OSU O-Line Looks To Exorcise Hokie Demons

The Ohio State offensive line was just one of many units to come up short against Virginia Tech last season. This time around the front five is coming to the game confident.

A lot went wrong when Ohio State fell 35-21 to Virginia Tech in the second game of the 2014 season.

Receivers dropped passes, J.T. Barrett misread the Hokies defense and the Ohio State defenders couldn’t get key stops on third down.

One unit, however, took a bulk of the blame for the unexpected loss. Whether it was deserved or not, the perception was that the Buckeyes offensive line let the team down.

“Our entire offensive unit did not perform well,” offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “We left plays on the field at every position. There were things the offensive line obviously needed to do better. There were things at quarterback that we could have executed better. There were things at wide receiver we could have done better.

“A lot of times, though, different things happen, and you don't want to publicly point out individuals. Lowest rushing total in so many years, so it's got to be the O-line's fault. Most sacks, it's got to be the O-line's fault. Not every sack or every negative yardage play is the O-line's fault, but that's inherently what happens.”

This time last season, the offensive line was an easy group to blame. Breaking in four new starters in Pat Elflein, Jacoby Boren, Billy Price and Darryl Baldwin and coming off an uneasy performance against Navy, the Buckeyes front five were still looked at as a weakness just two weeks in to the 2014 season.

“I think confidence was everything,” senior left tackle Taylor Decker said. “We had four new starters coming in there and I even switched positions. I just think we needed to get some confidence. The talent was always there, I think it was just a matter of guys having the confidence that they can go out there and execute their jobs and that they are some of the best players in the country.”

To Warinner’s point, the stat line didn’t help with the perception after last year’s loss. Ohio State allowed seven sacks, including six in the second half. The Buckeyes rushed for just 108 yards in the game (a number certainly diminished by the sack total), more than 156 yards shy of what would end up their season average.

Those complications were created by the Hokies now-infamous Bear front, essentially a 46 defense that puts defensive linemen over the top of the center and guards to prevent interior running. Ohio State was not prepared for that defense and regardless of how good your offensive line is, blocking up to eight guys with five players is essentially impossible.

“You see the little things that we messed up and weren’t prepared for,” Decker said when asked what he saw in the game film from the loss. “Now we have it figured it out. We were in that game down the stretch even not being prepared for that bear defense. It’s just a good learning experience. It’s something that is going to stick with you.”

Fast forward a year and two of those offensive linemen, Jacoby Boren and Decker, have been named captains for the 2015 team. All but Baldwin are back as starters this season with veteran Chase Farris sliding into the vacancy after serving as the sixth-man a year ago. Decker and guard Pat Elflein, at least, are thought of as future pros and potential All-Americans this season.

While they surely know they were not the only unit to come up short against Virginia Tech last season, the offensive line is looking forward to avenging a loss that was largely attributed to their unit a year ago.

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