Ohio State’s struggles in the run game continue to plague an offense that is becoming increasingly reliant on a growing but still inconsistent quarterback in Kyle McCord and the elite abilities of superstar wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
The duo connected 11 times for 162 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s win, partially masking another lackluster performance on the ground. Ohio State managed just 79 rushing yards in the game, the second time in three games it failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground.
During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, head coach Ryan Day said the issues on Saturday were once again a combination of errors, an evaluation that is becoming all too familiar for Ohio State.
“I wish I could point to one thing, but I think it was a combination of things again, which isn’t good enough,” he said. “(Penn State) is very good against the run, don’t get me wrong. But there were times when there was something that wasn’t fit up front properly, or it was the running back maybe not hitting the hole correctly.”
Day noted there were a couple of runs he saw on film when, schematically, he wished he could have back. But for the most part, he said there weren’t very many occasions where Penn State simply had more defenders than Ohio State had blockers.
“We have to execute it better and we have to coach it better. That’s on us as coaches to get it done, so we’ll work our tails off to get it done this week because we need that balance and have to be able to do that,” he said.
For the season, Ohio State now ranks 99th in rushing offense and is averaging just 3.85 yards per carry. Through seven games, it has managed to run for 150 yards or more just once. Despite the prolonged struggles, Ohio State has managed to do just enough on offense to claim two top-10 victories against quality defenses. Led by McCord and Harrison, the pass offense ranks 14th in the country with an average of 305 yards per game. McCord has also thrown just one interception on the season.
But with inclement weather always a potential factor when playing Big Ten games in November, it’s fair to question whether or not Ohio State can continue to get by without anything of substance to rely on with its running game. Day said he still believes there is time to get the run game on track, but Tuesday is hardly the first time he has referenced coaching and executing as the two elements that need to get better in order to find improvement.
Perhaps it’s time for Day to accept his offense for what it is —and isn’t —and build from there, a possible conclusion he was asked about on Tuesday.
“We do that every week,” he said of the offensive evaluation. “We’re trying to figure out what we do best. We go in there and try to identify the things we think we can do well, and then what fits for that week. Each week is a different challenge with different styles of defenses in the conference.”
Asked if it’s reasonable to still expect significant improvement in the run game that hasn’t yet materialized through seven weeks, Day said he does still have faith but acknowledged the question as a valid thought.
“I think there have been signs of that (progression), so we’re going to keep pushing,” he said. “Getting a couple of guys back could help as well and help us become more explosive. We believe we can do it, and I know we can.
“The number one goal is to win and be 1-0 on Saturday night, but you do want to see certain progress in areas that you’re focusing on. Some of them we have over the course of the season, and there are some that we need to do a better job on. But now as we get into the home stretch, we have to be playing our best football, so it’s time to roll.”
A personnel change could be the answer Day turns to for a spark, something he alluded to on Tuesday. After Dallan Hayden was thrust into a featured role at Purdue two weeks ago and performed well, he did not see the field on Saturday as Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams returned to action. TreVeyon Henderson is also expected to return from a three-game absence for this week’s road matchup at Wisconsin, but Day didn’t rule out playing Hayden despite the previously stated goal of redshirting the sophomore.
“We’re going to keep pushing that this week and evaluate it again this week,” Day said of Hayden. “We’ll see how the week goes, but we’re going to push to get him into the game this week.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.