Two days after Urban Meyer had few answers in the aftermath of a blowout loss at Iowa, the Ohio State football coach shed some light on a few things that plagued the Buckeyes in Iowa City — and in some cases before.
He also sounded ready to look ahead Saturday’s game vs. No. 13 Michigan State, which will kick off at noon at Ohio Stadium.
Here are five topics Meyer addressed:
1. Nick Bosa told Meyer the hit that got him ejected was not intentional.
Bosa was charged with targeting after his helmet made contact with Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley on a third-down play late in the second quarter.
Although Stanley’s head clearly moved backward because of the contact, he told reporters after the game he didn’t really notice the hit at the time.
“(Bosa) came up, apologized. It was unique,” Meyer said of the hit. “It wasn’t an open-field type thing. He was just lunging at the ball is what he told me. There was no intent is what he told me.”
The call gave Iowa a first down, and Stanley threw a touchdown pass on the next play.
2. Meyer agreed penalties are a concern for the Buckeyes.
The penalty on Bosa was one of nine against Ohio State that were accepted Saturday. That cost the Buckeyes 95 yards, and many of the calls came at crucial times.
“There were a couple of devastating penalties that kept drives alive — and no excuse for them,” Meyer said. “We addressed them, and I can think of two or three right off the top of my head that were drive savers, targeting and just a couple of silly penalties.”
3. J.T. Barrett has been inconsistent as a passer.
A week after having arguably the best game of his career in a stunning win over Penn State, the Ohio State quarterback had one of his worst in Iowa City.
Barrett threw four interceptions — including one that was returned for a touchdown and another that led to a quick score right before the half.
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“He’s been on a nice roll with efficiency, taking care of the football, and that was not normal by him,” Meyer said. “So we watched it closely. Obviously today’s a big day to get going on the next game, but I felt like he forced it, especially right before the half. That was a devastating one. We’re not a sling ‘em type group, we’re a highly efficient throwing team. And he’s been great up to this point.”
4. Barrett had too many carries again.
In repeating a theme from other recent losses, Ohio State’s quarterback ended up running the ball more than the top two running backs.
J.K. Dobbins ran five times for 51 yards while Mike Weber had 27 yards on five carries. Both averaged more yards per carry than Barrett, who gained 63 yards on 14 attempts, including a sack.
“A lot of times when you’re struggling that’s your kind of get-out of-jail-free card,” he said of quarterback runs.
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Scrambles and read-option keepers have a way of escalating the number of quarterback carries.
Regarding the latter, teams have regularly focused on stopping OSU’s running backs if they have a choice.
“That’s exactly what Iowa was doing,” Meyer said. “Those weren’t designed (quarterback) runs, they were going to take the balls out of J.K.’s hands. Those are all things we have to game plan and continue to work and find ways to give hand-offs to the tailback.”
5. Meyer deflected a question about the direction of the program after a third surprising Big Ten loss in as many seasons.
After re-stating the question — “Where’s the program headed?” — he grinned slightly and paused before choosing to focus on this week’s opponent.
“We’re playing Michigan State this week,” Meyer said. “We’ve got to really practice well. Fix the turnover issue on offense. Play a little better on defense. The kicking was much better.”
Two years ago, MSU traveled to Ohio Stadium and beat the Buckeyes despite not having star quarterback Connor Cook.
Last season, a trip to then-unranked Penn State stunned Buckeye Nation in Happy Valley.
Both of those results kept Ohio State out of the Big Ten championship game, but the Buckeyes can avoid that this time around if they win their last three games.