Urban Meyer wants his team to play with an edge.
The Ohio State coach understands that lines sometimes get crossed, and he is tolerant about penalties that are a byproduct of it.
But the yellow flags have come too often for his liking. The Buckeyes have been called for 51 penalties, or 8.5 per game, which is 118th out of 129 FBS teams. Ohio State is 119th in penalty yardage at 80.8 per game.
Minnesota, Ohio State’s opponent on Saturday, has been called for only 20 penalties.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“I’m not one of those guys who goes crazy on penalties, especially when you’re playing aggressive,” Meyer said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday. “But that’s far too many. It’s something we’ve addressed constantly.”
The Buckeyes have been particularly prone to defensive pass interference calls. Given their philosophy of playing press, man-to-man coverage, a few such calls are inevitable. There can be a fine line between what is legal and what isn’t.
“We tell our guys if we impede the receiver’s progress at all, you’re going to get it (called) if you’re not looking back at the ball,” cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson said. “Even a lot of times (it will be called) if you’re looking back but not allowing him to play the ball.”
Offensive holding calls have been another issue. The Buckeyes drew flags for two of those in one series against Indiana. Facing second-and-30 situations is not a recipe for success.
But Meyer is most frustrated by the penalties in the kicking game, in part because that’s the phase of the game in which he takes particular interest. The Buckeyes committed five special-teams penalties against Tulane in Meyer’s first game back from suspension.
A face-mask penalty on a field goal cost the Buckeyes three points that could have been critical against Penn State.
“The ones you can’t have are in the kicking game,” Meyer said. “That’s when you lose your mind. Those are the most devastating penalties there are. We’ve had some of those.”
Itching to return
Johnnie Dixon is the Ohio State kickoff returner, and he acknowledged he is still getting used to the new rule that allows for fair catches that gives the returning team possession at its 25-yard line.
Asked whether the rule has changed his mindset, Dixon smiled.
“Not mine, but the coaches,” he said. “I want to return everything.”
The rule of thumb, he said, is to call for a fair catch if he catches the ball past the 3-yard line or if he is backing up when he catches it.
“Last week, I kind of backed up a little bit, but I still took it (back),” Dixon said. “One week, C.J. (Saunders) came to stop to me and I acted like I didn’t hear him.”