By Mitch Stacy
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — If there is panic and unrest in the Ohio State camp after Saturday’s upset loss to Penn State, nobody was displaying it Monday.
Coach Urban Meyer said he doesn’t foresee any major personnel changes or adjustments in play calling. Quarterback J.T. Barrett said he’s not particularly worried about the passing game, which struggled in the 24-21 loss at Happy Valley. The message: Whatever problems there were can be fixed, and all of Ohio State’s goals are still attainable.
“The sun came up,” guard Billy Price said. “We’ve been here before. (Losing) isn’t an occurrence that happens often, but we grow from this, we get tighter together and we focus in on us, and we don’t worry about anything else. Because everybody is a couch coach. Everybody thinks they have the whistle, but we need to focus in on who we are.”
Maybe there’s no panic, but there is plenty to be concerned about after Ohio State (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 in the AP Top 25 poll as the result of the loss, which was only the fifth of the Urban Meyer era.
Receivers struggled to separate from defenders, and Barrett ran for his life much of the time from pass rushers his offensive line struggled to block. Barrett was sacked six times, including twice on the final drive to end the game. The run game bogged down, averaging fewer than 5 yards per carry. A blocked Ohio State field goal attempt led to a Penn State touchdown. Ohio State had a punt blocked, too.
The statistics don’t look bad — 413 yards of total offense — but the vertical passing game was kept mostly in check by unranked Penn State. Barrett’s longest completion was 34 yards, underscoring that the Buckeyes continue to struggle hitting the deep passes. The 168 yards rushing included a single 74-yard touchdown run by Curtis Samuel in the third quarter.
“It’s hard to put it on one thing,” Meyer said. “It’s a multitude of things. It has regressed a little bit. Certainly where there were plays to be made. We hook up on a couple of those plays, we win the game and we’re fine.”
Barrett acknowledged that the passing game needs to be better, but said, “I’m at a good place.” Communication and timing could be better, he said, but he saw nothing on video Sunday that really alarmed him. He said the myriad offensive mistakes were “out of character.”
“It was a lot of little things that in games like that become big things when exploited,” he said. “That’s what we saw on film, things that can be corrected, and it wasn’t anything game plan-wise that we weren’t ready for. We just didn’t execute, and it showed.”
Ohio State returns home Saturday to play Northwestern (4-3, 3-1), which has won four out of five after playing poorly early in the season.
The following week, the Buckeyes will play no. 7 Nebraska, which will be coming in either undefeated or fresh off a loss to Wisconsin. If the Buckeyes can win out, beat a likely undefeated Michigan on Nov. 26 and win the Big Ten Championship, last Saturday’s stumble will be a distant memory.
“We’re going to find out what we’re made of,” Barrett said.