After a four touchdown performance in a primetime matchup with Oklahoma in mid-September, it looked as though Noah Brown was blossoming into Ohio State's next premiere wide receiver.
Then, against Big Ten bottom dweller Rutgers, he recorded just one catch. Against Michigan State, he was targeted just once and didn't record a touch as the Buckeyes struggled to move the ball in a 17-16 win.
So why has arguably Ohio State's best true wide receiver seemingly vanished from the offense? Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer said it is not just one thing limiting Brown's touches.
"We have to target him a little bit more, he has to separate a little bit better, and we have to protect the quarterback," Meyer said Dec. 15. "It's not one thing or we would fix the one thing."
With Brown's touches being limited, H-back Curtis Samuel has proved to be Ohio State's go-to playmaker on offense, lining up in the slot and running back all season long, collecting 15 total touchdowns and more than 1,500 offensive yards.
However, at the 'X' receiver position, Brown can appear to be an afterthought at times despite breakout performances on the big stage against the Sooners and Wisconsin. Despite the reduced number of catches, Brown said he is not concerned as long as the team is winning games.
"I hear it all the time but i don't pay too much attention to it. I've got to do what I've got to do to help us win the game," Brown said. "Whether or not that involves making a catch, that's not my concern. I've got to worry about what I'm supposed to do on each play."
Ohio State co-offsneive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck said that Brown's lack of catches are partially because of the double teams he has been tasked with since the Oklahoma game.
"He caught a lot of people’s attention. A lot of times as the ‘X’ receiver, there’s some double coverage to him because in a 3x1 set he’s a single guy backside," Beck said. "So if teams want to, they can double him. That’s been the case at times. I think Noah’s an outstanding receiver. He’s had an outstanding bowl prep so far this week. Guys are getting a chance to get their legs back underneath them and get healthy as well. I expect a big game out of him."
While he has made incredible catches all season, including a game winning reception over Wisconsin, Brown has also been praised for his ability to block on the perimeter since he arrived in Columbus.
In addition to his three catches for 40 yards against Michigan, he delivered a crack block on Wolverine safety Dymonte Thomas that helped Mike Weber spring for a few extra yards late in the fourth quarter of a 30-27 double-overtime win.
Even though his numbers don't always show it, Brown said he is pleased with how the 2016 season has gone thus far for him.
"I feel like I've had a pretty solid season so far, just doing everything that I can to help win the game, whether it be blocking or receiving, or anything," Brown said. "I feel like i'm going to continue to do that and see where it takes me."