Rob Oller | Buckeyes go down with their bend-and-break defense
The ignominy is not that Ohio State got punched in the mouth, but that Oregon delivered the blow.
Alabama? OK. Clemson? All right. Even Penn State occasionally connects with a roundhouse.
But Oregon? A team with a more extensive wardrobe than Cher? With Duck wings or palm branches or whatever those things are on the helmets? A program built on the back of a swoosh?
Yep, that Oregon. The Ducks went through Ohio State’s defense like it wasn’t there. Which it mostly wasn’t. The defensive scheme could be defined as — how to put it kindly? — suspect? The Buckeyes’ bend-then-break defense consistently failed to seal the edge, which allowed the Ducks to fly as OSU did not contain a third of the field.
I talked to a former college coach at halftime of the 35-28 loss, and he pointed a finger directly at the defensive scheme, which was exploited time and again.
In other words, the defensive issues are a combination of coaching and … coaching.
Interesting, however, that Ohio State coach Ryan Day separated coaching from scheme, even though coaches create the scheme.
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“Is it personnel? Is it scheme? Or is it coaching,” Day said. “If scheme, we need to get it fixed. If coaching, we have to do it better. If players, we have to make changes.”
Day was asked directly about whether he is satisfied with the work of defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, whose defense gave up 505 yards to the Ducks. That’s not necessarily the end of the world, as long as the scoreboard doesn’t light up as often as it did in the Shoe. But the 35 points were the most scored by a Pac-12 team against Ohio State since Southern California defeated the Buckeyes 35-3 on Sept. 13, 2008.
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The most glaring red flag raised by Ohio State’s defense over the first two weeks? The Buckeyes did not register a three-and-out until there was 7:04 left against the Ducks.
"I don't think there is any question that we have to do things differently moving forward," said Coombs, whose single-safety high scheme came under attack last season, especially after Alabama torched the Buckeyes, and has continued to receive criticism. The Fox broadcast team even questioned the scheme during Saturday's pregame show.
"We have good depth and good talent and we're trying to find the right combination of guys," Coombs continued. "My response is, 'I'm responsible.' "
The second most glaring “What the?” The defense got gashed on rinse and repeat.
“It seemed like the same play to me that they hit on,” Day said.
“Everybody on our staff works really hard and we make decisions as a group and ultimately it comes back on me, because I’m the head coach,” Day said.
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That slashing noise you hear is Day falling on his own sword. Or maybe it was Oregon racing past the Buckeyes?
Give credit where due. For as long as I remember — as long as anyone remembers — the Ducks were to college football what Air Supply was to rock and roll. More finesse than fire but still popularly entertaining to a certain segment of the listening public.
Not anymore. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal has turned the Ducks into something resembling a Southeastern Conference team. Fast but also furious. A power drill more than a Dremel.
And the Buckeyes were the balsa wood.
“It was a game we were never in control of,” Day said. “They ran the ball and we didn’t do a very good job of running the ball, and because of that they were able to control the game.”
Think about that. Oregon pounded the rock and Ohio State could do nothing to stop it.
The question now: Can the Buckeyes learn to stop it?
“We seemed a little out of whack today for some reason,” Day said.
And not just defensively. The offense was good but not great, and with this much talent it needs to be great, especially if the defense isn’t.
“At the end we got two good stops and on offense we didn’t do anything with them,” Day said. “When the defense gave it back to us we didn’t do anything with it. There’s blame to go around.”
True that. But if the defense can’t find a way to keep teams from going around it, the blame will only get hotter on that side of the ball.