Offensive Woes Plague Ohio State

OSU coach Jim Tressel confirmed to the media after Saturday's loss at Iowa that the lack of even a serviceable running game is probably the biggest factor in the team's 3-3 start. Click here for a look at the offense, comments from several players (including Ryan Hamby) as well as some statistics to chew on.

Ohio State's season of offensive woes and lows became even more woeful in Saturday's 33-7 loss at Iowa.

The Buckeyes managed 177 yards total offense, including just 27 yards rushing on 29 attempts. OSU was held under 100 yards rushing for the fifth straight game and saw its per-game rushing average drop from a paltry 111.8 yards per game to a pitiful 97.7. That new total ranks OSU 104th nationally.

At the same time, OSU's average yards per game of 306.8 tumbled to 285.2. That figure ranks Ohio State 110th nationally out of 117 Division I-A teams.

"I don't know that we can say we're doing anything well right now," said OSU head coach Jim Tressel. "We don't have any statistics or a gut feeling to point to that. We're not protecting it as well as we should be and we're knocking them off the ball."

OSU's lack of a running game has probably been the single biggest contributor to its downfall this season. Tressel concurred with that notion.

"I think when you don't run the football well, that affects everything," Tressel said. "That affects the defense. It affects the offense, obviously, and it affects the passing game. We always say we would like to be able to run the ball as well as throw it.

"I'm probably most disappointed in that fact that your football team can sometimes hang in there if you can count on the fact you can run the ball. Usually, if you can do that to a degree, usually, you should be in there playing for a win in every game. That's probably the most disappointing thing to me. We haven't and we need to."

Prior to the season, senior tailback Lydell Ross talked about rushing for 1,000 yards. But, after netting zero yards on 10 carries at Iowa, Ross – stuck on 343 yards on 94 carries over six games – may be lucky to even reach 500.

"It's something we have to work on to make this team better," Ross said. "The offense has to work together to get a better running game established."

Tight end Ryan Hamby also discussed the running game and ineffective play of the offensive line.

"Speaking for myself and the guys up front, we're trying to get it done," he said. "We don't want to be down here every week trying to answer questions why we can't get it done. We need to keep working at it. We can't give up. Nobody is going to give up. We just need to keep plugging away."

Numbers To Chew On

* In six games, Ohio State has three rushing touchdowns – runs of 1, 3 and 2 yards by Ross.

* The Buckeyes have not scored a rushing touchdown in nine quarters, dating to the third quarter of the loss to Northwestern

* Over their last six quarters of football (second half against Wisconsin and the Iowa game), Ohio State has attempted 39 running plays and netted 24 yards on them.

* Against Iowa, Ohio State got 64 yards on its second quarter possession capped by a Justin Zwick interception. The Buckeyes also got 73 yards on their touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Excluding the possession to fall on the ball at the end of the first half, OSU netted 40 yards on its 10 other possessions covering 37 plays. That's an average of 4 yards per possession and just over 1 yard per play.

* Against Wisconsin, Ohio State had 24 first down plays. The Buckeyes attempted running plays nine times for 64 yards, although 43 of those yards came on the Antonio Pittman Statue of Liberty trick play. Deducting that out, OSU netted 21 yards on its other eight first-down rushing attempts in that game. Zwick completed 7 of 13 first down passes and was sacked twice on first downs.

Then, against Iowa, Ohio State had 22 first down plays. For the game, they ran it 13 times on first down for a net of 16 yards. OSU threw on just three of its first 16 first downs in this game and failed to complete a pass on any of them.

In fact, Ohio State attempted six straight running plays on first down – netting 10 yards – during one stretch against Iowa. That was part of a larger run of 11 first downs, where the Buckeyes netted attempted just one pass (incomplete) and netted 12 yards.

That run came to a crashing halt as OSU, trailing 30-0 in the fourth quarter, slammed Ross into the back of the line one last time on first down. Iowa's Abdul Hodge dropped him for a 3-yard loss.

From that point on, backup quarterback Troy Smith threw on five of the last six first downs. He completed four passes for 65 yards, including the 23-yard touchdown strike to freshman Rory Nicol with 2:19 left that averted what would have been OSU's first shutout in 11 years (28-0 at Michigan in 1993).

The Costly Pick

Ohio State was still in the game, down 10-0 late in the half when Zwick led the Buckeyes into scoring position with a first down at the Iowa 15. But after Ross was stopped for a 2-yard gain on first down and Zwick threw incomplete on second, he tried a fade pass to Bam Childress in the back right corner of the end zone.

The ball was underthrown and Iowa's Marcus Paschal made the easy interception. Instead of going in at halftime trailing 10-3 or 10-7, OSU was still scoreless.

"That hurts," said flanker Santonio Holmes, who led OSU with four catches for 56 yards. "If you can score there, then you get it (at halftime) and fix all the little kinks you have and you get ready to go. But it's tough when you turn the ball over. Turnovers hurt. The team that doesn't turn the ball over is going to win the game. That's definitely what happened in this game."

Hamby added, "That was huge. We had a good drive and we were doing what we wanted to do. But their cornerback made a play, and you'll have that."

Zwick returned to start the second half, but was hit and fumbled the ball away on the second play – his fourth lost fumble of the year. Iowa cashed the turnover into another touchdown for a 17-0 lead and the rout was on.

Zwick did not return, citing a shoulder injury. He was 6 of 14 passing for 74 yards with an interception.

For the year, he is now 81 of 160 passing for 1,020 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions.

Also Notable

* Smith relieved and hit on 8 of 12 passes for 76 yards with the touchdown.

One player who took notice of Smith's presence was Hamby. He had one catch for 17 yards from Zwick in the first half, then three more grabs from Smith in the second to finish with four catches for 39 yards. It was the tight end's first multi-catch game since he had four catches in the season-opening win over Cincinnati.

"He came in at a bad time anyway," Hamby said of Smith. "Troy, throughout the whole season, has stayed positive. He got his chance in this game and I thought he performed well. Who's to say whether he's going to keep playing or not?"

* The OSU coaching staff had a shuffle for this game with coordinator Jim Bollman going to the press box and tight ends coach John Peterson on the sideline.

"We wanted to try and get a little continuity," Tressel said. "We felt (QBs coach) Joe (Daniels) and Jim could sit up there and see how we needed to attack them. We moved John to the sidelines."

* With Tressel's blessing, receivers coach Darrell Hazell put freshman Devon Lyons and redshirt freshman Anthony Gonzalez in the game during the prolonged second quarter drive. Gonzalez responded with his first career catch, a 9-yarder to convert a first down.

Hazell likely made the move because, up until that point, Childress, Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. had all had passes in their hands but dropped them.

* Nicol, for one, does not want to give up the ship just yet.

"We've just got to keep working," he said. "We've got a great staff and some great veteran leaders. If we can just put all the pieces together, we can be successful."

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