By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – Taylor Decker sounded like he’d heard the question a few times. Or maybe a few too many times.
The price of perfection and near-perfection in its three postseason games last season for Ohio State’s football players has been a constant stream of questions about why they haven’t played like that this season.
The offense has heard it. The defense has heard it. Maybe no position group has heard it more than OSU’s offensive line.
“People are going to say, ‘Why can’t you play like you did against Wisconsin last year?’ ” Decker said.
“There’s always going to be a ton of questions and everything, especially when people are gauging us off those last three games. I think we’re farther along than we were last year.
“We play against good teams. They have scholarship players, too. We’re improving. I’m happy with that. I’m happy with the direction we’re going. I feel good about the direction we’re heading,” he said.
That direction includes rushing for 315 yards and having 429 total yards in a 38-10 win over Penn State last Saturday.
Some of that success can probably be attributed to better line play, but having J.T. Barrett at quarterback for much of the game was also a factor.
Ohio State has four returning starters on its offensive line – guards Pat Elflein and Billy Price, center Jacoby Boren and Decker at left tackle. Right tackle Chase Farris is the only new starter.
But OSU’s offense has started slower than expected, or at least given the appearance of a slow start.
Decker says Ohio State did not hit the ground running at full speed last season, either.
“You look at years past and we’re not going to be playing our best ball at the beginning of the year. Would we like to? Yeah, but that’s not how it works,” he said.
“You’re coming out of (training) camp and you’re going to have injuries, you’re going to have guys stepping into new roles. We’re about to get over that hump and it’s going to start rolling downhill and be a snowball effect.”
The numbers might back up what Decker said.
Last year, Ohio State had more than 500 yards total offense in six of its last eight games and four of its first seven. This year, it has gone over 500 yards three times in its first seven games and it would have been four if not for a big loss on a late-game snap that went over the quarterback’s head.
Price called Ohio State’s offense “a work in progress” but liked what he saw against Penn State.
“There was a great amount of energy. It was flashbacks to old times,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.