From the minute the Ohio State defense took the field, the defensive line did not allow Oregon State to utilize its passing game very much.
In Saturday’s 77-31 win, Ohio State recorded six tackles-for-loss including five sacks. Junior defensive end Nick Bosa recorded two sacks, forcing two fumbles and recovering both of them, including one in the end zone for a touchdown.
When Beavers redshirt sophomore quarterback Conor Blount was given time to throw or junior running back Artavis Pierce had room to run, though, the Ohio State secondary seemed to feel like it was missing something.
Prior to kickoff, Ohio State announced junior safety and team captain Jordan Fuller was out for the game with a hamstring injury. Sophomore safeties Jahsen Wint and Isaiah Pryor, both of whom were battling for the starting spot next to Fuller during preseason camp, started for the Buckeyes in the season opener.
Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch said Fuller was a “game-time decision” heading into Saturday’s season opener and said he hopes to have him back next week in the Big Ten opener against Rutgers, saying, “he will be healthy very, very soon.”
Fuller’s absence was felt in the secondary in both pass defense and the second-level of the Ohio State rush defense.
Blount completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 169 yards with two touchdown passes, including one 49-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Trevon Bradford in the first quarter. In the Beavers’ running game, Pierce, averaging 15.3 yards per rush, recording two rushing touchdowns of over 75 yards.
In the eyes of Grinch, the Oregon State offense just took advantage of what the Ohio State defense gave it.
“I think the one thing that happens to you, on the back end any time the play breaks it’s ‘Where were you?’” Grinch said. “That can be the easy answer not always the right answer, and you got a gentleman running down the field and you got one safety in the middle of it, and he’s got a lot of green grass on either side to run away from you, that’s advantage offense.”
For Pryor, this was an extended opportunity for both him and Wint to show what they each could do individually in the absence of Fuller. He said the opportunity for both of them to get on the field at the same time was crucial for each of their success moving forward.
However, the message that Fuller gave both Wint and Pryor before the game gave them both more responsibility than just their personal game.
“He put it on us to make sure we get the whole defense straight at safety and take on that responsibility for him,” Pryor said.
Grinch said the competition between Wint and Pryor makes each of them better and it will continue as the season goes on. But, for the first-year safeties coach, this game means more than that.
In his opinion, Saturday’s game against Oregon State did not meet his expectation of what Ohio State’s defense should be.
“That’s not what these players signed up for. It’s not what we, as coaches, signed up for to say ‘it’s okay to be very average,’” Grinch said. “In the end, I think it was a very average, at best, day defensively.”
However, Grinch knows there is time to improve heading into Big Ten play, especially with Ohio State going into Week 2 with a win under its belt.
“Our job defensively is to make sure that we’re not putting those guys in those situations, but certainly, obviously there’s missed opportunities by them as well,” Grinch said. “Thankfully we can correct it carefully after a win.”