Inconsistent Buckeyes’ offense continues to struggles

Published 1:05 am Wednesday, October 14, 2009

COLUMBUS — Almost everyone thinks Ohio State’s offense has the components to produce a lot of points.

For some reason, it isn’t happening.

‘‘One minute you’re doing great, you put up 400 yards and everybody thinks we’re the best offense in the world,’’ wide receiver/kick returner Ray Small said Tuesday. ‘‘The next minute you only put up 120 yards and now we’re struggling.’’

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There’s not much doubt that the seventh-ranked Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) are struggling when they have the ball. Great on one play and ineffective on the next three, Ohio State ranks 108th of the 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing, 42nd in rushing and 86th in total offense.

Last week, the Buckeyes rolled over previously unbeaten Wisconsin 31-13. But the offense didn’t have much to do with it, amassing 97 yards on the ground and 87 through the air to go with eight first downs while having the ball just 17:13 (to Wisconsin’s 118 yards rushing, 250 passing, 22 first downs and 42:47 time of possession).

When the defense runs back two interceptions for scores and Small returns a kickoff 96 yards for another TD, the offense doesn’t have to be very good. But there will be times — perhaps even Saturday at Purdue — when the offense will have to deliver.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor completed 5 of 13 passes for 87 yards against the Badgers. He also had an interception, giving him six in 128 attempts this year after totaling five in 165 throws a year ago as a freshman.

‘‘I hope the defense doesn’t have to keep carrying us like this,’’ Pryor said after the game.

Pryor led the Big Ten in pass efficiency (146.50) a year ago. This season he’s at 140.3 and seventh-best in the conference.

That’s not to say Pryor is the problem — the offensive line has been erratic, there have been dropped passes and bad routes by the receivers and the backs have been solid but not great. On top of that, many believe coach Jim Tressel — who runs the offense even though Jim Bollman has the title of coordinator — relies too heavily on conservative playcalling that stifles a gifted athlete such as Pryor.

Tressel said Tuesday that the offense has had difficulty ‘‘adjusting to the flow’’ of the game.

He said after the offense practices all week for an opposing defense, it seems unable to adapt when it faces a new wrinkle.

No one says, ‘‘I see what they’re doing, now here’s what we’ve got to do next,’’ Tressel said.

At times, the attack appears to be unstoppable. It gobbled up 88 yards in just over a minute late in the half.

‘‘We started being aggressive and it worked,’’ Pryor said later.

Small, frequently in Tressel’s doghouse for a variety of minor infractions, said the offense is loaded with explosive, talented players.

When the Buckeyes were bogged down and not moving the ball against Wisconsin, he said a frustrated Pryor tried to shake things up by making a big play.

‘‘He wanted to go deep every play,’’ Small said with a grin. ‘‘He was hollering at the coaches, ’Let’s go deep! Let’s go deep!’ Terrelle is an emotional guy.’’

Small said the offense has 107 plays in its repertoire, almost twice as many as in his three previous years at Ohio State, and that younger players might be having trouble learning all the sets and plays.

The Buckeyes sure didn’t have to dig too deeply into the playbook against Wisconsin: Ohio State ran 40 offensive plays to the Badgers’ 89.

Ohio State has six games remaining in the regular season, closing with arguably the three toughest teams in the Big Ten at No. 14 Penn State, home with unbeaten and 11th-ranked Iowa and at archrival Michigan.

The time is dwindling for the Buckeyes to figure out what’s wrong when they have the ball.

‘‘There’s only about 40 days or 30-some days left,’’ Tressel said. ‘‘That’s going to really decide what kind of football team we have.’’