Everybody has opinion on Buckeyes' offensive offense

Updated: October 16, 2003, 3:57 PM ET
ESPN

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Everyone's got an opinion on why Ohio State's offense is so offensive.

Some think it's a matter of putting everything together.

"We're still kind of trying to find that niche where we get that chemistry going and we keep the defense off the field and get some sustained drives," receiver Michael Jenkins said.

Some think it is nothing in particular.

"I don't think there is any one aspect of the offense you can point to and say, 'No problem," quarterback Craig Krenzel said.

And coach Jim Tressel believes it comes down to matching talent with aptitude.

"We're trying to find out what it is that we're best suited for from the personnel we have playing," he said.

The Buckeyes' inefficiency and ineptitude on offense finally caught up with them last Saturday in a 17-10 loss at Wisconsin. It's a problem that must be addressed before the No. 8 Buckeyes' game Saturday against No. 9 Iowa. Both teams are 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten.

Ohio State has failed to score 21 points in nine of Tressel's 32 games. His conservative approach paid big dividends last season with an active and aggressive defense that frequently supplied big touchdowns or great field position.

This year, however, even though the defense has been solid again, the offense hasn't held up its end of the bargain. Despite the return of every offensive starter except tailback Maurice Clarett (suspended for accepting improper benefits and then lying about it to investigators), the Buckeyes are having all kinds of problems.

They rank 109th in total offense of 117 Division I-A teams in the nation. In the Big Ten, Ohio State is well down the list in scoring (7th), rushing (10th), passing (9th) and total offense (last).

Fans have cited everything from predictable play-calling and inferior players to a lack of cohesion.

Some say Krenzel must be replaced by backup Scott McMullen or even unused wunderkind Justin Zwick. Others say tailbacks Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross should be benched and freshman Ira Guilford ought to start seeing more action. Many blame a porous offensive line. Throw more to the backs, some say, while others plea that the Buckeyes need to let the fullbacks take a larger role.

Krenzel, the man closest to the action, doesn't believe a change in approach or promoting a backup will turn things around.

Asked if the Buckeyes need to start throwing the ball a lot more he said, "Yeah, until we don't win a game doing that, then they'll want you to run the ball again. It's a Catch-22. You can't make everybody happy. There's a lot of things we need to do and do better. It starts with mixing up some formations, maybe mixing up some calls. But the bottom line is we didn't execute (against Wisconsin).

"We didn't make the blocks, we didn't run the routes, we didn't catch the passes, we didn't throw the passes and we didn't execute to win the game."

Tressel believes that no team survives by running too much or throwing too much. Balance is the key. When one aspect of that equation falters, then the other enterprise is in trouble.

Ohio State has thrown 158 passes and been sacked 14 times, meaning that at least 172 pass plays have been called. The Buckeyes have run the ball 221 times -- 56 percent of their play calls, a relatively balanced attack.

But the runs have netted just 3.2 yards per attempt while the passes have gained an average of 11.9 yards.

Opposing defenses see those stats and know that if they can keep the Buckeyes' running game in check, then they can focus on shutting down Drew Carter and Jenkins deep, along with tight ends Ben Hartsock and Ryan Hamby.

"I'd like to be a balanced throw-and-run football team," Tressel said.

For whatever reason, right now the Buckeyes aren't.

Ohio State's offense has stumbled all season. The Buckeye attack was barely adequate in wins over San Diego State (16-13), Bowling Green (24-17) and Northwestern (20-0). When needed the most -- on a wet and chilly night in Madison, Wis. -- an inadequate offense was unable to extend Ohio State's 19-game winning streak.

"It was a lack of execution and a lack of guys doing the right assignments," Krenzel said. "As soon as we get that taken care of we're going to be a pretty good team."

But the season is now half over and the clock is ticking.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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