Four hundred yards. That's a nice, round number. For Ohio State, it's a nice, round, bad number, because it is precisely how many yards per game the defense gives up. Twenty-eight hundred yards. Seven games. Four hundred yards per game.
Bad, bad, bad.
So, it's basically no surprise that after Indiana lit Ohio State up for 49 points and 481 yards in last week's thriller, Urban Meyer decided he had seen enough from his defense. Here's more from ESPN about Meyer's clarion call for defensive accountability:
Urban Meyer met with his defensive coaches and players on Sunday.
He wasn't handing out compliments.
"I'm not happy at all with what's going on on defense," the Ohio State coach said a day later. "That includes players, coaches. We can all get better. It's a team effort."
Meyer called it "absurd" how many big gainers his defense surrendered and vowed to get more involved on that side of the ball. It sounded for all the world like an "or else" to both the current defensive starters -- who may find themselves not playing unless the new head man sees change soon -- or his assistants on that side of the ball.
"We're going to demand 4 to 6 seconds of relentless pursuit and effort," Meyer said. Then, he added, "If you don't, I'll be involved in that."
Does that sound ominous? Of course it does, because it should. While taking nothing away from Indiana, who is running the best, most complex passing game in the conference, there is essentially no reason for Ohio State to give up the 16 plays of 10-plus yards it did on Saturday.
Here's a highlight reel from the Buckeyes' win over Indiana. It's made by an Ohio State fan, so it's heavy on Buckeye first downs and touchdowns. But there's also every Indiana touchdown, and we see a pattern develop.
0:48: Poor angle in run support, Stephen Houston breaks free untouched for 59-yard TD.
0:57: Zero beaten blocks in the red zone, Stephen Houston breaks free untouched for seven-yard TD.
2:40: Blitz results in no pressure, Shane Wynn takes short pass, breaks free untouched for 76-yard TD. BONUS: What in the world was Ryan Shazier (No. 10) doing?
4:37: Poor reaction to both throw and run after catch; Duwyce Wilson catches three defenders on wrong foot and breaks free untouched for 12-yard TD.
4:43: Bradley Roby (No. 1) watches onside kick bounce away. Nick Stoner comes from farther away and saves ball from going out of bounds. Indiana ball.
4:49: Missed tackle after the catch, poor pursuit angles too numerous to mention, Stephen Houston breaks free for 25-yard TD. BONUS: What in the world was Bradley Roby doing?
Notice a pattern? Mental breakdown after mental breakdown leading to touchdown after touchdown. This isn't on the coaches, and it's not entirely on backup players filling in for injured starters. This is about just plain poor performance by the defense as a whole, and Indiana exploited that.
As a whole, Ohio State's pass defense is relatively solid from an efficiency standpoint—it ranks 34th nationwide—but opposing offense sure don't fear it. Ohio State is one of only two teams to have 300 passes attempted against it (the other, oddly, is Ohio), and because of that, the Buckeyes are 103rd in the nation (and dead last in the Big Ten) in total passing yards given up with 277.7 per game.
And at the end of the day, giving up 400 yards per game means opposing teams are moving the chains on you, and if they're doing that, points are usually next to come.
Braxton Miller's going to have a bad day at some point. That's just how football is. So what happens when Ohio State's defense is having yet another feather-soft outing, and all of a sudden, Miller's not bailing it out with 300 total yards and three or four touchdowns by himself like usual? Like we said before, Ohio State's playing with fire here.
The defensive players have got to cut down on the mental mistakes and play harder and better. It's that or watch an undefeated season go up in smoke.