COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State hasn’t started well this season. It also hasn’t mattered.
The first quarter has been by far the worst offensive period for the Buckeyes, who rank No. 4 nationally in scoring offense with 49.3 points per game but have scored just 50 points in the first quarter over six games. Those struggles have popped up throughout the season but have been especially noticeable in Big Ten play. Over three conference games, the Buckeyes have exited the first 15 minutes leading Rutgers 6-0, tied 3-3 with Indiana and trailing Wisconsin by a 10-3 margin.
None of this has been enough to worry head coach Urban Meyer, mind you.
“I really haven’t thought about it,” he said. “I think we started slow. The whole team was kind of slow this week, and a lot of it’s who you play. To answer your question, I haven’t thought much about it.”
Ohio State first quarter drives vs. Big Ten opponents
|Opponent||Start||Plays-Yards Gained||Final Result|
|Rutgers||OSU 30||8-54||Field Goal|
|Indiana||OSU 29||10-51||Field Goal|
|Wisconsin||OSU 25||11-67||Field Goal|
The fifth-year Ohio State coach said sacks can turn into drive killers and noted that turnovers also help make for a disappointing quarter, and he’s not wrong. Two of Ohio State’s 11 first-quarter drives in Big Ten play ended in turnovers – an interception against Rutgers and a fumble against Indiana – which is more than have ended in touchdowns.
Against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes took a sack on their first drive and a 15-yard penalty on their fourth, both of which directly led to punts.
The biggest challenge for Ohio State on Saturday will be finding a way to operate in front of one of the loudest crowds in the country.
“We have to be up to the challenge,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “We’re going to get their ‘A’ game. That’s a tough place to play. They have a good football team that’s won some games, and they’re ready for us. They’ve had two weeks off to get ready. We’ve got to be at our best. Their crowd is big and loud and it’s one of the hardest environments to play in.”
In addition to simply trying to run their offense in front of a raucous crowd, the Buckeyes will also be trying to make sure the crowd doesn’t take the volume up to 11. If that means a more conservative game plan at the start, so be it.
“On the road, the way to incite a stadium is to turn the ball over or have a sack,” Meyer said. “We try to weather the storm early. Remember, this is a marathon. We try to jump out early, but we’re going to do what we have to do to calm the crowd.”