Football Flaws in pass defense exposed once again prove fatal in Ohio

Ohio State junior cornerback Denzel Ward (12) breaks up an Iowa pass in the second quarter of the Ohio State-Iowa game on Nov. 4. Ohio State lost 24-55. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorIOWA CITY, Iowa — Through its first two games of the season, No. 6 Ohio State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten) had allowed the most passing yards per game of any team in the nation with 403, after being torched in back-to-back weeks by Indiana and Oklahoma.Several weeks after that against lackluster opponents and a surprising shutdown performance of Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley seemed to quiet the concerns many had about the pass defense.Those concerns re-emerged in the first half of Ohio State’s game against Iowa as the Buckeyes allowed Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley to throw for 162 yards and three touchdown passes to put the Hawkeyes up 31-17.No improvements were made in the second half as Stanley continued picked apart the Buckeyes as he finished the game going 20-for-31 with 226 yards and five touchdown passes, effectively ending any championship hopes Ohio State had heading into the matchup.Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer appeared disappointed in his team’s effort defensively, but had no immediate answer for the struggles. “After I visit with the defensive staff, that’s just right now the game just ended, so I don’t have any answers for you right now,” Meyer said.From the beginning, Stanley seemed to have all the answers Iowa needed. The pocket-passing quarterback seemingly found no issue picking apart Ohio State’s secondary as he found his tight ends wide open on seam routes across the middle of the field and worked play-action passes to perfection to throw off the defense.The play that seemed most prevalent and most effective against Ohio State proved to be the play-action passes with Stanley rolling out of the pocket. The secondary often bit the play-fakes and lost a step in coverage to receivers, who would often run corner routes, and surrendered big plays.Stanley finished the game with seven passes for 15-plus yards. He entered the game completing 57.5 percent of his passes, but finished with a 64.5 completion percentage. The Ohio State defense had just three pass break-ups, and one of those was from defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones. Though much of the blame deserves to be levied upon the secondary, the defensive line struggled to apply ample pressure to Stanley. Ohio State finished with just one sack in the game, and any time pressure was applied, Stanley was able to get the ball out quick enough or roll out of pressure to avoid being taken down. Redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis said the defensive line did not do enough to stop Stanley, and should have applied more pressure to aid the defensive backs in defending against the pass.“I just say, the defensive linemen, that’s on us,” Lewis said. “Pass rush has to get home. We’ve got to sack the quarterback. That’s our job. Disrupt the pass, that’s on us.”Lewis said the team allowed Stanley to get too comfortable in the pocket, and the inability to pressure the quarterback frequently enough allowed him to complete passes easier or effectively escape the pocket and make a play outside the pocket.“Given how quick [Stanley was releasing the ball], or most of the time, should definitely have to get home and affect the passing,” Lewis said. “And that’s the main thing when it’s a passing situation. Trying to find ways to affect the passer and getting the pass rush home, getting sacks. That’s the main goal. He stood in the pocket a few times.”The issues of the passing defense have been prevalent all season. For the most part, the defensive line has not been at the root of the problems, and it wasn’t Saturday. However, the letdown performance by the line prevented it from bailing out the struggles of the secondary as it had earlier in the season. The struggles of Ohio State against the pass is nothing new. It was just exposed again Saturday.