By Mitch Stacy
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — With a Saturday night game against No. 8 Wisconsin looming, the Ohio State Buckeyes are trying to figure out why their usually dynamic aerial attack is suddenly sputtering.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled finding open receivers and then getting the ball to them in Saturday’s 38-17 win over Indiana, completing just nine passes in 21 attempts for 93 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Often the Buckeyes resorted to Barrett tucking the ball and running. He did so a career high 26 times, picking up 137 yards and a touchdown. As far as coach Urban Meyer is concerned, that’s too many hits for the team’s best player.
“That’s going to be worked on extremely hard,” Meyer said Monday. “It’s a combination, it wasn’t one issue but several. Either it’s a misfire, not a well-executed pattern or a dropped ball. We just have to do much better.”
Barrett blamed it on not being able to get everyone on the same page for every play.
“We were in some good plays sometimes, and whether it (was) me messing up on an assignment or a read, or a receiver messing up or the O-line messing up, we just weren’t clicking on all cylinders on all units on offense at times,” a subdued Barrett said Monday. “We played poorly because we didn’t play with great fundamentals.”
Ohio State may be the one of the few places where there is hand-wringing after a three-touchdown win, but that’s the way it is in Columbus. After the game Meyer called the passing failures “alarming,” but he said Monday that might have been an overreaction. And he said some adversity can make players work even harder.
“I think urgency is always good, absolutely,” he said. “Lou Holtz would (say), and it’s forever branded on my heart: You don’t attack a team when you lose a game. You attack them when you win the game (and) it’ll play well. So we’re attacking, and there’s urgency.”
DEFENSE SHINES: Meyer called out eight defensive players as earning the highest grades against Indiana, which was held to just 99 yards on the ground. The defense made two critical stops on fourth down, one in the fourth quarter when Nick Bosa, Michael Hill and others stopped Indiana’s Devine Redding on the Ohio State 4-yard line following a Barrett interception.
The Buckeyes rank second in the FBS in scoring defense, allowing 10.8 points per game, and are the only FBS team to have not allowed a rushing touchdown yet this season. Ohio State is fourth in the country in turnover margin (+8) with 12 turnovers caused against four surrendered. Safety Malik Hooker’s four interceptions tie him for most in the country.
PARRIS RISING: Wide receiver Parris Campbell is getting Meyer’s attention as a special teams standout. Campbell broke a 92-yard kickoff return that turned into an Ohio State touchdown after Indiana had scored to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 17-10 with 1:03 left in the first half.
“Parris Campbell is as valuable a guy as there is on the team right now,” Meyer said. “He had a 92-yard kickoff return, he’s all over the place as far as what we ask him to do.”