Ohio State football: Short-yardage problems persist for Buckeyes

COLUMBUS -- On the surface, Ohio State’s running game looks to be in solid shape entering the last quarter of the regular season.

The Buckeyes are averaging 193.2 yards per game on the ground, up from 180 last year.

They average 5.45 yards per carry, ranking 15th in the nation.

The offensive line is No. 5 nationally in Football Outsiders “average line yards,” a metric that uses success rate on runs in an attempt to isolate the job the line did to make room for the running back.

And as for rushing success rate (percent of first down runs that gain four yards, second-down runs that gain half the yards to gain for a first down and third and fourth down runs that gain all the yards needed for a first down) itself, Ohio State is No. 2 behind Oregon.

Yet head coach Ryan Day said Tuesday he has concerns about how the Buckeyes are running the ball at this point in the season despite finishing with 207 yards on 35 carries last weekend at Northwestern.

“Especially in a game like that where they’re all down in there and asked to do their part to equate numbers,” Day said of a Wildcats defense that played its safeties shallow. “So that’s something we’ll just keep looking at and try to make sure we have the right stuff in and then and then holding everybody accountable to do their job and that’s coaches, players — everybody.”

Ohio State’s season rushing success rate is 56.3, but the Buckeyes have come in below 50 percent in each of their last three games.

Moreover, the short-yardage offense has been a sore spot, especially the last three games. On the season, the Buckeyes are 105th in “Power Success Rate,” which measures success on third- and fourth-and-short, and they were stuffed multiple times in third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 Saturday.

“Of all the things that I was disappointed with on Saturday, short yardage was the one that was high on the list,” Day said. “We’ve got to convert those situations.”

He cited multiple issues with the failures from play to play.

“We didn’t quite get the movement we wanted to, and we didn’t quite enter the blocks the right way,” Day said. “You’ll see a couple of them where we just we’re not flush on the blocks. And then there’s one scheme that we probably could have done a better job with, but overall, it was just they were down in there and we weren’t getting enough movement.

“We gotta get our pads down lower. We got to fit those blocks a little bit better, and then there’s a couple of times we could get into better plays. So I think, again, it’s not just one person that made a mistake because there was multiple ones who didn’t convert.”

Overall, the point of playing offense is to score points, and the Buckeyes have continued to do that.

They hung 54 on Iowa and 44 on Penn State (with a defensive touchdown in each game) before settling for 21 on a windy day at Northwestern.

Day’s desire to have a balanced offense does not mean the Buckeyes must run and pass the same number of times per game, either.

If one is setting up the other, then both facets are doing their job even if only one is featured in a given game.

Early in the season, Ohio State’s dangerous passing game was causing teams to invite the Buckeyes to run more, and they did.

Their last three opponents have been more interested in stopping the run first, a strategy that still yielded multiple explosive passing plays for Ohio State against Iowa and Penn State before being more effective last week at Northwestern with the benefit of a strong wind.

“Our expectation is to score every time we have the ball, so if you’re looking at it like that, no, it’s not good enough and we need to be better,” Day said. “Certainly the O-line is a big part of that, but the running backs are, too. The tight ends, the wide receivers the quarterback — everyone’s involved in the run game.”


Indiana at Ohio State, Noon, Fox, 1410

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