COLUMBUS — Missed tackles, momentum-crushing penalties, a lack of passion … should Urban Meyer go on?
The Ohio State coach didn’t have many nice things to say about his defense after the Buckeyes’ 29-15 win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Saturday afternoon.
The “Silver Bullets” didn’t allow the Blazers to get into the end zone, but they did allow 403 total yards of offense and three scoring drives that ended in field goals.
“I think we seem like a very passive team,” Meyer said. “We’re on defense and we give up little screens, little bubbles … that hurts. I’m pained watching it.
“We’ve got to be more aggressive and play a tighter coverage. We’re really a bend-don’t-break defense, which is painful to watch.”
The biggest culprit for the Buckeyes seems to be missed tackles, which Meyer has referenced after all four games this season, but it may be a coaching philosophy that is causing the players to whiff on the field.
Many times Ohio State players lined up against a UAB ball carrier, then launched themselves with their arms folded in like a missile at the runner.
“We call that shooting our guns,” senior cornerback Travis Howard said. “The coaches always tell us to take a shot, put a big hit on them and try to cause a turnover. They say there will be 10 other guys running to the ball to help out if the hit doesn’t work.”
The hit hasn’t been working, and there’s been a glaring lack of backup for the big hitters.
“The first guy is supposed to go in and take the big shot,” sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “But that has led to missed tackles and we just can’t have that. Missed tackles lead to first downs, to touchdowns, to points.
“I had (a game-high) 13 tackles today but I know I still missed three or four.”
Shazier wasn’t alone.
Senior defensive lineman John Simon had UAB quarterback Jonathan Perry wrapped up for a sack on third down, and Perry escaped to pick up the first down. Howard missed a tackle in every quarter.
Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino twice tried to spin runners to the ground and failed, a move that allowed California’s Brendan Bigelow to run for an 81-yard touchdown last week.
Defensive penalties, especially ones that allow opposing offenses to resume drives that had been stopped, have also been a problem.
Howard ran into UAB punter Hunter Mullins on the opening drive and the Blazers were back in business. Howard later intercepted an Austin Brown pass, only to have the turnover wiped out because sophomore nose tackle Joel Hale was offside.
“It’s frustrating because you know you just stopped them and then a penalty puts them back on the field,” Shazier said. “It’s frustrating to know that a penalty can do that much to change a game.”
The biggest Ohio State offender was junior safety Christian Bryant, who was called for a late hit in the third quarter and then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting a downed opponent in the fourth.
Whether it’s tackling, penalties or coverage, the Buckeyes know they will need a better effort next week in their Big Ten opener against Michigan State.
“When the Big Ten conference starts, everyone seems to get focused,” junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. “We’ll find a way to wrap up and make tackles.”
“It’s like Coach (Luke) Fickell tells us, ‘The next play is the most important one.’”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.