Haskins has to be perfect to overcome OSU's flaws

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State's Binjimen Victor can't corral a potential touchdown pass in the second quarter while being defended by Purdue's Antonio Blackmon. [Brooke LaValley/Dispatch]

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State arrived in the Land of the Quarterback with a passer who would fit favorably into Purdue’s distinguished QB history.

Dwayne Haskins Jr. could slide right into the Boilermakers’ timeline of quarterback talent that runs from Len Dawson and Bob Griese to Mike Phipps and Jim Everett through Drew Brees.

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The biggest difference is none of those QBs needed to be perfect the way Haskins does. If the Buckeyes’ redshirt sophomore is just a little off, then Ohio State’s offense is way off.

So top heavy is the Buckeyes’ passing game that Haskins has to pinpoint every throw, on time, to offset a running game that got lost somewhere along the line. Actually, behind the line.

“If it was that easy to (explain), I would give a sentence answer,” coach Urban Meyer said of the anemic run game.

When Buckeye Nation looks back — after the Kleenex and adult beverages have run out — on Saturday’s 49-20 loss to Purdue, fingers will point to a defense that was not up to the task. Not against the Boilermakers. And really not against many other offenses that showed a propensity to complete passes across the middle of the field. Check that, across any of the field.

Teams don’t need to run the ball well to light up Ohio State’s defense. The OSU secondary keeps struggling, but let’s not let the linebackers off the hook, either. Is it a personnel issue? Perhaps, but this defense has not improved, which points to coaching. Bill Davis is OSU’s linebacker’s coach. That is all.

But to lay this loss mostly on the defense is to get it only half right. After all, Purdue’s pass offense, led by quarterback David Blough and otherworldly freshman Rondale Moore, can make defenses look foolish. And that was before the Boilers made OSU look lost on any number of plays at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Darts also should be aimed at the Ohio State run offense. That is, if such a thing existed.

The Buckeyes have two tailbacks in Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins who could start on most teams in the Big Ten. They are not the problem. Not to say that internally they may yet become a problem; talent that goes unused can become talent that turns bitter. I’m not saying it happens. But it’s something to keep an eye on.

Is it the OSU O-line — hereupon dubbed the Oh-no-line — that deserves most of the can’t-run-the-ball blame? Maybe. This could be 2006 revisited, when the Buckeyes’ hulking linemen took up space but did not sufficiently create it. Or it could be coaching. Likely both. Greg Studrawa coaches the offensive line. Just sayin.’

Given Ohio State’s inability to gain yards on the ground — 76 total — the onus falls to the passing game to pull the Buckeyes from the muck. Which means Haskins has to be better than just good. He needs to be great, bordering on perfect. And against Purdue he was not.

Maybe the outcomes changes, maybe Ohio State remains undefeated at 8-0 instead of falling to 7-1, if Haskins does not overthrow Terry McLaurin on a deep throw with the breeze at his back in the first quarter. Maybe the Buckeyes escape this wind tunnel — gusts at kickoff were whipping at 15 mph — if Haskins does not throw late to McLaurin and then to Binjimen Victor in the end zone in the first half.

Maybe if Haskins is even better than his final numbers — 49 of 73 for 470 yards and two touchdowns with one interception — Ohio State fans can look ahead to the College Football Playoff instead of look back at the 2017 Iowa game, which shared a strong resemblance with this fiasco.

“A lot of missed opportunities, and the result is this loss,” Haskins said, refusing to lay the blame on anyone else. “I’m going to keep getting better.”

But is that where we’re at with this team? Demanding the quarterback play miracle worker because the rest of the offense stinks and the defense doesn’t smell great, either? Nonsense.

“There’s some serious shortcomings that need to get fixed,” Meyer said.

In the end, Purdue simply had Ohio State’s number. On a windy night on the flatlands of Indiana, the better team won.

roller@dispatch.com

@rollerCD

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