September 25, 2012
Week 4: Evaluating the Buckeyes' offense
Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio State offense looked the least impressive as it has all season last Saturday, putting up its lowest point total of the year against perhaps the worst team that the Buckeyes will face all year. Fortunately for first-year coach Urban Meyer, his team managed to escape with a 29-15 win over UAB and will now turn its attention towards its Big Ten opener against Michigan State this Saturday.
Following the Buckeyes battle with the Blazers, Ohio State players and coaches met with the media to discuss the current state of the Buckeyes' offense.
OSU quarterback Braxton Miller put together his worst statistic game of the year against the Blazers, throwing for 143 yards on 12-of-20 passing and rushing for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Despite failing to put up eye-popping numbers for a fourth consecutive week, Meyer is still confident that the sophomore signal-caller is a player that he can rely on with the game on the line.
"You break it down to its simplistic form and that's get your best player to go win your game. And he's playing at a very high level," Meyer said. "His response is what you would expect from a great player."
Although the OSU offense didn't play to its potential and will be facing a much tougher unit this Saturday in East Lansing, Miller is confident that a much more comfortable Buckeyes' offense will be taking the field against the Spartans.
"We gonna pick it up in practice coming up this week," Miller said. "We just gotta keep striving for the best."
In his second game since returning from offseason foot surgery, running back Jordan Hall rushed for a career-high 105 yards against UAB. After being lauded in the offseason as OSU's No. 1 playmaker by Meyer, the senior feels as though he's finding his footing on the field at the right time for the Buckeyes.
"I felt more comfortable," Hall said. "This week I think I'll be a little more comfortable and I'd seen some of the things I wanted to see that I thought I would see after watching the film and it was pretty good."
Meyer expects the OSU running game get a boost this week thanks to the expected return of Carlos Hyde, who has missed the Buckeyes' previous two games with an MCL sprain. The OSU rushing attack will need all of the help it can get this week as it prepares for an MSU defense whose No. 1 goal is to take away the run.
"There's a strong commitment for this team. We're playing to stop the run, like the whole defense is there to stop the run," Meyer said. "We'll have to be very efficient and not just beat your face against the wall and do things that we can do."
Through OSU's first four games, one could argue that its wide receivers have been the Buckeyes' most improved unit. Wideouts Corey Brown and Devin Smith have emerged as Miller's most trustworthy targets, and the former is confident that the OSU offense will be prepared for MSU on Saturday.
"I know we're ready. I've been playing with these guys every day," Brown said. "I know as a team we're ready and I know how we're going to approach this week, especially with the way some of the guys were talking in the locker room."
OSU wide receivers coach Zach Smith said that he's happy with the progress that his unit has made, and also expects it to be adequately prepared for the Buckeyes' trip to East Lansing.
"I feel good about it. I think we've made strides in the past eight months and really the past three weeks," Smith said. "We're ready for it. It's definitely going to be a challenge."
With MSU possessing one of the best defensive lines in the country, all eyes will be on the Buckeyes' offensive line this Saturday. On Monday, Meyer sang the praises of OSU right tackle Reid Fragel, but admitted that the Buckeyes' line isn't where he wants it to be quite yet.
"One thing that will not change is the expectation level. And that's to lead the Big Ten in offense and eventually lead the country in offense. That's our goal," Meyer said. "Our offense line's the apex or the part that controls that. And right now we're not playing at that level."
After giving up nine sacks to the Spartans a year ago, Saturday's matchup should be a good measuring stick to track how far the line has come from last season, but like his coach, left tackle Jack Mewhort said that he'd like his unit to move forward faster.
"We know we have to improve; myself and the offensive line are included in that," Mewhort said. "We need to execute better. The schemes are there, but it's about us doing everything right and not making mental mistakes."
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