By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS — The lack of production by Ohio State’s offense bothered Urban Meyer. The turnovers bothered him.
But something else concerned him maybe just as much when he reviewed the struggles of OSU’s offense the last two games. He saw the Buckeyes playing tentatively on offense.
The defense, the special teams and everyone else was playing with the aggressiveness he expected. But he didn’t see it from the offense.
The hunter looked it was being hunted. And that has to change, Meyer said at his weekly press conference on Monday.
“We’re playing defense on offense right now, and it’s not working. So we’re going to take a more aggressive approach to how we go about our business,” he said.
“On offense right now, for a variety of reasons, we’re sitting back and we’re not going to do that anymore. We recruit players to have explosive plays. We give them opportunities to have explosive plays and over the last several years for the majority, they made them.
“We’re not doing that right now, so that’s a high, high emphasis,” he said, looking ahead to Saturday’s game against Western Michigan at Ohio Stadium.
No. 1 Ohio State’s offense scored only one touchdown in a 20-13 win over Northern Illinois last Saturday and was held to 298 yards total offense. The week before, it scored only 17 points in the first 3 ½ quarters before exploding for three touchdowns in the final nine minutes of a 38-0 win over Hawaii.
When Ohio State’s coaches graded the films of the Northern Illinois game, 10 of the 11 defensive starters met or exceeded the level required to be labeled a champion for the game. No one on offense did.
“It was a bunch of different things. We didn’t play well. It’s not the quarterback. It’s not the offensive line. We have to play better,” Meyer said. “If you look historically, what Ohio State offense is for us, it’s control the line of scrimmage, the best perimeter blocking in America and a very good, solid play-action passing attack. That’s not what’s going on, so we’re going to get that fixed.”
The most often suggested fix from the outside would be to resolve the quarterback situation by giving either Cardale Jones, the starter in the first three games, or last year’s starter, J.T. Barrett, the keys to the offense for the entire game.
While Meyer said he does not know yet if Jones will start on Saturday, he said it is possible both will play again, as they have in OSU’s first three games.
“There is not one who has beaten out the other and they’re not playing well,” he said.
He also said it is incorrect to say he hasn’t chosen a quarterback.
“Let’s be clear. I did go with one guy. The guy (Jones) didn’t perform well, so we went with the back-up. There is no set thing saying that we’re a two-quarterback system, we’re not. The back-up is a very good player, whomever that may be,” Meyer said.
“I expect a much better performance Saturday from our guys. I wish we could play tomorrow,” he said.
— TOO MANY TURNOVERS: Meyer called Ohio State’s five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles) against Northern Illinois “absolutely inexcusable.”
Jones threw two interceptions before he was replaced early in the second quarter by Barrett, who threw another interception.
Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel lost fumbles.
—ELLIOTT’S WORKLOAD: Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 27 times against Northern Illinois and 23 times against Hawaii, but there have been questions if he is being used enough
Running backs coach Tony Alford says he doesn’t understand why those questions are being asked.
“I don’t think we came in with a target that he had to carry so many times. We’re going to do what we have to do to win football games. He’s doing fine. If someone says he isn’t carrying enough, I can’t answer that.”
—WEBER UPDATE: Freshman running back Mike Weber will not make his debut this week.
Weber had surgery for a torn meniscus during preseason camp. Last Monday, Meyer said he might play against Northern Illinois but later in the week said he would not play.
—MORE PLAYING TIME: Defensive back Damon Webb, who was suspended indefinitely last Saturday, was the player who went into the game in situations where Ohio State played five defensive backs.
His suspension means that Cameron Burrows and Marshon Lattimore will get more playing time when OSU uses five defensive backs.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.