October 23, 2012

Week 8: Evaluating the Buckeyes' offense

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After two weeks of averaging 50.5 points in wins over Nebraska and Indiana, Urban Meyer's fist Ohio State offense came back to earth a bit on Saturday, needing every one of the 29 points that the Buckeyes scored in their overtime win against Purdue. With no OSU offensive players grading out with 'champion' performances for their efforts against the Boilermakers, the Buckeyes will look to get back on track this weekend, when they travel to Happy Valley, Pa. for a matchup against 5-2 Penn State.



With help from players and coaches alike, here's a look at where the Buckeyes' offense stands by position, heading into its meeting with the Nittany Lions.



Quarterback



The Buckeyes saw their undefeated season flash before their eyes on Saturday, when a 37-yard carry by Braxton Miller resulted in the Heisman hopeful being carted off the field and rushed to the hospital with an apparent head injury. Meyer admitted that the absence of his best player would change the complex of OSU's remaining four games, but was relieved to hear that Miller will be practicing with the Buckeyes this week and is expected to play against Penn State on Saturday.



"The first thing is, Braxton, are you okay? Then I saw that he was," Meyer said. "Then I thought one thing about the old right-hander now, he's been pretty successful when he goes in there."


That "old right-hander" Meyer referred to is backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, who helped lead the Buckeyes on a 61-yard game-tying drive in the final minute of regulation, despite a sloppy start that saw his first three series' at the helm of the OSU offense result in a missed field goal, a safety, and an interception, respectively.


"At the beginning, it's nerve racking," Guiton said. "After a while, once I calmed down, it started to be fun. I started having fun, it started slowing down again to me."



Running back


The OSU rushing attack wasn't as dominant as it had been in the two weeks prior to the Purdue game, where the Buckeyes rushed for an average of 363 yards on the ground against the Huskers and Hoosiers. Still, running back Carlos Hyde gained 91 yards on the ground against the Boilermakers, in addition to two touchdowns- one of which proved the be the game-winning score on Saturday.



Hyde's performance was especially impressive given the absence of fellow playmakers Miller and Corey Brown for OSU's fourth quarter comeback.



"That was hard for us too but it showed we have guys who can step up," Hyde said. "We all prepare during the week to play."



With Penn State possessing two of the conference's top defensive players in its front-seven in defensive tackle Jordan Hill and linebacker Michael Mauti, don't expect this weekend to be any easier on the OSU rushing attack.



"They're playing really good defense. Really good," OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "They will be the best defense that we have played so far this year."



Wide receiver



With Brown out with an apparent head injury, the Buckeyes needed another receiver to step up opposite Devin Smith, and that player wound up being redshirt junior Chris Fields. The seldom used reserve played the best game of his Ohio State career, hauling in 44 yards on three receptions, one of which proved to be for the game-tying touchdown.



After the game, Fields was confident that he'll be able to keep contributing to the Buckeyes' receiving corps moving forward.



"It's very special, man. I want to thank God for the opportunity. He kept me positive and I always push myself each practice and tell myself that my opportunity will come, my moment will come," Fields said. "My opportunity doesn't stop here, I'm gonna keep on working."



While he may have only been responsible for one 17-yard reception on Saturday, Meyer praised the play of wide receiver Jake Stoneburner, who he believes has turned things around after a subpar start to the season.



"He played his tail off and he has the last two weeks. We had a come to you know what meeting because he wasn't playing well. He was playing okay," Meyer said. "He played okay, but okay is not good enough for a guy like that. The last game he played lights out and today he played great."




Offensive line



After allowing two sacks and falling 98 yards short of the 250 rushing yards that Meyer lists as a goal each week, the Buckeyes' offensive line was without a champion performer this week after perhaps its least impressive performance in over a month. OSU center Corey Linsley, however, gave credit to the Purdue defensive line, which features NFL draft prospect Kawann Short and is one of the more talented units in the Big Ten.



"All of them, across the board, you can't say any of them aren't really good players. I think that's the strength of their team, really," Linsley said. "Year in and year out, look at the guys they have in the NFL. It shows why they give us some trouble."



Another battle the OSU offensive line lost on Saturday came with the coaching staff, when the unit pleaded with Meyer and Herman to attempt a rush on what would prove to be a game-tying two-point conversion, but were overruled by Herman in favor of a delayed pass to tight end Jeff Heuerman.



"I was all for running the ball, but I knew the play the players wanted to run wasn't going to work," Linsley said. "The play the coaches called, you can't defend it. We had them on the ropes."






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