Through three games, the Ohio State football team’s offense has posted more than 30 points twice, but was held to just 21 in its other matchup.
Since that Sept. 6 game against Virginia Tech, coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have been preparing for another team to come out in a similar defense to the Hokies, and the wait might be over just three weeks later.
Virginia Tech’s bear defense often featured a cover zero look with no supporting safety, which Meyer said could be on the books against the Bearcats on Saturday.
“They are playing zero coverage and bringing pressure, and we struggled with the one team that did that a lot,” he said Wednesday. “So we’ve got to be ready for that.”
Redshirt-junior tight end Nick Vannett said OSU was taken by surprise against the Hokies, and the Buckeyes have been preparing to prevent future surprise since.
“Ever since the Virginia Tech game, we really didn’t expect them to do that to us,” he said Wednesday. “Ever since then we want to expect that teams are going to come out and do that to us, just prepare for that just in case.”
Against the Hokies, OSU totaled 327 yards — including just 108 on the ground — and found the end zone just three times while punting six times. In their other two games, the Buckeyes averaged 50 points and 524 total yards. Three of redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett’s five interceptions on the season came against Virginia Tech, as did seven of the eight sacks given up by his offensive line.
In OSU’s 66-0 win against Kent State one week after the matchup with the Hokies, Barrett was not sacked, and the Buckeyes were forced to punt just twice.
The Golden Flashes attempted to run a similar defensive look to Virginia Tech, but changed strategies early in the blowout.
The key to the bear defense is bringing as much pressure as possible, something Vannett said OSU has a plan for if it happens again against the Bearcats.
“If they bring more than we can handle, we just got to get the ball out quick, and into the hands of our playmakers, because they make plays,” he said.
Bringing a heavy attack against the offensive line is something junior offensive lineman Jacoby Boren — who is working back from a high ankle sprain — said OSU can and must be ready for against Cincinnati.
“Expect them to be tough, they look like they can bring it on defense,” Boren said Wednesday. “They do a lot of great stuff, they bring some pressure too.”
As the Buckeyes prepare for a heavy Bearcat attack on defense, they are also preparing for a Cincinnati offense that has posted 89 points through the first two games of its season. In those two games, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel has thrown for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Aside from the Virginia Tech game, OSU has been able to move the ball with ease, meaning a matchup between two high-powered offenses could be on the horizon.
Despite the possibility of a high-scoring shootout, Meyer said he isn’t approaching the matchup with that in mind.
“You just prepare offensively and defensively and manage the game how you have to manage it,” he said.
But if it does come down to simply trying to outscore the Bearcats, Meyer said he expects his offense to perform well.
“I get confidence from what I see and not what I hope, and I see it on the practice field (and) I saw it in the games,” he said. “I see the maturity of a quarterback happening, and most importantly the offensive line is starting to get a little savvy to them now.”
Redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall said the offense has the ability to win a shootout, but said the OSU defense is also up to the challenge of stopping Kiel and the Bearcats.
“I feel like our defense has been working really hard this week, so hopefully that’s not the case,” Marshall said Wednesday. “But I feel like we’re really confident in our offense that if we have to put up points we can.”
While the Buckeyes have had a normal game week to prepare for Cincinnati, they also had extra practice time with only the Bearcats in mind during their bye week last week. Boren said that is something that could give OSU an edge come Saturday.
“Like I said, we got two weeks to prepare for them, which is pretty good for us so we should be good,” he said.
The Buckeyes and the Bearcats are scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.