In a mystical setting at the dawn of a new era, on hallowed ground, we watched the truism unfold that humility comes before wisdom.
Like translating Tressel, that simply means that this new super-powered Ohio State team stunk up the place in the first quarter before turning loose a torrent of Urban-ese football to destroy a pretty good Miami team in the last three quarters. Me? All I wanted was for a 33-10 win, as I predicted (it was 35-10 in the third quarter before silly-time took over) and I wanted Braxton not to get hurt. And it seemed the coaching staff was messing with me on both those simple goals. Brax was fabulous on his feet but was on his feet way too much and too long (17 carries!?) and he completed 13 of his 17 passes so that’s pretty legit, after passing for a total of five yards in a first quarter that had me doubting everything I knew about life in general and Urban Meyer football specifically.
And there was no “coach speak” for Coach Meyer after the game as he was embarrassed by the first quarter, loved his first game and implied they had still a long way to go to get from Here to There. My sentiments as well and it’s good that the Coach and I are on the same page.
Me? I had a great time. We accidentally parked next to Paul Ryan (hey – no politics in the Bucket!) at the South Field House and had to be reminded he was a Red Hawks alum (although – in fact – he was a RedSKINS alum back then…). As people asked me to pose with the Vice Presidential candidate, I heard murmurs from the crowd: “Who IS that guy with Mr. Bucknuts?” Yet another great anecdote for my soon-to-be-conceived unauthorized autobiography: “Famous People Who Have Known Me.”
After that bout of guessing, we sat down and tried early on to guess what was the defensive strategy of the Bucks. It appeared as if they were going to rely on the fact that Miami would drop most of the passes to wide-open receivers. That certainly helped and was an oddly successful game plan. I then thought Urban was crafty, trying to make the first half almost TWO HOURS LONG so that it would begin to rain and Miami’s receivers wouldn’t be seen as so wide open in the haze and downpour. Btw, he did also seem pretty tweaked that we didn’t score on the last play of that endless first half.
There were some great times and it was a blowout win (lest we forget) and here were some cool stats:
1) We held Miami to negative rushing yards.
2) After just 49 total first quarter offensive yards, we had almost 300 – in the second quarter!
This guy knows how to get things started, whereas ...
3) They had three turnovers and we had none. Our only attempt at a fumble was a Braxton ball-strip that went forward for a 6-yard gain. Good karma, there…
4) Ohio State has had some mobile quarterbacks over the last decade, but Braxton Miller did something in the first 31 minutes against Miami that Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor never accomplished in all their time in Columbus. After his juking and side-stepping TD to open the second half, Miller had 164 rushing yards. Neither Smith nor Pryor ever topped 150 rush yards in one game.
5) From ESPN stats: “Urban Meyer is now 4-0 in his debuts as head coach at a new school, winning by an average of just under 23 points. The 56 points scored and the 46-point margin of victory Saturday against Miami (OH) are also Meyer's highs in a debut at a new school.”
6) A sneak attack on the Michigan Humiliation: On 29 tries, Michigan (which – did I say this already? - was humiliated last night) gained 69 yards. The Buckeyes held Miami to negative yardage rushing. Hoo boy; come to Papa…
7) The 56 points OSU scored yesterday were the most given up by Miami in 70 years.
So, all in all, it was a good time. How good is Miami? Well they play Boise State in two weeks and there might be a sort of comparison. But we are all looking for and here is a couple to more to look at:
1) After last year’s Miami game, I went into a season-long funk. Yes, that was Miami from a different state but it showed the state of our football team – a team that had barely survived a MAC attack the week before with Toledo. Now, after a Miami win and the MAC behind us this year, well … I feel good.
2) I used to cringe at the date 2/10/01 since that was Cooper’s record against the Wolverines. Now, I like dates like 9/1 (like yesterday) as that was Tressel’s record (and resounding answer) against those weasels from the north. On 11/24, I expect a whole new calendar of ass-whippings to begin for Michigan.
... this dude should have just turned his team around and headed back into the tunnel instead of making his debut.
3) Penn State got beat by Ohio (sure is confusing, eh Brady?) which means there is a God and he wants balance in the universe. With Virginia, Navy and Temple the next three weeks, this non-con season should be every bit as uncomfortable as we wish on the Nits…
4) 247Sports’ Steve Helwagen mentioned this little nugget: “Meyer’s debut as a college head coach came on Sept. 1, 2001, as Bowling Green visited Missouri and stunned the host Tigers, 20-13. The Falcons made that road trip with just 52 scholarship players.” With 82 players and 11 more years of experience? We expect good things.
5) Lest we also forget, the once uber-stable Buckeye football program had exactly four head coaches in 60 years and now has had three in a matter of a few months.
Urban has also assembled what appears to be a terrific coaching staff here in our 123rd season of football. It is certainly a time for change (“…as time and change will surely show”) and you had to like what you saw out there Saturday if you were looking at all the important stuff. Live long enough and you find out that change is inevitable – well, except from a vending machine. And sometimes you just have to paw the Earth and move forward with a program. It can be as simple as willing yourself to new heights. As famous astronaut Alan Sheppard said to mission control (more on astronauts in a moment) while he was strapped to – basically – a big stick of dynamite that had a malfunction somewhere, “Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?”
I think we are fixing our little problem. I think we have our mission under control. And I think and we lit a pretty good candle in the last three quarters on Sept. 1st. We will find out exactly where we stand in the constellation – or at least be a little better informed after we host Central Florida (1-0) next Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The Golden Knights will be returning to Ohio for the second time in nine days after blasting host Akron, 56-14, on Thursday night - 56-14 over a MAC team. We were 56-10 over a better MAC team. We can talk about the differentiators next week if I remember.
I had amnesia once --- or was it twice?
Either way, I am looking forward to a memorable season. Go Bucks!
* * * *
It's possible Denard is a worse tackler than he is a passer of the football. We said "possible" ...
MOOT POINTS AND EXTRA POINTS
1) The Big Ten was at its all-time puniest this weekend … If we want respect, we are going to have to earn it. Instead:
1) Michigan was HUMILIATED by Alabama, 41-14
2) Penn State got its just deserts served up by Ohio U, 24-13
3) Iowa did beat Northern Illinois(!), 18-17
4) Wisconsin hung on in desperation at home (!) to topple FCS Northern Iowa 26-21
5) Michigan State, at home, eked by a rebuilding Boise Bunch, 17-13
6) Northwestern scored in the last seconds to beat perennial doormat Syracuse, 42-41
Law of Lane: Drink up ... as long as you can play.
If you are keeping score at home, that’s half of the conference that didn’t distinguish itself yesterday. It’s a statement but not the one we wanted to make…
2) Just win, baby … Urban has the second best winning percentage (was 105-23 or .821) of all active coaches, trailing only Boise’s Chris Peterson (now .915) who only plays one out of 10 competitive games. Maybe that’s why he wins nine out of 10 …
3) Other Urbanities?... Meyer was selected as “Coach of the Decade” for 2000-2009, according to the Sporting News. He is also only coach ever to have consecutive 13-win seasons (2008 and 2009) and his 7-1 bowl record includes 4-0 in BCS bowls and 2-0 in national championship games. Does that make him better than anyone else? No, just better than almost everyone else…
4) Georgia has 26 commits as of last week … That means they should be more than half done for the 2013 class and it’s only the first of September!
5) Selective ethics … At least he didn’t sell his stuff to get tattoos, God forbid. But USC’s Simione Vehikite returned to the team this past week after serving three months of a suspended jail sentence for felony DUI and identity theft. He had been, uh, suspended this summer but not for any games. Coach Lane Kiffin said Vehikite was back on the team and the timing of the addition of Vehikite is even weirder and uglier in that previous walk-on Will Andrew was apparently told this week his scholarship wouldn't be renewed. "He was fortunate to have one for a year," Kiffin told the LA Daily News.
Vehikite faced four felony counts, charges handed down in February but stemming from an incident seven months earlier, for driving with a blood-alcohol level over .08 percent and causing injury, leaving the scene of an accident and identity theft. He pleaded no contest in May and received three years’ probation and a two-year jail sentence. He served three months in jail this summer but he’s ready to go by the first game. Talk about your Lane violations…
7) What’s in the water in Huber Heights? ... The previous and current quarterback at Wayne HS in nearby Huber Heights are Division I talents as Braxton Miller plies his trade at Ohio State and this season’s starter, senior Javon Harrison, has verbally committed to Cincinnati. Coach Jay Minton is a great developer of quarterbacks (well, with a Steve Bellisari exception thrown in). And the quality will continue. Minton convinced young Centerville phenom, Devin Reed, to transfer to Wayne. He is but a sophomore. Remember the name…
8) Those crazy Hawkeye traditions … Iowa makes an annual effort to decimate their running backs and this year is no different. The projected starter, De’Andre Johnson, was booted from the team after a couple of “police incidents.” The Big Ten’s second leading rusher last year, Marcus Coker, also left the team due to disciplinary reasons. The third-stringer, Jordan Canzeri, is out for the 2012 season with a torn ACL. That leaves unheralded sophomore running back Damon Bullock. His stats from last season? Twenty yards rushing. Think on that string of misfortune as we bemoan the fact that Jordan Hall might miss a game or two.
Nate Ebner: Ohio State special teamer ... New England Patriots standout safety?
9) Hard to evaluate Nate …Yahoo! Sports reported this week that Nate Ebner was New England’s player of the week. Remember Nate?
Said Yahoo!: “He played high school football and was a walk-on special teamer at Ohio State before he was drafted by New England in the sixth round in April. But the former rugby player has had an outstanding summer in which he's been making plays seemingly every day at the safety position. In the past week, Ebner notched an interception against the Eagles' first unit offense and then tied for the team lead with five solo tackles in an impressive effort playing with his own defensive first unit in Tampa Bay. Ebner played three snaps of defense last fall for the Buckeyes but looks like he could be a regular contributor to the (Patriots) secondary this fall."
I already had my suspicions about the past staff’s abilities to recognize talent and this isn’t helping to dispel those thoughts…
10) Is Vandy bailing on the Buckeyes?... Vanderbilt must not have read the SEC fine print that its league doesn’t play any big games away from the safety of their home stadiums. Vanderbilt was scheduled to open the 2013 football season at Ohio State, but athletics director David Williams is considering scrapping that if the SEC asks the Commodores to open with a conference game on national TV.
“I’ll put it this way: I love opening up on Thursday night,” Williams said Friday. “I think there’s some excitement that goes with being the first game of the year. That’s really cool.” Vanderbilt rearranged its 2012 schedule when it was given the opportunity to host South Carolina in this season’s first game on ESPN (it lost…). Next year’s game in Columbus is slated for Aug. 31 with a contract finalized during the 2010 season before James Franklin was named Vanderbilt’s coach that December. That damned fine print comes back to haunt the morally flexible SEC….
* * * *
College football rules! ... Back during the Teddy Roosevelt era, college football was nearly ruled illegal based upon the injuries and horror stories of mangled collegians. Ever since then, the rules-makers have been trying to catch up with both the bigger, faster bodies and the new types of injuries. This year, the biggest changes came on special teams’ coverage, particularly kickoffs which included:
1) The kick will be moved to the 35-yard line, thereby creating more touchbacks, less excitement and fewer bludgeonings.
The new rules are in place to limit kickoff return collisions like these.
2) The kickoff team can only line up five yards behind the to-be-kicked ball, eliminating the running head start that caused cataclysmic collisions.
3) To discourage/encourage (?) touchbacks, they will now go to the 25 instead of the 20.
4) Onside kicks can be fielded clean now instead of the kickoff team being able to run over the first line on the receiving team.
5) Protecting the punters and the punt blockers, you are no longer allowed to leap over a blocker to get to that said punter.
6) One new general rule: blocking below the waist had been eliminated completely now within 7 yards of the center.
At the ‘Shoe yesterday, the only kicks returned seemed to be when kicking against the wind…
* * * *
My second annual Hoke-is-a-joke bullet point … And not a hollow point bullet at that. He is full of it, including the ballast that forms his self-perpetuating “legend”. Humility was served in large doses last night against Alabama 41-14. It appears that Brady might be more of a reflecting pool than a deep well…
The Hokester lost at least six games in five of six seasons at Ball State.
I got to thinking, after Hoke got poked Saturday by Alabama: What makes up this instant-legend-in-his own mind, the geographically challenged Michigan head coach who grew up here in Dayton but doesn’t know the difference between Athens and Columbus? Why the accolades, the ball-bronzing and hero worship in Ann Arbor?
Looking back, Hoke spent six seasons at Ball State (no, not just “Ball”). He had one great season, his last, but in every other season he coached at Ball State he was able to conjure up at least six losses. Then, at San Diego State, he went 4-8 in his first season and the next, the season that led the UM brain trust to hire him? He tied for third in the Mountain West Conference with a 9-4 record. In that season, he still went 1-4 in his five biggest games, beating only Navy in a bowl game.
As contrast, look at Urban in his new situations. Meyer has been a miracle worker in Year One. He never won fewer than eight games. He improved Bowling Green from 2-9 to 8-3, Utah from 5-6 to 10-2 and Florida from 7-5 to 9-3 – all in Year One. I tend to believe his first year at Ohio State will be closer or better to his first year at Florida than his stops in the MAC and Mountain West.
And in “big games?” As we reported here, Urban is 21-3 in “rivalry games.” That includes 1-1 at Bowling Green (against Toledo), 4-0 at Utah (against Utah State), and 16-2 at Florida against Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee.
At Bowling Green, he was given a team that went 2-9 and he turned them the next season to 8-3. As Dayton Daily News friend and colleague Doug Harris reported, “In his maiden season at Utah, he produced the first conference title in 47 years and followed that up with a 12-0 record and a BCS bowl win over Pittsburgh.” Florida, of course went from 7-4 to 9-3 his first year and then he had those two national titles.
Back to Brady: Last year, Hoke went 11-2 and for a desperate Michigan fan base, the coronation was on. But he was just 16 points from 8-5 season and OSU’s 40-34 shootout road loss to Michigan was telling. The worst Ohio State team in over two decades nearly upset the best Michigan team since 2006; on the road.
Ok, we will stipulate to a few balancing points: Hoke is putting together a very good recruiting class. And he won a BCS bowl game with DickRod talent. But look at the lineage: This is a guy that has never won a conference title in nine years of coaching. And the magic season of 2011? Some say he caught every break imaginable. The Bucks were in chaos; Notre Dame gave up an 80-yard TD drive with 20 seconds left. And the Wolverines did not play the Big Ten’s No. 1 team (Wisconsin) or No. 3 (Penn State). But they did lose to No. 2 MSU to finish tied for third. Again, Brady? Virginia Tech was the only BCS opponent that Michigan likely could have beaten and that's who they drew.
Brady Hoke will win some games this season because it is a very down year (again?) in the Big Ten. But the talk about what a great job he has done? Let him do it first and then we will bestow all the honors that are heretofore premature…
* * * *
Yesterday’s season opener against Miami was a game played after a rare blue moon. I assume that was arranged as well by the meticulous Urban Meyer as a further gesture to honor a great Buckeye, Neil Armstrong, on the day of his memorial service.
The moon over Miami? A goodwill gesture and one small step in the Urban Era. My timing in discussing Urban has been pretty good – not so good in remembering Armstrong. So, I say: Good-bye moon, good luck Mr. Gorsky, and thank you, Neil.
And on to Central Florida…