COLUMBUS — The good news for Ohio State: That problematic kick coverage unit looked terrific against Iowa.
The bad news: everything else.
Ohio State’s 55-24 loss at the hands of the Hawkeyes was complete, if nothing else, with plenty of blame to go around and plenty of areas that deserve it. The Buckeyes began this week in a state of painful self-evaluation, and their defense is at the top of the list.
A unit that sports a half-dozen NFL prospects along the defensive line lost the line of scrimmage early and often. Iowa tormented Ohio State’s linebackers in pass coverage, with the Hawkeyes’ tight ends accounting for more points as a position group (28) than Ohio State scored as a team.
Beyond that, the Buckeyes’ defensive performance was a never-ending loop of bad penalties and worse tackling.
The same defense that shut down Penn State’s powerful offense in the second half a week earlier suddenly looked hopeless against an Iowa offense that ranked 103rd in the country in total offense, and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had a specific question.
“The week before, there wasn’t the miscues, and there were this week. The question you have to ask is, ‘Why?’” Meyer said. “Not so much the how, but why did that happen? Are we not practicing? Have we got the right people playing? All those types of things.”
While Ohio State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten) is out of contention for the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes jump right into another important game.
Even with the blowout loss to Iowa, the Buckeyes remain tied for first place in the Big Ten East Division, and they still have a wide-open path to the Big Ten championship game. No. 11 Ohio State plays host to No. 13 Michigan State, and the winner will take sole possession of the East with two games to play.
Statistically, the Spartans’ offense looks similar to the one the Buckeyes just saw at Iowa.
The biggest concern for Ohio State’s defense against Iowa was how completely it lost the line of scrimmage.
“This is one of the first games I can remember not controlling the line of scrimmage,” Meyer said.
As a result, the Hawkeyes were almost perfectly balanced, rushing for 243 yards and passing for 244. A barrage of play-action passes were made even more effective because the Buckeyes couldn’t stop the run.
“Nobody expected that, I don’t think, on defense, because we play defense and take pride in stopping the run,” defensive end Tyquan Lewis said after the Iowa game.
Meyer said the Buckeyes will use this week to address the many issues they had against Iowa.
Asked if motivation could be one of the issues now that a national championship will not happen, Meyer said OSU still has important football to play.
“It’s something we work on, not today, but something we work on all year,” Meyer said. “We try to get a very close team that cares about each other, that plays very hard. It’s not going to be some speech I give to the team. It’s a process, it’s a journey that we’re on, and there are still plenty of great things ahead.”
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