COLUMBUS — Nothing is ever automatic in college football, but for years it’s felt that way for Ohio State when it came to converting in pressure situations.
Need a tough yard or two to move the chains? Not a problem for the Buckeyes on short-yardage downs.
Time to convert a productive drive into a touchdown? Ohio State had the red-zone attack capable of producing with consistency.
But now both areas have become an undeniable weakness for the Buckeyes that was arguably the primary culprit in the upset loss last week at Purdue. And it’s bizarre to see an Urban Meyer program struggle so mightily at something that has long been a strength of his teams.
“The glaring shortcomings that we have were exposed,” Meyer said after the game. “No. 1 off the top of my head is red-zone offense. Go down there three times … youâ€™ve got to score points. Weâ€™ve never had this issue, so weâ€™re going to do a real thorough evaluation of that and the big plays on defense.
“I thought we were going to come out here and play our tails off. I think we had opportunities to get right back in it, and every time you thought we were going to swing and get back in it, you didnâ€™t score in the red zone.”
The Buckeyes again moved the football into that area efficiently thanks to the dynamic passing attack, but it stalled out short of the end zone on all four trips inside the 20-yard line. And heading into the final month of the regular season, Ohio State ranks No. 13 in the Big Ten in red-zone offense — ahead of only Rutgers thanks to its 76-percent success rate.
Ohio State was forced to kick three field goals, missing once, and it also was stonewalled on another trip when a fourth-and-2 pass fell incomplete after the ground game failed to get any traction on earlier downs.
What has happened to the Buckeyes in those key scenarios? Former Ohio State standout Zach Boren returned for another visit to the Lettermen Row film lab to look at both how Purdue was defending the Buckeyes in the red zone and what could be done differently to attack in that compressed part of the field. Like his previous BuckIQ episode this week, Boren provides both incredible insight and an abundance of passion to the breakdown as Ohio State tries to get the errors fixed during the off date.
Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward contributed the editorial content for this post.