COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State has had its share of issues, but one in particular just won’t die.
For what felt like the 50th press conference in a row (it was more like the fifth), Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was asked about the Buckeyes’ deep passing threat. Or, more specifically, its lack thereof.
The longest pass of the day from quarterback J.T. Barrett was a 34-yarder to redshirt freshman K.J. Hill. It was the only one all day from Barrett that gained 20 or more yards. Here, in chronological order, are the yards gained on his 21 completions: 3, 7, 15, 15, 15, 11, 6, 8, 9, 9, 13, 13, 1, 4, 4, 3, 19, 9, 9, 34, 16. So when the time came to speak to Meyer after the 24-20 win against Northwestern, the question naturally arose again.
“It’s a combination (of things), and we’re not hitting it,” Meyer said. “I don’t know if we’re separating. I see the same thing everyone else that watches us. And I just think we’re going to get that figured out.”
Part of the answer may have arrived Saturday night against the Wildcats. With the game tied at 17 and the Buckeyes looking to break the deadlock, Barrett found Hill wide open on the sideline after faking a handoff to H-back Curtis Samuel. Two plays later, the Buckeyes scored the decisive touchdown.
Hill said he knew he would be wide open when he heard the play call, and he was — almost unbelievably so. In that sense, it’s fair to point out that perhaps any wide receiver on the roster could have made that play. But it wasn’t Terry McLaurin or Parris Campbell or James Clark who made the play that helped ice the game. It was Hill.
“Finally, we were able to get a big play on them,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said.
Hill has shown in the past that he has the skill set to be a big-play wide receiver. He scored the first touchdown of the season on a 47-yard strike. That play remains the second-longest completion from Barrett this year. Furthermore, it traveled much further in the air than Samuel’s 79-yard reception that included at 70 yards of running.
Of Ohio State’s 15 players to record a reception this season, only five have hauled in a catch that went for 30 or more yards. Hill, who has played somewhat sparingly, has catches of 47 and 34 yards among his four receptions. If the Buckeyes want a solution to beating defensive backs that are playing deep, they should consider looking in Hill’s direction more often.
After they did so on Saturday, they celebrated a win.