LOS ANGELES — If Ohio State is going to wrap up the season with a win over Washington in the Rose Bowl, the defense needs to step up and keep the Huskies’ running game in check.
The No. 6 Buckeyes (12-1) were burned by a number of long runs this season and are 80 yards away from giving up the most yards ever in a season to opposing offenses.
“When the runs break, the first eight to 10 yards can be attributed to the front seven,” OSU defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “But then it’s the secondary’s job to get it done. And we just haven’t done a very good job of that.
“We’re going to have to do a good job this game because they’re going to get the ball into the secondary. They run the ball very effectively.”
Myles Gaskin led the No. 9 Huskies (10-3) with 1,147yards and 10 TDs this season as they accumulated nearly 180 yards a game on the ground.
“We certainly have relied on the run game, and we want to play as complementary of football as we can,” Washington offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said. “We’ve been able to control the clock and start with the physicality thing.
“So certainly we’re going to have create more explosive plays in this game with how their offense plays, and we’re aware of that.”
While Ohio State nearly matches Washington’s per game output on the ground (175.8 yards per game to 179.9), the Buckeyes have been giving their opponents nightmares through the air — averaging 373 yards a game behind Dwayne Haskins.
“I think Dwayne is an elite player,” said Schiano, who spent two seasons as a head coach in the NFL. “He’s an excellent quarterback — he’s accurate, he has touch, he can throw the deep ball — all those things.”
Haskins threw for 4,580 yards and 47 touchdowns this season on the way to finishing third in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Not lost on the Buckeyes is that the Rose Bowl will be Urban Meyer’s final game as the head coach.
“We’re losing a legend, a really great coach,” said defensive end Chase Young. “You see him every day and he helps you become a man, a leader.”
“Coach Meyer means a lot to all of us,” linebacker Tuf Borland said. “The best we can do is send him out with a victory.”
Tuesday will be the first time the Buckeyes and Huskies have met in the Rose Bowl, but Ohio State holds an 8-3 lead in the teams’ other meetings.