Ohio State Buckeyes: Run game questions come out of win at Nebraska

Ohio State's TreVeyon Henderson (32) rushes against Nebraska's Myles Farmer (4) and Marquel Dismuke (9) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. Ohio State defeated Nebraska 26-17. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)
Caption
Ohio State's TreVeyon Henderson (32) rushes against Nebraska's Myles Farmer (4) and Marquel Dismuke (9) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. Ohio State defeated Nebraska 26-17. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

Credit: Rebecca S. Gratz

Credit: Rebecca S. Gratz

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day was happy to brag about his defense and kicking game after the Buckeyes beat Nebraska 26-17 on Saturday.

He praised C.J. Stroud for his third 400-yard passing game of the season, but he seemed less enthusiastic about answering questions about the Buckeyes’ running game.

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“We always mix it up, and we’re gonna run and pass and call whatever we feel like is the right call at that time,” Day said in response to a question specifically about dialing up a deep shot in the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes were protecting a six-point lead and looking to salt the game away.

Earlier in the drive, the offensive line had finally started to open some holes for TreVeyon Henderson, and he took advantage by picking up 11 yards and then 22.

But on a first down at the Nebraska 34 with under two minutes to play, Day called a play-action pass, and Stroud was not only sacked but fumbled. Had center Luke Wypler not hopped on the ball, Nebraska could have gotten it near midfield with a chance to win the game, but Day seemed unfazed afterward.

“If we have a little bit more protection, there was something coming open there, I thought we had the right coverage and we just didn’t execute it,” Day said. “So we gotta do a better job there.”

Ohio State ended the day with only 90 yards on 30 attempts, a figure that includes two sacks that cost the Buckeyes 20 yards and a pair of kneel-downs at the end.

The rushing total was by far Ohio State’s lowest of the season, 38 less than the Buckeyes managed in a Week 2 loss to Oregon when they had 29 runs and a pair of sacks.

“I will have to go back and look at it and see exactly what it was,” Day said. “I think we can do a better job with the runs. Right now we are not getting as much as we would like on it.”

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In a nine-point win over Penn State a week earlier, Ohio State had a hard time getting the running game going early but still ended up with 161 yards on the ground and an even 50/50 split in runs and passes.

In Lincoln, the Buckeyes only ended up running the ball 33 percent of the time — even less than they did against Oregon (34 percent).

“We will go back and figure that out,” Day said. “When they blitz a lot, there is going to be an extra guy in the box and that opens up opportunities for the pass game, which I thought we did a good job of.

“We just got ourselves out of whack with a couple of penalties. We had the sack. Just a few things in there that were big plays that got us off schedule, which happened a little bit last week, too. So things we just need to make sure we are on top of. I think we are moving the ball. I think we are doing a good job that way. We are just not clean in some areas, but anytime we are talking about this after a nine-point win on the road, that is a good thing.”

The Buckeyes had not been held below 100 yards rushing since managing just 76 at Purdue in 2018, the last time Ohio State lost to a Big Ten opponent.

Ironically, the Boilermakers are next on the schedule this year.

They rank 61st in the nation in run defense (Nebraska entered last week 49th) and gave up 182 yards Saturday during a 40-29 upset of then-No. 3 Michigan State.

“The run game hasn’t been what it’s been earlier in the season,” Wypler said. “I think as a unit, we understand that every game the ball’s gonna try to be run behind us, and we gotta get movement and get some yards per carry. So at the end of the day, we didn’t probably play our best, but we know now going into this week what we gotta improve on.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Purdue at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., ABC, 1410

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