Two days after Ohio State’s 55-24 loss at Iowa, Urban Meyer stood in front of the media to field questions, but very few answers came forward.
The questions bounced back and forth from one side of the ball to the other.
J.K. Dobbins’ lack of touches and J.T. Barrett’s four interceptions were popular topics, but so was an Ohio State defense that was overwhelmingly unprepared to face an offense that hasn’t changed its stripes since the 1970s.
It was similar to the Oklahoma game — defenders looked lost and two or three steps slow. Things appeared to improve since that game, but all of those struggles came rushing back this past Saturday.
The Hawkeyes averaged 7 yards per play against the Buckeyes.
They rushed for 243 yards and passed for 244 yards. Ohio State had given up 185 yards rushing total in the three games prior to their trip to Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes won the line of scrimmage and it allowed them to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it. Because of this, the OSU linebackers have received their share of criticism. That will happen when Iowa completes 21 passes and only six of them are to wide receivers.
The tight ends caught 9 passes for 125 yards and 4 touchdowns. Running backs caught 4 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. And even the long-snapper caught an 18-yard touchdown pass.
That wasn’t all on the linebackers — two of the tight end touchdowns were caught on safety Jordan Fuller and defensive end Jonathon Cooper, but it was not a good day for anybody in the front end of the back seven.
Asked if it was a failing of the linebackers as a whole and position coach Bill Davis, Meyer said that it was.
“Sure, it is. And the week before I thought they played very well. They didn’t play very well this week,” he said.
The linebackers have not lived up to expectations this season, which is disappointing considering two of the starters have started in the past.
Luke Fickell leaving for Cincinnati in the offseason may be just a coincidence, but the performance of the position this season cannot be ignored.
So how does Meyer evaluate the situation and the ongoing issues at the position?
“I evaluate it,” he said.
There is currently plenty for Meyer to evaluate on his Ohio State defense, and perhaps no area more so than just the overall lack of discipline they are playing with right now.
Twice on Saturday the Buckeye defense kept plays alive with bad penalties. Missed tackles and slow coverages were also prevalent. A lack of discipline shows up everywhere, and Iowa took advantage of it on just about every snap this weekend.
“There were a couple of devastating penalties that kept drives alive,” Meyer said. “And no excuse for them. We addressed them, and I can think of two or three right off the top of my head that were drive savers, targeting and just a couple of silly penalties. That’s something we’ve addressed. And those kind of games you can’t have those.”
Too often the Buckeyes were their own worst enemy on defense, which has been the case on more than one occasion this season. How does this get fixed? Meyer isn’t going to go into detail with the media on any of it, but was adamant that problems are being addressed.
“We just had conversations and let’s move on towards Michigan State and try to go win this game,” he said.
Ohio State is trying to move on to this weekend’s game against the Spartans — which happens to be one of the most important games on the schedule for the Buckeyes. But unless they figure out the issues at hand, they are going to keep reliving these problems that they have so few answers for.
And that’s really the most concerning thing for Urban Meyer right now.
“We didn’t play very well,” he said. “So, yeah, anytime you see that type of thing, you don’t want to just say it’s all miscues. The week before there wasn’t the miscues and there were this week. And now the question you have to ask is why. And that’s not so much the how, but why did that happen? Are we not practicing? Have we got the right people playing? All those types of things.”