Surrendering big plays, points, alarms OSU's Meyer

Surrendering big plays, points, alarms OSU's Meyer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Urban Meyer met with his defensive coaches and players on Sunday.

He wasn't handing out compliments.

``I'm not happy at all with what's going on on defense,'' the Ohio State coach said a day later. ``That includes players, coaches. We can all get better. It's a team effort.''

The Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) kept their record clean even though the defense was gashed for 49 points, 481 yards and a staggering 18 plays that picked up at least 10 yards in a narrow 52-49 win at Indiana on Saturday.

``To go out and give up 49 points against Indiana was just embarrassing to us,'' cornerback Travis Howard said. ``We all feel depressed about it.''

Meyer called it ``absurd'' how many big gainers his defense surrendered and vowed to get more involved on that side of the ball. It sounded for all the world like an ``or else'' to both the current defensive starters - who may find themselves not playing unless the new head man sees change soon - or his assistants on that side of the ball.

``We're going to demand 4 to 6 seconds of relentless pursuit and effort,'' Meyer said. Then, he added, ``If you don't, I'll be involved in that.''

Meyer declined to offer excuses, even though several players are out with injuries. The Buckeyes don't have linebacker Etienne Sabino, sidelined for several weeks with a broken leg, and didn't have defensive lineman/outside linebacker Nathan Williams at Indiana. He didn't make the trip but is expected to return this week for the game against Purdue at Ohio Stadium.

Ohio State's defense looked lost at times on defense, repeatedly giving up yardage in clumps. Where missed tackles in the open field was a huge problem in past games, at times against the Hoosiers it was as if the Buckeyes didn't have a clue how to stop the Hoosiers' spread attack - which threw more down the field than flipping short screen passes.

Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, the beleaguered interim head coach a year ago during a woeful 6-7 season, hinted at two problems.

First, the Buckeyes lack a distinct leader of the defense along the lines of former players such as James Laurinaitis, A.J. Hawk and Matt Wilhelm. They were middle linebackers who called signals, made plays and were savvy enough to cover up mistakes by others. If a quarterback slipped containment, they could close the deal by bringing him down. If a back found a hole and appeared to have daylight, they might rush to the spot and slow him down until help arrived.

``Are we lacking a little bit of that? Yeah. Sabino went down and maybe that's something that we don't have right now,'' Fickell said. ``That's one of the big things we're trying to find: Who's that leader, who's that guy that doesn't just worry about themselves but can make the others around him better?''

Meyer has said that of the last 10 linebackers Ohio State has recruited, only two or three are still playing due to injuries, transfers or other problems.

Ohio State has tried to hurry freshmen into the picture at linebacker, but for the most part they have been ineffective. First-year players Connor Crowell, Camren Williams and David Perkins are listed as backups, with Josh Perry starting alongside Ryan Shazier and either Storm Klein or Zach Boren.

Last Wednesday Boren was moved from fullback, where he had played for 3 1/2 seasons, to linebacker. Such a stopgap move - particularly on an unbeaten team in the Top 10 - is almost unheard of.

It all relates to the fact that the young players have not contributed.

``We're counting on some really, truly young guys to have to step up and maybe they're not quite ready yet,'' Fickell conceded.

Meyer, who preaches the gospel of the spread offense, is clearly pleased that his offense has put up 115 points in its last two games. But he also knows that successful programs don't survive for long by playing great on only one side of the ball.

``The (teams) that get to where the air is rarified, the real elite teams, (know) that at some point you have to play some really good defense. And they all do,'' Meyer said. ``The top two right now are Alabama and Florida, the two best defenses in America - and it's not by accident they're 1-2'' in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.

Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida with high-scoring spread offenses, added, ``The great teams we've had over the years, yeah, we scored some points. But at the end of the day, defense wins games.''

The Buckeyes recognize their inability to stop an Indiana team that is winless in a weakened Big Ten.

``We just had a horrible game. I'm not saying anything bad about Indiana, but I just feel that we should not have gone out like that,'' Shazier said. ``We gave up too many yards, too many points. We have way better players than we showed. Nobody played to their standards.''

Meyer sounds like a man willing to try anything to alleviate more nightmares like Saturday night, when the Buckeyes had a 52-34 lead and the ball with 4 minutes left - and still needed to recover an onside kick just to hang on for the win.

``Instead of just complaining and whining and making noise, we have to put a plan together to eliminate big plays,'' Meyer said. ``I'm not a big believer in screaming and yelling and throwing Gatorade bottles against the wall.

``Sometimes you have to do that, however, to fix the problem.''


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:

Quick Links

Nicklas Backstrom passes 600 career assists with a three-point night vs. Canucks

Nicklas Backstrom passes 600 career assists with a three-point night vs. Canucks

Nicklas Backstrom can so often be overlooked thanks to his superstar teammates. But on a night in which Alex Ovechkin scored two goals and four points and John Carlson had a goal and three points, Backstrom was the man of the hour on Monday in Vancouver.

With his three assists on the night, Backstrom tallied assists No. 599, 600 and 601 of his career. He is just the 87th player in the history of the NHL to reach the 600-assist mark.

“It means that I’ve been playing in this league a long time I think now,” Backstrom told NBC Sports Washington’s Alan May after the game. “It's a nice milestone, of course, but we’re not going to stop here. We’re just going to keep going.”

Very fittingly, Backstrom’s 600th assist came on a power play goal to Ovechkin. Per NHL Stats, 235 of Backstrom’s 601 assists have been to Ovechkin. T.J. Oshie comes in at a very, very distant second as Backstrom has set up the veteran winger 49 times.

Ovechkin and Backstrom’s careers will be forever linked given the success they have had together in Washington. While that has caused many to overlook the soft-spoken Swede, it is foolish to continue to underrate him and his ability.

Backstrom is an absolute superstar who just so happens to play on the same team as one of the best players in the world and one of the biggest personalities in the sport.

But make no mistake, Backstrom is an elite talent in his own right.

Backstrom is now the first player from the 2006 draft class to reach 600 assists. The next closest is Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux with 471.

The level of success Backstrom has managed to find while in the league has been surprising even to him.

“I wasn’t really sure what I expected out of myself,” he said. “I was just trying to enjoy it. Luckily this organization believed in me and played me a lot after a couple games there and then it just took off. It’s been going fast, but I’ve had so much fun.”



Quick Links

Expect Redskins to bring back Trey Quinn next week as Jamison Crowder's status remains unclear

AP Images

Expect Redskins to bring back Trey Quinn next week as Jamison Crowder's status remains unclear

The Redskins need help at wide receiver, and while head coach Jay Gruden allowed a potential trade might bolster the group, the return of rookie Trey Quinn might do the same. 

Quinn landed on the injured reserve after the season opener in Arizona when he injured his ankle on a punt return. The IR designation means Quinn must miss eight weeks of action but can return after that period. 

"We’ll get Trey Quinn back here pretty soon," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Quinn could be back as early as Week 9 against Atlanta, and it sounds like Gruden expects to see him then.

A record setter at SMU and the final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Quinn's return could immediately help the Redskins at their inside slot receiver position. Jamison Crowder has missed the last two games for Washington, and reports say he could miss a few more weeks. 

Of the trio of injured Redskins skill players, Chris Thompson, Paul Richardson, and Crowder, Gruden said the slot WR has "probably got the furthest to go" before he can return from injury. Last week, Crowder was spotted in the Redskins practice facility riding a scooter and with a boot on his ankle. 

With Crowder out an elongated period of time, Quinn could step right in. Both on the smaller side and more quick than fast, Quinn is best suited to play the inside receiver position and can also return punts.

Asked if Quinn is a natural fit to fill in for Crowder, Gruden replied, "exactly right."

Fellow rookie receiver Cam Sims also landed on the IR after Week 1, but Gruden did not indicate that he would be brought back on the same timeline as Quinn. 

"We’ll probably just take one of them. Right now I think Trey is probably closer to returning than Cam ."

NFL rules stipulate that the team can bring only two players back from the injured reserve over the course of a season. So if the 'Skins bring back Quinn as soon as he is eligible next week, it makes sense for the organization to wait before using their final retrievable IR slot on another wide receiver.

Gruden's comments make two things clear: The organization sees Quinn back on the 53-man roster ASAP, and Crowder's return seems to be a serious question mark. 

Washington also seems likely to have a roster spot for Quinn next week. Special teams ace Jehu Chesson has already been up and down on the Redskins roster twice, and it would be little surprise if Quinn's return means Chesson gets released. Should that happen, Washington might again try to bring Chesson back to their practice squad.