COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Greg Schiano was already thinking about Michigan.
With a duffel bag close, eager to head back to Columbus, the Ohio State defensive coordinator did not have a stat sheet in hand. He knew the Buckeyes allowed 51 points, that the unit had allowed 535 yards of offense, including 339 yards on the ground, 298 of them by one player.
That was not his focus. Schiano’s focus was already fixed on what he refers to as “The Team Up North.”
“I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this,” Schiano said. “When I get on that bus I’m gonna start looking at team up north, and we got six days to get ready for what we’ve been able to and they’ve been able to make, you know, one of the biggest games in college football this year.”
Schiano went on to say that every week has its own problems, “is its own entity,” saying he does not group together past games to define the defense.
The thing is, the Ohio State defense has its trends, has its consistent issues that have shown up in different ways against different teams, whether it is finding an identity in press-man coverage of bad angles in the second level of the defense.
But, it does not matter what the consistent issues specifically are if they all lead to the same result: scoring.
On Saturday, the Maryland offense combined to attack different weak points in the Ohio State defense. With an offensive line causing confusion up front, Terrapins redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland utilized his tackles, finding space, especially on the outside, leading to back-to-back touchdown runs of 81 and 75 yards in the first quarter.
When McFarland broke tackles, getting into open space with the ability to outrun the second level of the Ohio State defense.
In the passing game, redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome, a quarterback not known for his passing ability, shown an affinity for the deep ball facing a defense that has been known to struggle with one-on-one coverage.
Ohio State redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones did not hide his feelings after this game.
Knowing the quality of the offense the Buckeyes were facing, he said, plainly, he was disappointed with the unit’s performance when it was all said and done, even though the team got its 10th win of the season.
“I mean knowing that the team that shouldn’t be in the same tier as us put up 50 on us, so it’s a little upsetting, but you know we got the dub so … and no, no, no, it’s never fine, it’s never fine,” Jones said. “It’s just that we got a dub and then, that’s all you gotta settle with.”
Settling is not something Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is satisfied with. He said, after the game, a performance like this is something that is not acceptable moving forward.
Because not only will it be unacceptable, it will not lead to the same result as what happened against the Terrapins.
“We will have to play better than we did on defense or we won’t win the game,” Meyer said. “That’s going to be the message all week and I anticipate we will play much better.”
This is a message, a goal for Ohio State throughout the entire season, from the highest of highs, Ohio State’s 26-6 win against Michigan State, to the lowest of lows, Ohio State’s 49-20 loss to Purdue. Meyer, Schiano, the coaching staff and the players want consistency defensively. They want to get rid of the big plays, to match the potential the unit had at the beginning of the season.
For Schiano, this is something that has been the main message for the coaching staff for the entirety of the season, something he said is very frustrating.
“We’ve had some really good defensive play at times, but not consistently, and I’ve said that after the first quarter of the season, I said that at the midway, it’s frustrating that we’re not a consistent defense right now,” Schiano said. “But rest assured, I mean every waking minute we have, we’re gonna try to get that fixed.”
To fix the overarching problems of the defense. Not just to specifically game plan for individual opponents, something Schiano said the coaching staff did poorly when looking ahead to Maryland.
To many, this performance for the Ohio State defense is alarming. But Schiano, again, said the position the team is in as a whole is relatively unique.
“We’re 10-1 and we got a chance, and we have good players who really care, good coaches, just gotta keep putting it together, and go out next week and find a way,” Schiano said.
But 10-1 this week does not mean 11-1 next week. Ohio State will not be able to “find a way” to beat No. 4 Michigan with the play of the defense as is. That’s not an excuse that can be used anymore.
It will take a focus of looking at the defense as a whole, at its performances this season overall.
It’s definitely not viewing each individual game as its own “entity.”