“We will become a good passing team,” Meyer said after a 31-0 loss to the Tigers, his first shutout as a head coach. “We will. Next year.”
By Michael Donovan
Last night in losing to Clemson 31-0, Ohio State averaged 3.8 yards per passing attempt. To put that in perspective, the team with the worst yards-per-attempt mark in the FBS this season, Rutgers, averaged 5.0!
Quarterback J.T. Barrett’s longest completion was 21 yards, he had another for 18, one for 16, and the next best went for nine. His longest pass that was caught went for 33 yards, but it ended up in the hands of Clemson safety Van Smith at the Tigers goal line.
And it wasn’t like Ohio State (11-2) wasn’t trying to throw. Two-thirds of its first-half play calls were passes – something Meyer said “was not the game plan” – and it looked deep repeatedly in the third quarter when it trailed 24-0.
“On offense, I truly believe that we got the best looks we could,” Barrett said. “I thought we had good plays. We just didn’t execute those plays, and that’s what happens.”
It happened frequently in 2016. Ohio State completed 46% of its pass attempts in the regular season’s final two games, with a yards-per-attempt average of 3.9. The Buckeyes passed for seven touchdowns in wins against Nebraska and Maryland on Nov. 5 and 12, but only had one after that.
Wide receiver Parris Campbell said he can’t pinpoint what went awry with the Buckeyes’ downfield passing game, that there is a series of issues. “If you don’t have anybody who can go vertical,” he said, “defenses can just sit on routes and then we don’t have any opportunity to open up our offense.
“We definitely make plays in practice, but practice is way different than a game. You have to make those plays when you are on the big stage.”
Ohio State virtually owns a place on college football’s biggest stage. It has made two of three playoffs and entered last night as the only team with a perfect record in the event. But even with as many as 19 starters returning in 2017, it could struggle to get back there without changes. Meyer recognizes that, which is why he promised “a hard look at some things” upon the team’s return to Columbus.
“I think we have a bunch of good players, a bunch of good guys,” Meyer said. “And our anticipation is to get back here next year and take a good swing at it.
“Ohio State is not used to this. I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”