COLLEGE PARK, Md. – There are undisputed truths and there are unpleasant truths about Ohio State’s football team.
The undisputed truth is that it has an offense often capable of doing wondrous things and doing them whether it is against impressive opponents or against not so talented opponents.
The unpleasant truth is that the defense was a problem at the beginning of the season. It still was in the middle of the season. And judging by what Maryland did on Saturday it is still a big problem that could drop the Buckeyes out of contention for the College Football Playoff and very possibly already could have done that.
From the beginning, the Buckeyes have insisted they can fix their defensive problems. But they might be running out of time.
OSU’s 52-51 overtime win over Maryland was the latest head-shaking effort from the defense.
The Buckeyes fell behind by 14 points three times and never led until overtime. Maryland rolled up 535 yards, including 339 yards on the ground.
Maryland freshman running back Anthony McFarland rushed for 298 yards, scored on consecutive carries that went for 81 yards and 75 yards and probably had more than a few Ohio State fans trying to remember how to spell Biakabutuka.
Even back-up quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, never known as much of a thrower, got into the act. He had only six completions but one of them went for 60 yards and another was for 56 yards.
All together, Maryland had five plays of 53 yards or more against OSU’s defense in a season when big plays have been commonplace for opposing offenses.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer used the word “alarming” twice to describe his team’s defense on Saturday.
He says it can be fixed by the time OSU plays Michigan this Saturday. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano agreed after the Buckeyes escaped with a win over Maryland. Not everyone is so sure.
“Alarming is the right word but we won,” Meyer said. Asked if he was going to have to live with the idea that this year’s Buckeyes will have to rely on its offense and concede the defense won’t lock down opposing offenses, he said, “No, I’m not going to accept that.”
“We’ll have to play better than we did on defense or we won’t win the game (against Michigan). That’s going to be the message all week and I anticipate we will. Is it where it needs to be? No. But we’re 10-1 and we’re going to try to find a way to be 11-1,” he said.
Schiano said, “If anybody had told me that this morning that was going to happen I would have said, ‘No, that’s not going to happen.’ I thought we practiced very well, I thought coming off last week we had tackled really well. But it just didn’t turn out that way.
“We’ve had some really good defensive play at times but not consistently. It’s frustrating that we’re not a consistent defense right now. But rest assured every waking moment we have we are going to try to get that fixed. The thing that we still have going is that we’re 10-1 and we still have a chance. We just have to keep putting it together and go out next week and find a way,” he said.
The question, though, is if Ohio State hasn’t found a way to fix its defense in 11 games, how will it do that in a twelfth game.