More questions than answers for Buckeyes
COLUMBUS — Two days after Ohio State’s stunning beat-down by unranked Iowa, coach Urban Meyer still didn’t have much to say publicly about how and why it happened. It’s possible he doesn’t have the answers.
Ohio State was outcoached, out-schemed and outplayed at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday as the then-No. 3 Buckeyes watched their national championship hopes dissipate amid a chaotic storm of turnovers, penalties and panic. The 55-24 loss marked the most points ever scored against a Meyer-coached team.
Saturday’s loss came a week after an exhilarating 39-38 win over Penn State put the Buckeyes back in the hunt for the College Football Playoff and thrust quarterback J.T, Barrett into the Heisman Trophy conversation. All that came crashing down in Iowa City.
At his news conference on Monday, Meyer shrugged off questions about play calling, player discipline and other weak links.
“I think Iowa played well, and we didn’t play very well,” he said, noting that everything is being evaluated.
“The question you have to ask is why. Not so much how, but why did it happen?” he said. “Are we not practicing (efficiently)? Do we have the right people playing? All those types of things.”
Barrett followed up what was perhaps his most heroic collegiate game against Penn State with one of his worst. He was 18 for 34 for 208 yards and threw three touchdown passes but was intercepted four times — including a pick-six by Iowa safety Amani Hooker on the first play from scrimmage.
Barrett didn’t talk to reporters after the game, and Meyer said Monday he hadn’t talked to his quarterback about everything that went wrong.
“He’s been on a nice roll with efficiency, taking care of the football,” Meyer said. “That was not normal by him, so we are watching it closely. I felt like he forced it, especially right before the half.”
Meyer said he felt Ohio State still had control of the game when it was tied 17-17 in the second quarter. Then defensive end Nick Bosa was kicked out of the game for targeting. Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley took advantage, tossing a 25-yard TD pass to tight end Noah Fant. Barrett threw into double coverage and was picked off again on the next series, and the rout was on.
“A bunch of three-and-outs, and (the defense) couldn’t get off the field,” Meyer said. “Then you start panicking on the offense, and that’s not good for anybody.”
Ohio State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten) plummeted from No. 3 to No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll and will be out of striking distance when the College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday. The Buckeyes are tied with No. 13 Michigan State atop the Big Ten East with the Spartans visiting Ohio Stadium on Saturday. Wins over Michigan State (7-2, 5-1) and Michigan would put the Buckeyes in the conference championship game, likely against No. 6 Wisconsin.
But will a Big Ten championship be enough for the Buckeyes to play for now that a national title is off the table?
“I think the theme of the week is going to be accountability,” center Billy Price said after the game.
“We’re still in the driver seat for this right now,” he said. “That is first and foremost — our goal is to win the Big Ten East.”
Defensive end Tyquan Lewis, the only other player to talk to the media after the game, looked shell-shocked. He acknowledged after that he didn’t know what happened and was embarrassed.
The Buckeyes will try to get it fixed.
“It’s not going to be some speech I give to the team,” Meyer said. “It’s a process, it’s a journey that we’re on, and there are plenty of great things ahead.”