If you just look at the final score, you might think the Buckeye defense did more or less what it was supposed to Saturday afternoon against a sluggish Minnesota offense.
The Gophers finished with just 14 points in a 30-14 Ohio State win.
But anyone who watched the game, or who looks beyond the top line of the box score knows there are still major questions for the Buckeyes to answer.
Minnesota averaged 7.1 yards per play. Freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 157 yards, and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. True freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad threw for 218 yards, and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt.
Minnesota came into the game with the 111th-ranked offense in S&P+. On a per rush, per pass, and per play basis, the Gophers outgained the Buckeye offense.
Only a pair of missed field goals and two red zone turnovers kept P.J. Fleck’s team from making the final minutes very uncomfortable for Buckeye fans.
“I was disappointed in the run (defense),” said Urban Meyer. “Their back had 160 yards rushing against us, and that’s not acceptable.”
The pass defense was a concern for Meyer as well, as he watched the Buckeyes consistently give up big gains on simple slant routes.
“We’re a team that challenges every throw, and when you get beat, that’s a problem,” Meyer said.
Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said that those slants came off of plays that put the Buckeye linebackers in no-win situations.
“In college football with the run/pass option, which was the bulk of what they did offensively, it’s very difficult to take one man off the run game to ensure that you have multiple bodies in throwing lanes,” Grinch said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re gap-sound. To take a linebacker out of a fit to play coverage, you leave yourself susceptible that way.”
Grinch tried to remain positive after the game, pointing out that the Buckeyes shut out the Gophers in the second half, and forced three turnovers. Still, he knows the clock is ticking.
“We’re running out of time in terms of being young. This is a work in progress. I think it always is, but it’s time now for us to get our feet underneath us and perform better,” he said.
Meyer said that missing a handful of starters also made Saturday more challenging than it should have been.
“You lost Damon Arnette, BB Landers really did not play, and then you have Malik Harrison and Jonathon Cooper. So everybody’s dealing with it, but it’s a fact, and we have to play better,” Meyer.
But injuries or not, Grinch knows his defense needs to figure things out soon.
“We keep saying it, and patience is running thin for us as coaches,” Grinch said.