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Ohio State’s Kerry Coombs Takes Responsibility For Defensive Struggles In Loss To Oregon

He acknowledged changes are needed after the Buckeyes gave up 269 yards on the ground to the Ducks.

Ohio State suffered its first home loss since 2017 on Saturday afternoon, as Oregon rushed for 269 yards and three scores on the ground in a 35-28 win in Columbus. 

It was just the latest in a string of defensive lapses for the Buckeyes, who have given up 39.3 points per game in its last three games, including the national championship against Alabama and the season opener at Minnesota.

Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs has come under fire as a result, and was asked during his postgame press conference to address those who say his play-calling is the issue.

“My response is that I’m responsible. That’s my job,” Coombs said. “We have to play better. When I say we have to play better, I’m not blaming the players. The standard of our defense is one of excellence. The Silver Bullet standard is very high, and so I have to do a better job.”

Kerry Coombs

The Ducks got on the board first, as running back C.J. Verdell took a handoff around the left side for a 14-yard touchdown. His second score of the day, which came two possessions later, was on a pitch to the left that also went 14 yards for a touchdown.

The second half was more of the same, as Verdell had a 77-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the third quarter and converted a critical third-and-short in the fourth quarter on – you guessed it – a handoff around the left side to finish the game with 161 yards and three scores.

“Those particular plays were plays where we were in man-to-man coverage,” Coombs said. “The (wide receiver) was cracking the linebacker. We need to get off and make a play there. Have to make other adjustments. The main thing, I don’t want you to hear that and say we’re blaming a player. I take full responsibility for that. That doesn’t fall on the player.”

The run defense wasn’t the only issue, though, as the defensive line failed to get any pressure on Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown, who finished the game 17-for-35 passing for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He notably wasn’t sacked all game.

“It was very disappointing,” Coombs said. “I think our kids played hard, I think they practiced well, I think they prepared, so it’s disappointing. I hate losing. I hate it with a passion. You don’t come to Ohio State to get beat. You don’t come to Ohio State to get beat in the ‘Shoe, so I’m disappointed.

Coombs, who is now in his second season as coordinator after previously serving as the Buckeyes’ cornerbacks coach from 2012-16, repeatedly refused to blame the players for the defense’s shortfalls on Saturday. He did note, though, that Oregon presented some new looks offensively that caught Ohio State off guard.

“Everything that happens on Saturday that could happen better defensively is going to be my responsibility, and it is my responsibility,” Coombs said. “We are actively working every series when we come off to the sidelines to make adjustments and changes and do that appropriately.

“It’s my responsibly to make sure they see and diagnose the plays and are able to play with the proper leverage and the proper technique to handle those situations,” Coombs said. “Without getting into specifics, that’s my job.”

3. Kerry Coombs

That said, Coombs doesn’t necessarily see a significant issue with the Buckeyes’ defensive scheme, but did acknowledge that changes are needed if the defense is going to improve this season.

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“I think that the defensive structure that has been in place has been a successful one, and one that a lot of folks are really comfortable with,” Coombs said. “We have to execute, we have to prepare, we have to do a good job of having our kids in the right places to make the right place.

“I love the scheme, I love the players. To have the opportunity to be a football coach at Ohio State in this role is a blessing, and I don’t take it lightly. I can assure you we will get better. I don’t think there’s any question that we have to do things differently going forward. Obviously, the result today is not acceptable.”

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