ends once again. The performance is simply unacceptable by both. Prince has shown improvement but not enough. With Bowen next to him OSU accents a huge weakness. I would line up my top rushers on that side every time. The next dumpster fire is the receiver group. They are trying but do not have the ability to make the play when needed. We have seen multiple dropped balls already. In traffic they struggle to create seperation. They can do fine when clearly open as we saw against Indiana in second half but struggle in tight coverage to make plays. Finally, the biggest dumpster fire is quarterback. JT is what he is, an excellent leader but his physical skills are limited. Last night accented the contrast. Baker Mayfield is a playmaker – he makes the big throw when needed. He has the ability to thread a ball when required. The reality is JT does not have the ability to consistently deliver the ball accurately in traffic. Better defenses cover better so an excellent quarterback must have the arm strength and accuracy to put balls in tight places for his receivers to make plays. JT holds the ball too long often waiting for greater seperation by his receiver. I believe he isn’t confident to thread the ball in tight coverage. This lack of confidence is justified because he has not done this consistently throughout his career. JT is best when he is a facilitator of the offense who gets the ball to many different players quickly. Teams have realized the way to beat Ohio State is to force everything through JT. Make him beat you with his arm. These many dumpster fires need extinguishing quickly. It will be interesting to see if Urban and has staff can make the hard but necessary changes.

    1. Bruce- your thoughts were spot on except that you didn’t specify the biggest dumpster fire of all- the head coach. Behind the scenes I am SURE he forces his offensive staff to bend to his will, then bite the bullet for him when things go bad. This isn’t the players, it’s a head coach who desperately needs to hit the “refresh” button from the Timmy Tebow days- it doesn’t work any more.

  8. Oklahoma punted exactly once. Every other drive ended on downs in Ohio State territory, a turnover in Buckeye territory, or the one time barely on the Oklahoma side that ended with a field goal rather than a touchdown. The back seven got a pass from me (pun intended) for Indiana because the coverage was good but great throws and catches made Indiana’s offense go. The coverage was nowhere to be seen last night.
    Add in an offense that couldn’t block, couldn’t catch, and couldn’t get separation and a coaching staff that once again took a dangerous tailback out of the equation FOR their opponent and you get the most painful regular season loss in a long time.

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