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Football: Offensive troubles hurt Ohio State for the first time

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Dwayne Haskins had a historic day against Purdue.

Completing 49 of 72 pass attempts, breaking the record for most completions in a single game in school history, the redshirt sophomore quarterback threw for 470 passing yards, also breaking former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter’s record of 458 set in 1981.

Through the first seven games of the season, this is the kind of performance that, despite obvious, yet consistent flaws in the running game and short-yardage situations, led to success for the Ohio State offense.

That ended Saturday.

Haskins’ historic night was masked behind the inability to get out of the one-dimensional offense that brought the Buckeyes to a 7-0 record heading into Week 8, leading to Ohio State’s first loss of the season: a 49-20 drubbing by the Boilermakers.

Purdue knew what the Ohio State offense was going to do. It was going to rely on the passing game to score, to move the ball downfield in a fashion that beat Indiana and Minnesota. But the overall goal was to limit the production of the Ohio State offense when forced into run-friendly or short-yardage situations.

Ohio State failed to convert on four opportunities in the redzone against Purdue. When running in those situations, backs recorded eight yards on six carries. When Haskins trusted his arm, he only completed three of eight pass attempts for 15 yards, one being an 11-yard pass to redshirt senior receiver Terry McLaurin.

After the game, with the stat sheet in front of him showcasing the day his quarterback had, head coach Urban Meyer was not praising Haskins. To him it represented something else: an offense carried by one man.

When I look up at the board and I see the rushing yardage again and we’re just gonna, you know we just gotta get something going,” Meyer said. “You can’t just throw for 400 yards and then, you know that worked a few times but, down the stretch here we gotta get some run game.”

Haskins’ plan in the first half seemed to stem from the game plans of other wins: trying to get the run going and use the passing game as a security blanket. The Ohio State running game, including redshirt junior running back Mike Weber and sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins, recorded 34 yards on 15 carries, averaging 2.3 yards per rush in the half.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback attempted nine more passes than rushes, acceptable in an offense priding itself on running a pass-first scheme, completing 20 of 26 attempts for 173 yards.

However, in the second half, with Ohio State down 14-3, Haskins seemingly panicked, going to what he does best: throwing the ball, much in the same way former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett used the quarterback read when he fell behind.

In the second half, Haskins tried to put the team on his back, completing 29 of 47 pass attempts for 297 yards, throwing two touchdowns, one to McLaurin and one to redshirt senior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, and an interception, which was returned for a touchdown.

Haskins knows this is not a stable way to run the Ohio State offense. He said this is not what he expected when he was given the starting quarterback job.

I never thought I would have to throw 72 times to win the game,” Haskins said. “But you gotta do what you gotta do to win and this ended today.”

Like the other players that spoke after the loss to Purdue, Haskins would not place blame on any single entity in the offense.

Instead, it’s looking at what the offense, as a whole, can be.

“We’re going to get together as an offense and we are going to figure out what we need to do, the problems we need to fix,” Haskins said. “It’s not just one thing or another, it’s a collective unit and we have to figure out how to play together and once we figure that out, we are going to be where we need to be.”

McLaurin said the problem has to do with execution, not with the plays being called, saying it’s the same calls that were made in past wins like Indiana or Minnesota. Haskins said that it is necessary for the offensive line to make bigger holes and for backs and receivers to make opposing defenses miss.

However, that was not the main focus for Haskins. He said he himself, the record-breaking quarterback, the one part of the offense that doesn’t seem to be a problem, needs to play better.

“I’m going to keep getting better,” Haskins said. “I’m nowhere near where I can be. I’m still at the beginning.”

Like he said, if Haskins has to throw 72 pass attempts, completely disregarding a running game that many considered to contain a “two-headed monster” in Dobbins and Weber, “you gotta do what you gotta do.”

But, as Haskins sat at the podium, taking questions as a record-breaking quarterback who had suffered his first loss as a starter, he looked like he couldn’t do it by himself anymore.

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