Ohio State coach Urban Meyer addressed the media on Monday to discuss the Buckeyes’ 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois and their upcoming week as they prepare to take on Western Michigan on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from Meyer’s press conference:
Meyer gave out his weekly awards for players that graded out as “champions” for their performance against NIU.
Offensively, awards for champions will have to wait another week.
“On offense, no champions. We did not do well,” Meyer said.
On the other side of the ball, the list was essentially the starting depth chart.
Eight players graded out as champions for their stout performances against the Huskies, in which they only allowed 13 points and 190 yards of total offense.
Meyer said redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee and junior safety Vonn Bell were co-defensive players of the game, which brings the total to 10 players.
The only starter omitted by Meyer was senior defensive tackle Tommy Schutt.
“It looks like we have a couple interior guys” that did not grade out as champions, Meyer said.
Even with the notable exclusion, the coach was still effusive in his praise of the defense.
“Four guys in the secondary, the three backers, that’s a heck of a day against an offense we had a lot of respect for going into it,” Meyer said.
Meyer was critical of his team’s performance on offense. He said the performance against the Huskies was “one of the worst executed performances since (Meyer has) been here.”
The Buckeyes only tallied 298 yards of total offense. It was the first time they were held under 300 yards of total offense since Oct. 25 against Penn State.
One of the biggest things Meyer said he is concerned about with the offense is the amount of turnovers.
“We’re turning the ball over at (an) alarming rate,” he said.
The Buckeyes have lost eight turnovers on the season so far, including five against Northern Illinois. There are only eight teams in the country that have turned the ball over more than OSU through three games.
Three of the five turnovers against the Huskies came off interceptions — two by redshirt junior Cardale Jones and one by redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett.
“All three were absolutely inexcusable,” Meyer said of the picks.
The other two came off fumbles, one by junior tailback Ezekiel Elliott early in the game with OSU already trailing 7-0, and the second by sophomore H-back Curtis Samuel late in the fourth quarter.
Meyer said Elliott is “usually pretty good” when it comes to ball security. Samuel’s fumble was jarred by an NIU defender putting his helmet on the football.
The coach said they’re putting a focus on ball security and really coaching it.
Going forward, Meyer said he is evaluating the issue, but if the problems persist, there will be an impact.
“That has an impact on who touches the ball,” he said.
As of Monday, the starting quarterback for the game against WMU is up in the air.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Meyer said. “We’re going to have conversations.”
He said on Sunday he had a conversation with one of the quarterbacks and he will meet and discuss with the other Monday.
Jones has started all three games for the Buckeyes and gotten most of the reps with the ones in practice, but against NIU, he was benched mid-game for the second straight week in favor of Barrett.
Yet still, even with three weeks of game film to study, neither has really differentiated himself from the other.
“Today, not one is beating out the other,” Meyer said. “They’re not playing great.”
Some suggest that part of the cause for the poor performances is due to Jones looking over his shoulder, knowing that Barrett is there ready to fill in even after the littlest mistake or vice versa.
However, Meyer is not buying any of that logic.
“If you think you’re going to play at the next level, there is going to be probably one better than you stand right next to you, so get used to it,” he said. “If you have a bad day, you get replaced. That might not be everyone’s philosophy and that’s OK.”
Meyer said he thinks complaining about someone over their shoulder is just an excuse.
“I call it an excuse of how can you perform with someone looking over your shoulder, NFL quarterbacks do. I’ve never had one not,” he said. “We’ve always had a backup quarterback. It just happens the backup quarterback here, whomever it may be, is really good.”
For Meyer, the solution to the problem is rather simple.
“We just have to perform better,” he said.