COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Ohio State, the best offense is a good defense.
The Buckeyes averaged 56.7 points per game over their first three contests of the season. It was an impressive showing, to be sure, but it came over a stretch in which the defense forced 11 turnovers. Four of those turnovers were defensive touchdowns, and the team as a whole scored 52 points off turnovers. That number was essentially one-third of the team’s points in nonconference play.
The offense has been less successful in Big Ten play. Aside from a 58-point outburst against hapless Rutgers — ironically the only game Ohio State hasn’t forced a turnover this season — the scoring totals have dropped off in Big Ten play. The offense will always shoulder that responsibility, but numbers indicate the defense is at least partly to blame.
After forcing 11 turnovers in three games, the Buckeyes have created just five over the next five games. The team scored 52 points off turnovers in three nonconference games but just 20 points off turnovers in three Big Ten games. The offense’s points on drives that didn’t start with a turnover haven’t dramatically shifted throughout the season.
|Opponent||OSU points|| |
|at Wisconsin||30 (OT)||1||7||23|
|at Penn State||21||1||3||18|
That brings to light two issues. First, the defense clearly has dropped off from its impressive early play. Just as importantly, however, the Silver Bullets’ scorching start might have been disguising some offensive holes
So what’s up with the defensive drop-off? According to the players, it’s a matter of offenses taking fewer chances and figuring out what to avoid.
“A big part of that is the way teams have been playing us,” Buckeyes linebacker Chris Worley said. “When you’ve got guys out there making plays like that, a lot of teams are going to be more cautious about how they attack certain guys or how they attack the defense in general.”
The offense often points to the same reasoning when asked why it’s not scoring as much. And it’s true that opposing defenses have adjusted to the Buckeyes throughout the season. In reality, though, they’ve performed fairly consistently since the season opener. The turnovers just aren’t there any more, and neither are the points off turnovers.