Big Ten notes: Meyer explains OSU’s ‘struggles’ in win; Stat of the week and more

Big Ten notes: Meyer explains OSU’s ‘struggles’ in win; Stat of the week and more
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

Oh, how nice it would be to suffer from the first-world football problems currently “ailing” second-ranked Ohio State, which hosts No. 10 Nebraska on Nov. 5.

OSU Nation is grumpy that it took darn near the whole game to subdue Indiana last week 38-17. The Buckeyes needed a 91-yard kickoff return to build a 14-point lead at halftime. Then they needed a goal-line stand early in the third quarter to prevent the Hoosiers from closing within a touchdown.

Ohio State played it safe from there to remain undefeated, something coach Urban Meyer felt he had to explain.

“We’re playing very good defense,” he said at his weekly press conference. “We have the best punter in America. I know it’s not what everybody likes. I don’t like it, but let’s get out of that thing with a win and move forward and get better.”

The immediate concern is whether Indiana, with its defensive game plan, exposed a bit of a glitch in Ohio State’s offense.

The Hoosiers loaded up to stop the standard run game, forcing Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett to throw. Normally, that’s no issue because Barrett, entering the game, was a 68.6 percent passer with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.

But on this day, Barrett completed just 9 of 21 passes for 93 yards with an interception.

So he started to run, and Indiana struggled to stop him. Barrett carried 26 times for 137 yards and a touchdown. But Meyer’s blood pressure wasn’t helped by seeing his star quarterback take that many hits.

“It’s part of playing quarterback in this offense,” Meyer said. “You’re one of the best players in the country. We’re going to play you and use you and do what you do well.

“We’re aware of (the wear and tear) and have to get somewhat intelligent about how we do it. But we have to go win the game.”

More wear and tear lies directly ahead on Ohio State’s schedule as the Buckeyes play back-to-back night road games against opponents coming off a bye week: No. 8 Wisconsin this week and Penn State the next.

Wisconsin is fourth nationally in scoring defense, sixth in rushing defense and 11th in total defense, all while changing coordinators and playing without three starters sidelined by injury.

“It’s amazing that they’ve had coach transition,” Meyer said. “They’ve changed coordinators and it’s a very similar defense. It’s Wisconsin’s defense.

“I like that. I like the fact that we change coordinators on offense, it’s Ohio State’s offense. So at Wisconsin, you’ve got to give the leadership a lot of credit. It’s one of the best teams in America.”

Stat of the week

After three Big Ten games, Rutgers has the same number of punts as first downs (32).

Players of the week

Offense: Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley. The sophomore from Coplay, Pennsylvania, carried 31 times for a career-high 202 yards in a win over Maryland.

Defense: Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith. The junior from Winfield, Pennsylvania, had a career-high 14 tackles and an interception in a win over Maryland.

Special teams: Purdue kicker J.D. Dellinger. The freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina, converted 2 of 2 field goals — including the overtime winner — against Illinois.

Freshman: Purdue tailback Brian Lankford-Johnson. The St. Paul, Minnesota, product ran 18 times for 127 yards and a touchdown in a win over Illinois.

Bits and pieces

» Ohio State is the lone FBS team yet to allow a rushing touchdown.

» Iowa has won eight straight road games entering Saturday’s game at Purdue.

» Two Big Ten players are ranked No. 1 nationally in an individual statistics category. Illinois defensive end Carroll Phillips averages 2.2 tackles for loss per game. Ohio State cornerback Malik Hooker averages 0.8 interceptions.