O-Line OK? That's The Buckeye Consensus

Consternation about Ohio State's offensive line is not new, and the Buckeyes knew not everything was peachy after Saturday's performance against Navy. Despite at least one high-profile failure against the Mids, the OSU linemen took the good and the bad after a performance that was OK but not great in their eyes.

Let's go ahead and get this straight: Taking away the final three downs of the ball, the Ohio State football team ran for 157 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry on Saturday against Navy.

Also, Buckeye quarterbacks were sacked just once, that coming when Joe Bauserman could not evade a blitzer late in the second quarter on a drive on which the Buckeyes still netted a field goal.

But all many people could talk about after the game was the team's inability to earn the 3 yards necessary for a first down with a trio of three rushing plays deep in Navy territory in the middle of the fourth quarter. Navy, trailing 29-14, took over on downs and launched its wild 13-point rally that nearly earned the Midshipmen a stunning upset victory over the No. 6 Buckeyes.

While many people focused on the team's inability to convert the fourth-and-2, game captain and right tackle Jim Cordle was frustrated with the entire series.

"I think the couple of plays before were disappointing," he said at the formal portion of the team's press conference. "I know we ran on second down ran a lead, a hurried lead and came up on the edge, a guy came up on the edge real fast and got ahead of me. And then we had another inside zone to the left and stuffed it, and then obviously you want to get that on fourth down.

"We had a fourth down, we got it earlier in the game, I think, and we were on – everybody was on the field. I didn't think there was any doubt we were going for it and it was definitely disappointing that we got stuffed three times there."

It's a good thing Cordle rehearsed that speech in front of the assembled media because he was forced to answer similar questions after the room broke up for one-on-one interviews.

The message: The Ohio State offensive line is always under scrutiny, even as it sported a new look, left to right, of Andrew Miller, Justin Boren, Michael Brewster, Bryant Browning and Cordle.

And perhaps, this time, the Buckeyes invited it that closer examination. After the team insisted throughout much of camp that it wasn't concerned about its ability to run the ball up the gut, and after Cordle began camp by telling reporters that he wanted to see improvement after past disappointing performances, the Buckeyes found sledding a little tougher than they had hoped against an undersized Navy line.

While the Buckeyes broke off a number of big runs, many of the team's best jaunts came while running the option, not on power plays or isolation runs up the gut of the Navy defense.

"We kind of went to the option a lot," Cordle said. "It was working, so why not? They way they were defending, they were giving it to us outside."

That came to fruition as Dan Herron scored on an option pitch from 6 yards out with 11:54 to go to give the Buckeyes a 29-14 lead that seemed safe at the time.

That is, until the series that led to the fourth-down failure began. On second-and-3 from the 16, Brandon Saine got just 1 yard over the right side before Herron was stoned short of the line to gain on consecutive plays.

"Of course we were all upset," Herron said. "That's something that we feel we need to get. We didn't execute, and I think that's something we have to really work on and we have to get better at."

The line, in fairness, did turn things around on the Buckeyes' final possession with the team holding a 31-27 lead. Ohio State needed a first down to kill the game, and Herron's 18-yard jaunt up the middle sealed the deal.

All in all, the numbers show a solid but unspectacular effort. Herron totaled 72 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while Saine finished with nine rushes for 53 yards, a 5.9-yard average. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor also had 30 yards and a touchdown on six tries.

Some credit should go to Navy, which did limit opponents to 3.8 yards per carry a season ago and presented a defense that slants and blitzes in an effort to keep more physically imposing teams off balance.

"A couple of times I was kind of confused," said Cordle, the newly minted right tackle. "I know one time I was in between two guys and I had a guy on each shoulder, and I didn't know which way to go. The guard and the tight end didn't know and the guy slipped off and made the tackle. Navy did a good job of defending. They ran a lot of blitzes and stuff, but we have to get better."

With No. 4 USC on the horizon, the last sentence of Cordle's statement seemed to be the prevailing thought.

"I think we need to get better," Boren said. "There were some things we did real well and some things we need to work on, but your biggest improvement is from week one to week two. It's the first time we got out there on the battlefield. Overall, I think we did OK."


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