Ohio State's flat offense is cause for alarm - and its defense is too

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Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer.

What in the world is going on with Ohio State?

The Buckeyes’ offense gained only 350 yards and scored just one touchdown last week in a 31-16 home loss to Oklahoma. The defense is dead last in FBS against the pass, allowing 403 yards per game.

And while this was only head coach Urban Meyer’s seventh loss in 69 career games in Columbus, people wonder about an offensive slump. The Buckeyes impressed no one in the first half of their season-opening win over Indiana, and few last week.

“There’s some guys that didn’t play particularly well,” Meyer said, reviewing the Oklahoma game at his weekly news conference. “I usually don’t bring that up very often. The play calling, I’m going to keep evaluating that and make sure we’re doing what we’re doing best. It’s moving forward and fixing issues.”

After being shut out, 31-0, by Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff semifinals, Meyer brought in former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to be his offensive coordinator, but it’s still Meyer’s scheme. One coach who has studied the Ohio State offense told Sports Illustrated “there’s not a lot of creativity” in the attack.

Fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett is 78th in the nation in passing efficiency, though much of that is a product of mostly inexperienced receivers.

“I see a mentally tough guy,” Meyer said of Barrett. “He’s got to play better. We’ve got to play better. And we’ve got to coach better.”

Fourth and two

With Texas and Southern California meeting Saturday for the first time since their epic matchup in the 2005 national championship game won by the Longhorns in the Rose Bowl, it’s fitting to reminisce.

Certainly everyone on the Texas side remembers Vince Young’s game-winning 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds remaining for a 41-38 win. But everyone on the Trojans’ side remembers fourth and 2, the decision made by coach Pete Carroll with 2 minutes, 13 seconds to play to go for the first down from the Texas 45.

LenDale White, a 235-pound fullback, came up short of the first down. If he makes it, USC runs out the clock and there likely are no heroics from Young.

“You try to think of anything and everything that you could do at that point in time or what you could’ve done to change the outcome of the play,” White told the Los Angeles Times, part of a terrific series this week recapping the game by former Inquirer writer Zach Helfand.

In three seasons of competition, White scored 57 touchdowns, the Trojans’ career leader in that department. But he knows people always will associate him with the failed fourth-down play.

“They’ll never forget that,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do to shake that.”

Picking up for Pumphrey

Rashaad Penny stuck around for his senior year at San Diego State because he saw how much Donnel “D.J.” Pumphrey had enjoyed himself the previous season when he rushed for 2,133 yards and set the NCAA FBS career record of 6,405 yards on the ground.

Now the 5-foot-11, 220-yard Penny is having all the fun. He leads the nation in rushing with 413 yards in two games for the Aztecs. Last week, he scored on a 95-yard run, a 99-yard kickoff return and a 33-yard catch, rolling up 353 all-purpose yards.

“Coming back and being the featured guy is what I wanted,” Penny told the Associated Press recently, “just to show the city of San Diego that I can probably do the same things as D.J. did, and maybe even do them better, because that’s something he wanted, me doing it better.”

Passing Iowa

After finishing 118th out of 128 FBS teams in passing offense last year, Iowa has turned its aerial game around. Sophomore quarterback Nate Stanley has thrown for eight touchdowns, tops in the Big Ten, in the Hawkeyes’ 2-0 start. First-year receiver Nick Easley, a junior college transfer, has 11 catches and is the first player in the 19-year era of head coach Kirk Ferentz to have a touchdown catch in each of the first two games. The Hawkeyes open conference play next week hosting Penn State.

Needing some help

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, considered among the top pro prospects in college football, gets another chance to impress NFL scouts Saturday when the Cowboys host Oregon. But he’s going to need a little more assistance from a rushing attack that has averaged 2.1 yards per carry in the first two games. Coach Craig Bohl used words like “unacceptable” and “abysmal” to describe the running game, which ranks 123rd in FBS.

Expatriate of the Week

Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor, a former Salem High School star, rushed for 223 yards in 26 carries and scored three touchdowns in just his second collegiate game last week. The 5-foot-11, 214-pound Taylor became the fourth true freshman in program history to have a 200-yard game, joining Alan Ameche, Zach Brown and fellow South Jersey product Ron Dayne. Taylor scored on runs of 64, 29 and 4 yards. “I think that potentially, he can give us some big plays that we haven’t had a lot of, necessarily, in the running game,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said.

The Inquirer/Daily News Top 10

1. Alabama (2-0)

2. Oklahoma (2-0)

3. Clemson (2-0)

4. Southern California (2-0)

5. Penn State (2-0)

6. Wisconsin (2-0)

7. Oklahoma State (2-0)

8. Ohio State (1-1)

9. Florida State (1-1)

10. Washington (2-0)

Saturday’s Best Games

Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh, noon, ESPN: The Panthers take on a Top 10 opponent for the second straight week with a pass defense near the bottom of FBS in yards allowed per completion (14.39) and per attempt (7.92). Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph is 10th nationally in pass efficiency.

Tennessee at Florida, 3:30 p.m., CBS3: The Volunteers broke an 11-game losing streak to Florida last year and now seek to drop the Gators to 0-2 for the first time since 1971. Florida failed to score an offensive touchdown against Michigan two weeks ago and had last week off to figure it out.

Clemson at Louisville, 8 p.m., 6ABC: This matchup of the 2016 national champion Tigers and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner in Lamar Jackson is as good as it gets. Jackson leads FBS with 1,010 yards of total offense in two games but faces a Clemson defense that had 11 sacks last week against Auburn.

Texas at Southern California, 8:30 p.m., Fox29: The Longhorns won the 2005 national championship the last time they faced the Trojans but their 2017 team isn’t anywhere near that level. USC quarterback Sam Darnold found his rhythm last week against Stanford and that could make it a long day for Texas.

Star Watch

DE Austin Bryant, Clemson, 6-5, 265, Jr., Pavo, Ga.

Bryant tied a program record with four of the Tigers’ 11 sacks in last week’s 14-6 win over No. 13 Auburn. He was part of a defensive effort that limited Auburn to just 117 yards of total offense and no touchdowns, the first time Auburn had been kept out of the end zone in 23 games. Bryant received several national defensive player of the week awards, including one from the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia.