Football: ‘We’re growing’: No. 7 Ohio State taking necessary steps to right the ship

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Ohio State head coach Ryan Day walks onto the field with players for a timeout during the Ohio State-Rutgers game. Ohio State won 52-13. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor

No. 7 Ohio State’s season looked to be in jeopardy after a shocking 35-28 defeat to then-No. 12 Oregon at home during Week 2.

The Buckeyes failed to live up to their lofty expectations against the Ducks, and, in turn, faced harsh criticism from Ohio State and national college football fans alike. In the week following their defeat to the Ducks, the Buckeyes produced yet another disappointing performance in Ohio Stadium, trekking past Tulsa 41-20, a score that did not tell the entire story of the game.

Many across the nation declared head coach Ryan Day’s bunch dead in the water, while the Buckeyes continued to plummet in the AP and Coaches polls.

Now, two-weeks removed from the near-disaster against Tulsa, the Buckeyes have ripped off two dominating wins against Akron and Rutgers with a combined total of 111-20. As Ohio State is finding its rhythm, Day said he’s proud of the strides the Buckeyes have made over the past few weeks.

“Anytime you’re at Ohio State, the expectations are to win every game and they’re very high,” Day said. “I’m proud of the development over the last month. It’s been a little bumpy at times, but guys have come to work every day. The coaching staff has been steady, the leaders have been steady and we’re getting better. We’re growing.”

Prior to Ohio State’s bouts with Akron and Rutgers, the Buckeyes’ young defense struggled to contain opposing offenses.

Ohio State gave up more than 400 yards in each of its first three games, including games in which Oregon and Tulsa eclipsed 500 total yards. The Buckeyes hit rock bottom in Week 3, when they gave up 428 passing yards to Tulsa redshirt junior quarterback Davis Brin — which was by far his largest output of the season.

Against Akron and Rutgers, the Buckeyes held their opponents to under double-digit scoring outputs, while seeing serious improvements on that end.

With young contributors emerging on that end of the ball, Day said he was proud of the way the defense performed against Rutgers — a game in which the Buckeyes held the Scarlet Knights to 346 yards and forced three takeaways.

“The aggressiveness was there. I thought we changed up some looks. I thought we created turnovers,” Day said. “I thought we practiced well during the week and I thought the looks were accurate to what we were seeing. They carried that over to the game well and the execution was done well there.”

The Buckeyes’ progress is not only limited to the defensive side of the ball, but they’ve made several developments on offense to see an increase in its efficiency.

In their first three bouts, Day’s offense struggled to strike a balance between the rushing and passing attacks. Against Oregon and Tulsa, the Buckeyes saw their rushing and passing offenses out of sync — with the rushing offense falling below the 200-yard threshold against the Ducks, and the passing offense producing below that same threshold against the Golden Hurricane.

But against the Zips and Scarlet Knights, both aspects of the offense cleared the 200-yard threshold while the Buckeyes cleared 50 points in back-to-back outings.

“We’re kind of coming into ourselves as offensive players,”  junior offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere said. “We were a younger group and we feel like a really different group from Week 1.”

While Ohio State’s offense and defense are starting to ramp up their production, the Buckeyes were able to put together more complete games against their Weeks 4 and 5 opponents.

Petit-Frere pointed to the program’s culture as a guiding factor in what has been an up-and-down season to this point.

“In terms of us overcoming adversity, that’s always been our motto here. ‘Fight,’ that’s our culture. That’s something we’ve done every day,” Petit-Frere said. “That’s something we’ve always continually tried to do, that’s our culture, that’s what we do here. I think we’ve just improved on that.”

The Buckeyes have completely flipped the script since their Oregon loss, and Day emphasized that they’ve done everything they’ve needed to put their lone blemish behind them.

“When you hit adversity, you have to be really good about the team and making sure that the guys understand that better things are coming,” Day said. “Although it was bumpy there for a little while, we kind of steadied the boat. Hopefully, we’ve got this thing going back to where it needs to go.”

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