College football: Ohio State ‘can do better’ with run game

COLUMBUS — Ohio State has struggled to run the football in its last three games, so it was no surprise that was something Ryan Day spent a significant amount of time talking about in his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

OSU ran for only 66 yards in a 54-10 win over Iowa, for 98 yards in a 44-31 win over Penn State and a hard-earned 207 yards in last Saturday’s 21-7 win over Northwestern in its last three games. The 207 yards against Northwestern might be less impressive than it appears, though, because it included a career-best 79 yards rushing by quarterback C.J. Stroud.

The Buckeyes’ offensive line’s run blocking has been the target of much criticism for the malaise in the ground game, but Day says every area of the offense needs to do better.

“I think we all need to do better. Going back and watching the film, we have to block better, we have to run better, we have to try to do a better job of equating the numbers, all of the above. In games where they know you’re going to run it, you have to come up with answers.

“We know we can do better. We’ll get back to work this week and get after it,” he said.

Indiana, which will come into Ohio Stadium for a noon game on Saturday, looks like an opponent which will offer OSU plenty of opportunities to do better.

The Hoosiers (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) have lost six games in a row and are in last place in the Big Ten East Division. Ohio State (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) is still on schedule to play for a trip to the Big Ten championship game if everything goes right the next three weeks.

Strong winds that topped out at slightly over 50 miles an hour made throwing the football nearly impossible at Northwestern last Saturday. So, Northwestern’s defense focused on stopping OSU’s running backs, which explains adding called running plays by the quarterback to the offense.

“I think C.J., embraced it. You could see what he can do. It can be a weapon for us going forward. Maybe we found a little something there,” Day said.

“But at the end of the day our running backs have to run, our line has to block, the tight end has to block, the receivers have to be a part of it. Everyone has to be involved. And we have to execute better.”

When asked if changes on the offensive line might be considered, Day said there won’t be any departure right now from the season-long starting lineup of Luke Wypler at center, Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones at the guards and Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones at the tackles.

“We’re always looking at that. If there is a better guy or two we can put on the field, we’ll do that. Right now we feel like we’re playing the best five,” he said.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to go out and run the ball. There’s going to be conditions, there’s going to be bumps and bruises and injuries but we’ve got to go out there and produce. That’s the bottom line. “We’ve got to come out and play a little better early in the game. That’s a focus this week.”

Some other thoughts from Day:

• New kind of film study: When Ohio State’s coaches saw the weather forecasts for last week’s game at Northwestern they watched films of games which had been played in strong winds in the past, Day said.

“You looked at your phone and saw 30-miles per hour winds, 40-miles per hour winds and thought, ‘It will be good, it will be all right. We’ll figure it out.’ But what if it isn’t?” he said.

“We went back and watched the Patriots play the Bills in the “Wind Bowl” (a game last season in which New England threw only three passes and won).

“We went back and tried to find all the wind games in the NFL in the last couple years. We watched the Browns playing the Raiders in 2020 up there (in Cleveland) and it was like 30-miles an hour winds and we tried to figure out if this happens like this, what do we do? We didn’t have a lot of answers because there wasn’t a lot going on in those games.”

• Confident team: Day said OSU’s fourth-quarter comeback at Penn State and coming from behind against Northwestern built confidence in the Buckeyes.

“I think our guys are very confident right now. There are not too many teams that are undefeated across the country and have won games in the fourth quarter like we have. I think our guys believe we can get the game into the fourth quarter and win the game in the fourth quarter. That’s an example of toughness.

“Is everything perfect? No, it’s a journey, it’s a process. You are constantly challenging guys to get better in certain areas but you’re seeing a lot of great things out there,” he said.

• Michigan question: When Day was asked if Ohio State prepares for the Michigan game throughout the year, he said, “What we say around here is we’re living it every day. We’re focused on beating Indiana this week. But the way we approach it is we’re working on it every day of the year.”

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.