Running game doesn't break out of rut

Tim May
tmay@dispatch.com
Purdue defenders converge on Ohio State running back Mike Weber during the second quarter. The Buckeyes' problems in the running game were evident once again. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State went into halftime of its game at Purdue on Saturday night not only trailing by 11 but in search of the same thing it’s been seeking for weeks: a credible running game.

The Buckeyes didn’t find it in the second half, either, of the loss to the Boilermakers.

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“I wouldn’t say it had anything to do with Mike, J.K. or the O-line,” quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. said. “We’ve just got to do a better job making some bigger holes, making some defenders miss. It will all come together.”

J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber combined for just 69 yards on 20 attempts. And to rub salt in the wound, Purdue unleashed T.J. Knox for touchdown runs of 42 and 40 yards in the second half to put the game away.

Dobbins and Weber combined for 31 yards on 12 carries in the first half, and the attempts were equal, Dobbins getting six for 13 yards and Weber six for 18. But to blame it on the backs is to miss the big picture.

Whether the Buckeyes have become predictable in the run game, or whether the blocking simply has become pedestrian is up to conjecture. But just like Penn State, Indiana and Minnesota the previous three games, the Boilermakers were jumping gaps and giving Weber and Dobbins no chance to reach the second level.

Purdue went into the game No. 54 in the nation in defense against the run (146.8 yards per game). But then, the Buckeyes entered with just the No. 52 rushing offense (185.4), which was bloated by success in the first few games. In the three games previous to Saturday night, OSU averaged 121.7.

Primetime offering

The Buckeyes played for the third time on the road this season, and for the third time it was a primetime offering.

Although coach Urban Meyer long has been an advocate of night games at home with just the occasional one on the road, he couldn’t be baited into criticizing the schedulers — a collaboration of the television networks and conference officials.

“We’re going to go back in there and talk about all the things you guys brought up” that need improvement, Meyer said earlier in the week, referring to a daily meeting with his coaches. “Not that one.”

Maturing approach

Haskins went into the weekend leading the nation in touchdown passes (28) and the Big Ten in almost every passing category. And with it being just his eighth career start, he expected to go into the Purdue game with a broader approach than Game 1 in terms of what he'd see from the opposing defense.

“You see what you see on film, you have an idea what you’re going to see on Saturday, and of course it’s going to be different,” Haskins said. “But it’s trusting your eyes, trusting your reads, trusting your keys … it helps out when you get different looks.

“We got some looks we didn’t expect against Minnesota (the week earlier), got some man coverage we didn’t expect against Minnesota. So just knowing it can be a variety of defenses, a variety of blitzes and coverages, keeps you ready for everything.”

Moving on from Bosa

The departure of captain and preseason All-America defensive end Nick Bosa came and went this past week, and his teammates seemed to roll with the punch. They understand he is recovering from a serious injury to his abdominal core and, after surgery, was out until at least December, and that he is projected to be one of the top players taken — perhaps the first — in the 2019 NFL draft.

“I’m sure that when they’ve visited with him, or talked to him via text, it’s an emotional thing,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said last week. “But they all came out and practiced hard.”

Bosa left Columbus on Friday to move to southern California. According to his father, John Bosa, the plan is for his younger son to live with older son Joey Bosa, a former Buckeye and now defensive end for the Los Angeles Chargers, while he continues to recover. He'll then begin training for the NFL scouting combine.

Injury report

Kenny Anunike, an Ohio State graduate assistant coach for the defense, was taken by ambulance to a hospital after the game. His malady and condition were not immediately known, except he was awake and alert.

Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah suffered a head bump late in the game while making a tackle. He was helped from the field, then escorted to the locker room for further evaluation and did not return to the game.

The Buckeyes entered the game without another of their cornerbacks, Damon Arnette, who reportedly was in concussion protocol after having to be helped from the previous week’s game against Minnesota.

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

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