Ohio State football: How can Buckeyes break out of big-game offensive funk?

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By now it’s become routine. If Ohio State comes up short, the first thing to check in the box score is the rushing attempts ― where more often than not, a quarterback is going to have more carries than anybody else. Sometimes, like last week at Iowa, that total will be more than the top two running backs have combined. Considering how elite the tailbacks have been historically with the Buckeyes and the immense potential J.K. Dobbins already has shown as a freshman, that obviously isn’t a great formula.

Sometimes, those numbers are skewed by the way teams defend the Buckeyes, forcing quarterback J.T. Barrett to keep the football on the zone read. Occasional scrambles inflate the total as well in games where Ohio State is trying to dial up more passing plays. Regardless, it’s a troubling trend in losing efforts, either in games against opponents who can match Ohio State’s personnel or in shocking upsets.

So, why does that keep happening? Honestly, it’s a mystery to me why a decorated coach such as Urban Meyer, who always has been known for his aggressiveness, would revert to such conservative play calling in key moments. He certainly hasn’t forgotten how to coach, hasn’t lost his passion for winning and continues to recruit as well or better than just about anybody in the country. I don’t think he’s lost his edge, either, so it’s been puzzling trying to pin down a reason for this pattern.

Against the Hawkeyes, in particular, I don’t think it was the game plan that was a problem as much as just handling adversity poorly, top to bottom. Even after the pick-six interception on the first snap of the game, Ohio State’s attack had tremendous early success carving up the Hawkeyes and looked just as prolific as it did late against Penn State.

But that early hole might at least have planted seeds of doubt in Ohio State’s minds with the passing attack, and when the injuries to Demetrius Knox and Jamarco Jones happened in the second quarter, everything seemed to unravel from there ―even if those two turned out to be well enough to return to the game. It wasn’t until that point that the Buckeyes seemed to lose all confidence with the power-spread attack that had been so devastating recently, which to me makes it different from coming out and struggling from the onset as in the Clemson or Oklahoma games.

Now, will Ohio State learn from that this time? It better, because Michigan State has been a program that has taught that same lesson in the past, and Ohio State can’t afford to slip up again.

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