Ohio State Passing Game Presents ‘Huge Challenge’ To Duck Defense

In last week’s 31-24 win over Fresno State, the Oregon defense allowed 298 yards passing and almost a 70% completion percentage.

This week, that same defense will come to Columbus to face an Ohio State offense that has been one of the more consistent and efficient passing programs in the nation over the last few years.

First weeks can be tough. Sometimes, however, second weeks are much worse.

To be sure, passing yards can be a deceptive stat, but allowing a quarterback to complete 69.8% of his passes is pretty telling. It was not what Oregon defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was hoping to see, but the good news for the Ducks is that he believes it’s all correctable.

“Clearly, it wasn’t great,” DeRuyter said yesterday. “A couple reasons. We let the quarterback out of the pocket to extend plays, which led to a couple long throws. We had a couple of busted coverages, which obviously hurts. We didn’t line up in that second quarter to tempo as well as we should have, but they’re all very fixable things as we went through the tape yesterday and this morning pointing out the details of where guys’ eyes should be, where they should be fitting on.

“In that first game sometimes, guys playing for the first time, they’re so caught up in the moment that they’re not thinking through their progressions. So we’ve got to get guys more comfortable in the system and clean all that up because obviously the talent’s going up, way up, this week, and [Ohio State] is a team that’s really capable of a ton of explosive plays.”

The Buckeyes were certainly explosive against Minnesota last Thursday. They had four passing plays over 30 yards, with three of those going over 50 yards. Quarterback CJ Stroud had completions of 38, 56, 70, and 61 yards in the second half alone. Stroud completed 13-of-22 passes for 294 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. After a bit of a shaky start, it ended up being a very solid first career start.

While the first week of any season is not a great one in which to make sweeping generalizations, it’s not crazy to think that if Fresno State can have success through the air against the Ducks, then maybe Ohio State can this weekend as well.

The proper generalization here, of course, is that Ohio State can likely throw the ball on anybody, especially when you consider the ball is going to receivers like Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.

Last week against Minnesota, Olave caught four passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson, meanwhile, snagged five receptions for 80 yards and one score. Together, they present a test that DeRuyter has never seen before in his 30+ years as a college coach.

“I don’t know that I’ve had to face two first-round picks,” DeRuyter said yesterday. “Yeah, a lot of times you may see a special guy and you can design coverages around trying to double him, but when you got two guys with the talent that they have, it’s really, really difficult.”

The Duck defense may have given up 298 yards passing last week and did so at a high completion clip, but they only allowed two pass plays of over 20 yards, and the long was just 39 yards.

DeRuyter knows those numbers are going to be put to the test this week and discipline from his defense will be key, especially if the Buckeyes are able to get their running game going.

“We’ve got to pressure the quarterback, try to give him different looks,” he said. “But the biggest key, I think that they do a great job with is their play-action game where they get the running game going and if you don’t have enough to stop that — you’ve got to keep adding more guys — and that’s where they get their really explosive plays.

“So it presents a huge challenge and our guys are going to have to be on point this week with their eyes. The physicality of the lines, we can’t let things break so that we can play on the back end and try to contain these guys.”