A surefire way to make a one game losing streak into a two game losing streak is to keep looking back at the game your team lost. While disappointed with Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech last weekend, the Buckeyes need to regroup and refocus with the Kent State Golden Flashes coming into Ohio Stadium on September 13th.
Kent State will be the easiest opponent remaining on Ohio State's 2014 schedule. With a bye week approaching the weekend of September 20th, here are three critical areas I will be looking for from the Buckeyes as they head into their first bye weekend ~
1. Establish The Running Game: So far this season, Ohio State has not been able to consistently run its favorite running play, the inside dive play. A big part of that is because Carlos Hyde is now playing for the San Francisco 49ers and not the Ohio State Buckeyes. Almost equally important is Ohio State has four new starters along its offensive line. No matter which Ohio State running back is playing, I will be hoping the Ohio State coaching staff will be dedicated to developing a consistently productive inside running game. With a strong inside running threat, the entire offense will become that much more difficult to defend. The way Ohio State can develop and establish a strong running game is by...
2. Play The Starters For At Least Three Quarters: Developing chemistry and cohesiveness with the offensive line, the linebackers, the secondary, etc., can only happen through repetition. By keeping the starters in through at least three quarters, Ohio State will be able to work through a lot of the kinks that have been visible through the first two games of the 2014 season. Once the third quarter concludes, I would hope Ohio State would liberally play as many backups as possible, especially with backup quarterback Cardale Jones only one snap away from taking over the starting quarterback position.
3. Fix The Special Teams Units: For the first two games of the 2014 season, Ohio State's special teams have been consistently inconsistent. Senior PK Kyle Clinton has twice failed to keep the ball inbounds on kickoffs. Freshman PK Sean Nuernberger missed two field goals versus Virginia Tech. Sophomore P Cameron Johnston had a 24 yard punt versus Virginia Tech. And the kickoff coverage team made costly coverage and tackling errors.
While Coach Meyer would always prefer to score touchdowns versus field goals, focusing upon Nuernberger's psyche would not be a bad thing - I can recall how Ohio State legendary PK Mike Nugent struggled as a true freshman in 2001, and it took Nugent some time to work his way out of his issues. Fortunately for Ohio State fans, Nugent was a clutch performer for Ohio State's 2002 national championship team.
While I would prefer for Ohio State to pin its opponents deep in their own territory, I would gladly sacrifice this option if it meant opponents were not starting on their own 35 yard line. I would hope the coaching staff has worked with Clinton on his kickoffs, as this has impacted Ohio State twice this season already.
As for the kickoff units, I recall how Coach Tressel used his 2002 linebacker recruits (Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk, Mike D'Andrea) on kickoff coverage. Could Coach Meyer do the same with freshmen such as Raekwon McMillan, Dante Booker, or Sam Hubbard?
It is important for Ohio State coaches, players, and fans to get over the loss to Virginia Tech, and focus upon the remainder of the season. The game versus Kent State is the first opportunity to refocus and concentrate upon the message in the image below. Go Bucks!