COLUMBUS – Dre’Mont Jones reached all the way back to the Roman Empire to describe the current state of Ohio State’s defense after the Buckeyes’ 49-26 win over Indiana on Saturday.
“People say our defense is more potential than performance. I don’t think that is true,” the junior defensive tackle said. “It’s a long journey. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
The ancient Rome comparison seems appropriate. At times, like in parts of the second halves of its games against Indiana and Penn State last Saturday, OSU’s defense has played like gladiators. But it hasn’t happened nearly often enough.
And at other times in both those games they looked like they were being fed to the lions.
Saturday, Indiana rolled up 317 yards and scored 20 points in the first half. IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey was 17 of 29 for 239 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. But in the second half the Hoosiers got only six more points and 89 yards of total offense and Ramsey was 9 of 20 for 83 yards.
In the first half, Indiana had four plays that gained more than 30 yards, the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth times an opponent had gone for 30 yards or more against Ohio State’s defense this year.
“In the first half, that was not us,” safety Jordan Fuller said after Saturday’s game.
Halftime adjustments have righted the ship the last two weeks. And while no one used it as an excuse, the absence of Nick Bosa changes a lot of things.
But the defense allowing big plays and the lack of a dominant running game were the two biggest concerns for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer after the No. 3 Buckeyes raised their record to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
“Defensively, it was not what we expected in the first half. We’ve been fine against the run but the pass has been killing us and that’s going to bite us. It’s something we’ve got to get fixed,” Meyer said.
Asked if Ohio State could go as far as it wants to go with a dynamic offense and a defense that gives up big plays, Meyer said, “No, you can’t. At the end of the day you have to play great defense to get where you’ve got to get. I’m confident that we will because at times we’ve played great defense. We have to get everybody healthy and get back to that.”
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said, “We’re not playing well enough and not coaching well enough right now for the standards of Ohio State defense. There are a lot of things that go into that and it’s our job to fix it. And that’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to fix it.
“It’s not the entire group. It’s a couple positions where we need to do better. The next question is what positions but I’m not going to say that. But we need to get better,” he said. “Our big thing is consistency. It’s not that we haven’t shown we can. It’s that we haven’t done it consistently.”
Ohio State might be able to survive inconsistency in the rest of the month of October with games against Minnesota, Purdue and an open date. But tougher challenge await in November, challenges which will require better defense than OSU has shown so far.