Running Out Of Room

While not having some of the wholesale problems on offense that Buckeye teams in recent seasons have had, this year's team is also struggling to put points on the board. The problem has come in the red zone, where OSU has had a tough time finding their way into the end zone. After yesterday's game, OSU head coach Jim Tressel, true freshman Maurice Wells and senior offensive lineman Rob Sims were among those to speak about the results.

In the first half, Maurice Wells run over right guard inside the 3-yard line, and at the one, he was politely met by an assuming linebacker and driven back. Denied.

Brandon Schnittker, meanwhile, lunged forward in a goal line situation towards the endzone. He stuck the ball out forward, and fumbled giving San Diego State the ball. Once again, shut down.

Antonio Pittman ran left tackle in a short yardage situation, only to cut back and lose a couple of yards on first contact. If you see a pattern developing, you should.

Yesterday in a 27-6 win against San Diego State, Ohio State managed to rush for a modest 179 yards. Unlike last season, where often times backs would be hit - and dropped - in the backfield for losses, this year's ground attack at least manages to keep opposing defenses honest.

But there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Yesterday, Troy Smith was still Ohio State's leading rusher with 87 yards on 14 carries. The three tailbacks, Wells, Schnittker and Pittman, meanwhile, combined on 30 carries for 99 yards. That's an average of just below 3.3 yards a carry.

The problems largely appear to be happening because of the team's inability to move the chains in short yardage and redzone situations. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel apparently saw at least some progress with his team's performance in these situations.

"I thought we did a little better today," Tressel said after the game. "I don't know that we're anywhere we need to be in the redzone, but I thought we did a little better."

The problems lie more with the offensive philosophy this year in spreading the field out of the shotgun. Teams notoriously fare poorly inside the 20-yard line when running out of the shotgun.

Tressel considers the running game a work in progress, so it's not surprising he's looking for any little glimmer of hope he can.

Like the 13-yard run Wells had in the second half.

"That's something when we came out the second half, we really have got to work hard to be a balanced football team, and if we can do that, there's so much more than we can accomplish," he noted. "I think Antonio ran better the second half and Mo Wells showed some things that he's going to be able to help us."

Senior guard Rob Sims understands the team has to do better in the redzone, especially with Iowa looming on the horizon against Saturday.

He admits a lot of frustration with their performance inside the 20.

"That's exactly how we feel, you know," Sims said of the recurring theme of stalling out after a decent drive. "Especially offensive linemen, you go on a 10 or 12-play drive and you are ready to punch it in and you don't get it. You're dog tired and then you have a stupid penalty or make a mistake and you don't capitalize."

Wells, who rushed for 32 yards on nine carries, was glad to finally see meaningful playing time. He also got his share of carries down inside the problematic zone, one of which came within inches of making it to the promise land.

But Wells was more worried about not making a turnover.

"I was more focused first on holding on to the ball. Troy had just fumbled the drive before that, and it was like second down so I knew we had another chance to punch it in or get three, so I just wanted to hang on to the ball," he said. "I guess I probably could have two touchdowns, but that will come."

This week, Wells is hoping to be able to get more involved and make an impact against the Hawkeyes. He notes how important his performance will be in giving Iowa more than one dimension to worry about.

That will also allow Ohio State to do other things, according to Wells.

"It's very important," Wells said of running the ball effectively against Iowa. "We are going to have to establish the run to open things up for our receivers and get the ball more to Teddy Ginn."

Should the same patterns begin developing against Iowa that the team has seen thus far this season, don't expect any magical answers.

Sims says they already can't necessarily pinpoint anything in particular as holding them back.

"I just don't think we're getting it done," he added. "I don't think it's any one reason we're not getting in the end zone. We just look at each other in the huddle and we know we've got to start scoring."

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