The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring offense with 43.5 points per game through the first two weeks of the 2012 season and boast the best rushing attack in the league, averaging 275 yards per contest. But those facts have been overshadowed by Ohio State's struggles in fourth-down/short-yardage situations. New head coach Urban Meyer has not been shy about leaving his offense on the field on fourth-and-short situations. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, results have been mixed.
"We've got to fix the little things," junior guard Andrew Norwell said. "It's little mistakes here and there. We've got to clean it up. … We've got to be perfect."
Ohio State has not been perfect on fourth down. The Buckeyes are 2 of 3 when going for it on fourth down this season, but that does not include a first-and-goal rush that was stopped to end the first half in the season opener against Miami (Ohio). OSU did later convert a fourth-and-3 in the third quarter when backup QB Kenny Guiton gained 5 yards on a play that lined up at the Miami 39, however.
"Ohio State should be able to knock it in from the 1," Meyer said postgame. "That's bad. That's absolutely non-negotiable. Nonsense."
A week later against Central Florida, the results were again mixed. Ohio State went 1 for 2 on fourth-and-1 plays. In the first quarter, quarterback Braxton Miller was stopped for no gain on a fourth-down rush over right guard at the OSU 47-yard line. The Buckeyes found a bit of redemption early in the second quarter when junior tailback Carlos Hyde rushed for 6 yards on a fourth-and-1 play from the 50. OSU changed plays on Hyde's run, switching from the power – also known as the Dave – play to an inside zone. Meyer again reiterated his belief that the Buckeyes should be able to pick up short-yardage plays on fourth down after the UCF game. Two days later, at Meyer's weekly press luncheon, his frustration with the failures was evident again.
"I'm a little stung right now," he said. "(The offense has) to start showing it. You don't get confidence by failing at something. So to say I have a lot of confidence in them doing that play right now, no."
Co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner was a little more optimistic when he was asked about it after the UCF game.
"I think we need to get better in just about every phase of what we're doing, but by no means am I down or disappointed," Warinner said. "I think we're coming along. I think we played a well-coached football team. They had a good scheme. They played hard. We played hard.
"I like where we're headed. We have a lot to work on."
Despite the early struggles, don't expect to see Ohio State change its approach in similar situations.
"That's going to be our mentality," Warinner said. "We're going to be aggressive. We're going to count on our offensive line, backs and tight ends to block."