WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Ohio State was at an edge, all right.
It just turned out that instead of a breakthrough waiting on the other side, the Buckeyes were about to plummet off a cliff.
Once again, Ohio State went on the road against a Big Ten opponent that can’t even come close to matching its talent on paper and wound up on the short end of a blowout that almost defies belief. Which was worse: The destruction last season at Iowa or the second-half meltdown on Saturday night against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium?
The Buckeyes now have two leading options for the most baffling defeat of the Urban Meyer Era, and it’s going to be a painful debate for fans of the program to decide after the 49-20 upset loss to the Boilermakers. An off date looms now as Ohio State tries to right the ship heading into November with everything still on the table ahead of it, but only if it can fix a lot of things that Lettermen Row learned about the team this weekend.
The coaching staff owns this one
Linebackers coach Billy Davis was just a couple days removed from explaining how close the defense was to turning a corner. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa pointed out how banged up his group of blockers has been but defended the work they’ve done in the trenches. Both of those guys have even more to explain now as two of the most underwhelming hires Urban Meyer has made at Ohio State have done little this season to maximize the talent on hand — and for Davis and the defense, the problems actually date back to last season. The Buckeyes have recruited far too well for this to really be a matter of personnel problems, and that can only leave blame for a highly-compensated coaching staff. It’s time for the Buckeyes to get serious about changes as they look into the future beyond November.
The Ohio State rushing attack is broken
Any offense that can throw for nearly 500 yards is obviously still functioning pretty well, but without that passing attack the Buckeyes would struggle to move the football at all. Among the strangest developments of the season is the sudden inability for two of the most talented tailbacks in the Big Ten to pick up yardage behind a massive offensive line that for some reason has stopped being able to blow defenders off the line of scrimmage. Ohio State has been one of the best rushing teams in the nation since Meyer arrived, but there’s no denying the issue now after averaging just three yards per carry against a relatively weak Purdue defense.
Special teams are a mess for Buckeyes
For a coach like Meyer who takes so much pride in the kicking game, it’s hard to find any positives for what the Buckeyes put on display against Purdue. There was a questionable decision to field a down-wind punt inside the 10-yard line, a kickoff that was allowed to roll down to the edge of the goal-line that nearly turned into a safety, a missed field that swung momentum, a fake field goal given up that put Purdue in control and a completely unnecessary roughing-the-punter penalty. That should just about cover it, and that’s quite a lengthy list of errors for a single game. Ohio State hadn’t really been struggling in that phase consistently, but that was an alarming performance across the board.
Ohio State is far too reliant on Dwayne Haskins
The Buckeyes have a truly special talent at the most important position on the field, and it’s hard to imagine what they would look like without Dwayne Haskins around to rack up 400-yard passing games like he’s playing against air. And while he’s both more than capable and willing to throw the football as much as needed and kept doing so at a high level with his school record 49 completions for 470 yards, no single player needs to have that much responsibility on his shoulders. It’s also possible that Ohio State’s reliance on Haskins has backfired in some respects since it seems to have ignored putting together a workable plan for short-yardage and red-zone situations. And without some adjustments, the Buckeyes are about to squander what will likely be their only season with the best passer in program history as the starter.
The Buckeyes have been cursed with bad injury luck
Looking at all those star rankings the Buckeyes have accumulated on the recruiting trail, few programs are going to feel much sympathy for a team that has 5-stars coming off the bench. But by now, Ohio State is being forced to dip pretty far into the depth of the roster, and the injuries are clearly taking a toll. Just for starters, cornerback Damon Arnette didn’t travel to Purdue, defensive end Nick Bosa is never coming back, receivers Austin Mack and C.J. Saunders both left the game with health concerns and a handful of key guys are clearly playing at far less than 100 percent. The off date is clearly coming at a good time now for the Buckeyes, but it might also be one week too late.