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Big play blues: Urban Meyer unhappy with Buckeyes’ ‘lazy’ defense

Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor

Ohio State’s football team won its first two games of the season, but it is far from being flawless.

One flaw that has hampered OSU in its first two games is its defense allowing opposing offenses to make too many big plays, a flaw that coach Urban Meyer said has to be fixed immediately.

“On defense, we need to stop giving up big plays,” Meyer said Monday at his weekly press conference. “That has to stop now.”

OSU has held its first two opponents to 26 total points but has given up 664 combined yards, which has the Buckeyes ranked only 47th nationally in yards allowed per game. The biggest reason for that has been big plays.

The Buckeyes have given up nine plays of more than 20 yards in two games, including seven passing plays of more than 20 yards.

In those categories, the Buckeyes’ defense ranks even lower: they are tied for 84th nationally in total plays of more than 20 yards allowed, and tied for 82nd in passing plays allowed of that distance.

Meyer said the Buckeyes have been allowing big plays “for a variety of reasons.”

“We need to identify our pass-rushers and get some more pressure on the quarterback, which correlates perfectly with pass defense, and we’re just not very productive in those areas,” Meyer said.

Meyer added that the pass defense has been “lazy” at times, and pointed to three issues that have led to the breakdowns in pass coverage that have plagued the Buckeyes thus far.

“When you get beat on a big play, sometimes it’s because that guy ran by you and they beat you,” Meyer said. “Off the top of my head, I don’t think we’ve had that. It’s not guys getting beat, it’s lack of discipline, and maybe lack of toughness, maybe it’s lack of reps.”

OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said the breakdowns in pass coverage are “unacceptable.”

“If you’re in great coverage and they throw the ball up, they throw enough of them deep, two guys go up for the ball and sometimes one of them’s going to catch it,” Coombs said Monday. “But a guy wide open is unacceptable. It will be corrected.”

Coombs explained why the problems with the Buckeyes’ pass defense are correctable.

“Most of the errors that have been made have been as a result of communication breakdowns: (cornerback) to safety, safety to (cornerback), somewhere in that process,” Coombs said. “The critical piece for our kids is the follow-up process on every single play.

That process is to get the call from the sideline, find out the personnel group that the offense is using, identify the formation that the offense is in, understand the coverage nuances or changes that are based on either the personnel formation or our call, and then put those things into place. Any number of areas there, there can be a disconnect.”

Following Saturday’s game versus Central Florida, redshirt senior cornerback Travis Howard addressed the issues the pass defense has faced.

“I feel like we have better days in us and we could have done a better job, but it’s still only the second game,” Howard said. “We have to regroup and get things together.”

Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier said the coaches told the defense that they must improve and explained how Meyer approaches that with the team.

“We can’t do that again, especially if it’s a big mistake that we’ve been practicing over and over and over again, we just can’t allow that to happen,” Shazier said. “Meyer let us know our mistakes, and he tells us that we can’t have that happen again.”

If OSU does continue to allow big plays to happen, they could find themselves in a vulnerable position when they play California on Saturday at noon. California’s offense includes junior wide receiver Keenan Allen, who tied for 14th nationally in 2011 with 14 receptions of 25 yards or more, and already has two through two games this season.

Coombs explained why Allen could be a major threat to their pass defense.

“Any time you play a great receiver, you have to have tremendous respect for their ability and what they do well,” Coombs said.

“Keenan Allen is a great route-runner, he’s got great speed … he’s got great body control when the ball is in the air, he goes and gets it. They’re going to run vertical routes, so he’s going to be a factor.” 

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