Bank Blog: Quick Thoughts Defense

Ohio State defeated Cal 35-28 Saturday, but the defense put up some ugly numbers in the process. Was this unit that bad, or were their contributing factors to the numbers?

- Wow. Hard to explain giving up 21 points in the second half, and over 500 yards of offense to California. An easy answer would obviously be the tackling, which was as bad as I can remember at Ohio State in a long, long time. But that's too easy. What is the real answer, or are there a multitude of failures? Let's take a closer look.

- What was good defensively? Obviously, there was added emphasis on attacking the quarterback, and Ohio State brought major pressure. They tallied six sacks, an amazing total, and uncounted hurries. They forced Cal to throw short and let the defensive backs come up and hit, which they did against the short passes for the most part.

- What about the bad plays? It can only be four things: Talent. Scheme. Effort. Execution. Were the Cal players better? I don't know their roster inside-out, but I would say No. Were there wide receivers open all over the field, and lots of blown coverages? Not really, although the extra blitzing exposes the safety play in one-on-one coverage, not the strength of Christian Bryant and C. J. Barnett. I'm not ready to blame the scheme, although killing Luke Fickell will be the knee-jerk reaction I'm sure. Was the effort lacking? I would say No, as I saw plenty of running to the football and several big hits. BUT execution? As John McKay would say "I'm all for it. Execute them all." I don't know what to say about the missed tackles. I don't see that as a coaching error. Hard for me to believe Ryan Shazier, C.J. Barnett or Christian Bryant have not been taught how to tackle and wrap their arms.

- How does the great Brendan Bigelow put up this stat line? Four carries for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns? Are you kidding me? The first long run exposed J.T. Moore and Bigelow hit the edge and was gone. A few of the others saw defenders running at Bigelow like Lydell Ross running the football: head down-eyes closed. Meyer said in the press conference that players will start playing better or they will be replaced. I truly think he means it.

- Johnny Simon should not have played today, and if the game gets out of hand, he comes out. It never did, so he never left the field. Too many times the phrases "freak", "warrior", "beast", get used and they do not apply at all. For Simon, I'm not sure what to call him. He is really a perfect player, when you add in talent, drive, heart, work ethic, leadership, commitment, etc. Those phrases all apply, Bank That.

- Johnathan Hankins had a good game, probably his best of the year. Other than he and Simon, the D-line play was OK, but needs to be better. They did get pushed around on occasion, but the 224-yards rushing by Cal is more of the back-7 playing awful, than it is the front-4 being owned. They held the point of attack well, and rushed the passer hard, but the cleanup tacklers cleaned up nothing. Interesting with the game on the line, Ohio State went with Tommy Schutt, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington out there with Simon on the last drive.

- The linebacker play was not good at all, and none of them stood out as playmakers. Etienne Sabino reverted back to the poor-angle tackling that has plagued him in the past, and that's two weeks in a row. Ryan Shazier was not very good at all, despite the big hits and high tackle numbers. As out of position as he has ever been, even as a raw freshman last year. He ducked his head and missed tackles that led to big plays far too often. The big plays are great, but the steadiness of James Laurinaitis means more to team defense. Curtis Grant and Storm Klein were not impressive at all, but will give Klein a pass for all the missed time. Grant is similar to Sabino when the latter was a younger player. Lots of obvious talent, but lack of production when called upon. The Buckeye defense has lived off smart, tough, sure-tackling linebackers over the past decade. This group was none of those against Cal. Very pedestrian.

- The corners seemed to play really well, and Bradley Roby and Travis Howard stood up well to the great Keenan Allen and company. The passing game was mostly dink and dunk, although Cal hit a few biggies. It was also good to see Orhian Johnson out there making plays, and it seems he has earned the right to be out there. Great kid, and an easy player to root for.

- C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant are just too shaky in coverage to blitz so much, and their tackling is extremely suspect. Again, they produce big plays like Shazier, but I will take steadiness and being in position, like Kurt Coleman, over the highlight reel plays. Those two have talent for sure, but they need to play better.

- Is there an excuse? Were they on the field way too much? If YES, was it their fault as much as the stagnant offense? If they were gassed at the end, and that's what a few players are hinting, let's look at one factor. On Ohio State's 6th drive through their 11th drive, the offense had three-and-outs. That's a heck of a lot of field time with no rest. Also, in Ohio State's 3rd-4th-5th drives, they resulted in touchdowns on the third, fourth, and fourth plays of the drive. The 2nd drive was three-and-out also. That means in the offense's middle 10 drives, 9 of them were either 3 or 4 plays. Is that a copout? Or is that a fatigue factor? No way to answer that today, but it will be answered in the coming weeks for sure.

- Was this a winning performance, or will this type of showing result in a loss to a better team? The numbers are bad enough, but add in three missed field goals, and a few poor calls by the officials, and maybe Cal should have won the game? There is no doubt this group is going to be under the microscope going forward after this performance. And they should be.

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