While everyone else was analyzing the carnage on the field, Urban has now become just the third coach in the “modern era” to win his first four games going all the way back to Carroll Widdoes in 1944 and to Urb’s coaching mentor Earle Bruce in 1979.
And while we are admiring history…OSU seemed bent on having their worst first quarter in Urban Era history, which is saying something as the Miami first quarter qualified as “El Stinko.” The Buckeyes out-Miami-ed themselves yesterday with a 42-yard Q1. They also put on display their vaunted “butter defense,” as they played soft and UAB cut through them like a knife. But – to put it in perspective - neither the offense nor the defense stood out as much as the atrocious special teams play. Really.
We watched as a grad student from the SID’s office ran down to Meyer in the second quarter and pointed out that UAB was 120th in the nation in defense coming into the game. Oh? So Braxton took over and the Bucks scored three touchdowns in nine plays to make things look like a deceptively respectful first half. It wasn’t. It was bad.
It’s bad when your theoretically talented D has to rely on a witch’s brew of dropped passes, untimely penalties and fumbles in order to succeed. Two different quarterbacks carved them up like the group turkey they resembled. And on offense? We were hoping to see a lot of Kenny Guiton in the second half (hey – OSU was a 37-point fave, after all!). I was starting to wish for Kenny in the first half. The whole Braxton-audible thing was way overblown. But, man, Brax using his feet is truly something special to watch.
For some historical – rather than hysterical – perspective, let it be noted at the top of the Bucket that we now have 400 wins at 90-year old Ohio Stadium. We are also undefeated and this team is just the fourth in OSU history to open a season with four consecutive 30-point games, the last being just two years ago in 2010 and the first before the stadium was built – back in 1917.
Now, to the aftermath (and after history, too).
We have watched an OSU defense that has performed below-standard this year – and historically speaking. UAB came into the Shoe Saturday having failing to score a touchdown its last time out, a 49-6 loss to South Carolina. (“This was one of the closest 49-6 games I have ever been around,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said afterward.) Before yesterday, the Blazers were 85th nationally in total offense and 108th in scoring offense. As our Big Ten analyst Steve Helwagen pointed out: On their last trip, UAB traveled with six corners and only one was a non-freshman.
I didn’t care about their troubles. We have had our own and I am conscience-free when it comes to supporting my Buckeyes. In fact, I have always felt that a clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory. People still doubt the Buckeyes, of course, and I always feign offense (kinda like my Buckeyes). Doubt them? Well, I never.
Actually, it’s more like “Did you ever?” Did you ever:
***See a Buckeye team with this much firepower go 1-6 on third downs through three quarters?
***See three chop blocks (by UAB) in just one quarter to keep us “competitive”?
***See so little improvement or change in game strategies over four games?
***Look so lifeless for so long at home – against a 37-point dog?
***See a Buckeye defense get beat on the same screens, without adjusting?
***See any team – yet alone a truly mediocre one – convert so many third-and-longs?
***Think that anyone could run on our defense, at will?
***See a stupider play by a Tarblooder (and that covers a lot of stupid Glenville plays over the years) than the taunting penalty against Christian Bryant?
***Look worse at covering spread offenses or – worse yet – covering the point spreads?
***Think we could get by with just one decent quarter (hey – don’t forget the one drive in the second half!) and still win?
***Think that the Big Ten could suck this bad, from top to bottom, this consistently?
Yes, wake me up when September ends. Whoa, wake-up call is a-coming! If Urban wants a louder crowd, he’s going to get it. Next week in East Lansing against Michigan State. I just hope he has been saving something – a lot of something’s – for next week. Something on offense, something on defense and something on special teams. We are going to know a lot more about this team a week from now.
And all the rest of this will seem just like so much ancient history…
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Fourth and Long
Thoughts on yesterday by Duane Long, Bucknuts analyst:
A grab bag on defense today. Some good and some bad. We tackled better but not great. We seem to be caught in the middle of being a good tackling team. Some players bring it but don't wrap, with Ryan Shazier being at the top of the list … or we wrap but don't bring it which means we end up with defenders hanging on hoping for help. We got closer to being both today.
Last week, Jerry Rudzinski mentioned the defense was physical. I would say even more physical today but there needs to be a consistency. We got closer to being a good tackling team today. It still needs work. Overall, we can look at the yards gained as a negative. I will forever be baffled at playing so soft in the secondary but the bend but don't break strategy worked as despite the number of yards yielded we still end up giving up 9 points from scrimmage, the only touchdown coming from the blocked punt.
Speaking of the blocked punt, we saw some of the problems with the special teams side of things re-emerge. Did you see the blocking scheme on the blocked punt? Who thought that up? Zach Boren should get a Buckeye for making the right decision, taking the inside guy but we allowed two other guys to come free.
I give the special teams a C for this game. Look at the downed punts inside the 10-yard line. Ben Buchanan is good at laying them in there and who would have thought the additional mobility of that comes from having a smaller long snapper would pay such dividends. Bryce Haynes was directly responsible for one of those downed kicks and involved in another. Because of rules for contact on the snapper you will see them uncovered more often than not. One that can, and will, get down the field to cover kicks is a nice little advantage.
Game review from occasional, longtime Bucknuts contributor that is always original:
As luck would have it I was in Birmingham this week. Walked by a Subway storefront that was promoting Alabama and Auburn collectors’ cups, right on UAB’s campus. It’s a football program worthy of being a 37-point underdog in Ohio Stadium.
Travis Howard kicked off the festivities by running into UAB’s punter on 4th and 3. It was the football equivalent of slapping a guy on the leg as he’s finishing off a dunk: Stupid and serving no purpose, and that was the theme for the better part of Ohio State’s afternoon.
The Buckeyes eventually got the ball, promptly went three and out and then debuted a new punt-blocking formation designed to get as many punt-blockers to Ben Buchanan as possible. After a few pleasant episodes of Braxton Miller manufacturing awesome animated gifs for repeat viewing it was back to more of the same: Ohio State went 3-for-10 on 3rd down and was thoroughly outplayed by a significantly inferior team all afternoon.
Were it not for UAB’s affinity for drive-killing chop blocks, yesterday’s 14-point escape could have been a lot sweatier. The Buckeyes looked incompetent but for one stretch; the back-half of that second quarter which featured three decisive and unanswered TD drives.
Then the 3rd quarter opened with an onside kick that five UAB players could have recovered without a challenge, let alone the one who did. Ohio State ultimately prevailed on account of Miller’s brilliance and UAB’s overall talent inferiority.
This leaves the Buckeyes at 4-0 coming off of another win that feels like a loss. Urban Meyer’s halftime speech should be etched into stone and symbolically blasted into space far beyond our atmosphere, as his team was clicking going into the locker room and came out of the break playing its worst football of the season.
Ohio State does not finish tackles or blocks and drops passes and assignments with regularity. They have transformed the accumulation of stupid penalties into an art form. The Buckeyes have one great player who touches the ball on every play along with nobody else that is even remotely frightening to opponents.
The defense lacks intuition and fundamentals. And the special teams might be the worst unit of the three.
Neither Michigan State or Nebraska will be as forgiving as the Bears and Blazers were, and without dramatic fixes to the Buckeyes’ now-predictable badness the next two games won’t be wins that feel like losses. They’ll just be losses.
That 37-point underdog headed back to Birmingham after more than halving its handicap to a welcome reception that didn’t exist (not even at Subway) as both Alabama and Auburn played in the late afternoon and evening, respectively, and were occupying everyone's attention. Only if the Blazers had pulled off the unthinkable would Birmingham have done more than raise an eyebrow.
Which is what the rest of us are doing in trying to make sense of why Ohio State seems to be getting worse at the things that are supposed to be getting better. Tackle someone. Catch the ball. Don't be stupid. It's not terribly complicated.
Spanning the College Football Globe: The Facts and the Pub
Game reviews by Dan Rubin, Bucknuts Publisher:
We’re still tweaking the Bucket’s interloper interlude. So I have been asked to weigh in on the Buckeyes, then provide some conference and regional “perspective” … whatever that means.
As for the Buckeyes … [cut and paste from last week]. Seriously, I can’t remember closely following a team that is not only inconsistent, but looks SO good and SO bad over the course of a few series. That applies to the offense and defense … and special teams.
Now this requires an aside: I have had the good fortune to cover/be around/geek out over football as a means to making a living for some time now. I also have a son that plays pee-wee football. In all of those football-laden times, I have never seen a punt formation that allows TWO DUDES TO LINE UP IN AN UNOCCUPIED GAP INSIDE OF THE TACKLES. That’s why UAB’s first quarter big play was not a blocked punt – ol’ Buchanan’s foot never made contact with the ball. Guy blocked the drop he was in there so fast. I fully understand it was a new formation, growing pains are customary with a new regime blah, blah, blah … it was the first punt of the game!
I continue to be impressed by No. 5. If he isn’t the most electric NCAA rep with the ball in his hands it must be somebody from the West Coast that stars as I am dozing off late at night. So far this season’s Buckeye M.O. has been: Great offense followed by terrible offense followed by great defense followed by terrible defense and No. 5 is worth the price of admission good night everybody we’re 4-0 which is pretty good considering.
That said, the season starts in six days.
As for the conference/regional report, we will start nearby and then expand our horizons …
**Ok, Iowa and Illinois, you guys are about to be demoted to the MAC. Are you kidding? Iowa played the last few minutes of its loss to visiting Central Michigan like the mortgage was bet on the Chippewas. The Fighting Illini? More like the We’d Rather Go Out For Coffee Illini. Memo to Tim Beckman: If you lose to the Fighting Karl Malones at home 52-24 in any other season but your honeymoon first, expect walking papers to be drafted.
**Might be time to give Brian Kelly some credit. Offensive mastermind? Ehhh. But his defense just went eight quarters vs. Le’Veon and Denard and without allowing a touchdown. That’s impressive regardless of the opponent’s offensive shortcomings in both cases.
**Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham where have you gone? Sparty’s offense is laboring with a new quarterback and a cadre of talented receivers who are not big on the whole catching the ball thing. Get open? Sure. Beat press coverage? Yup. Catch the ball when thrown? We’ll get back to you. Still, that defense will soon provide the Fighting Braxtons its best test of the season no question.
**Northwestern has actually been the most impressive B1G team which is meaningful because injected with sodium pentothal we’d all admit the Wildcats really aren’t impressive at all.
**Big Ten football, baby … catch it! Then maybe take in a movie and get some housework done so the afternoon is not a total waste.
And now, some national quips …
**Alabama. Everyone else.
**Oregon and Florida State, you can stay.
**Who else has really impressed? Kudos to Kansas State for winning in Stoops Land. That rarely happens. We can assume LSU, Florida, Georgia or South Carolina will be around late. But it will only be one of them.
**Not an epic season when it comes to quality of play overall – clearly. It’s the kind of season a talented but growing outfit could somehow get through its slate unblemished in large part because of questionable competition, then find itself playing for something really meaningful. You know, if that outfit wasn’t facing sanctions and stuff.
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Bottom of the Bucket
For work and for play … The “anti-climactic” season is here (yes, ironically the “for play” season). Huh? Here’s my twisted meaning: August and January are our biggest new subscription months at Bucknuts. Because that’s when the anticipation reaches its zenith, believe it or not. August for the season and January for recruiting. Recruiting – the ultimate in five-year anticipation!
Fans seem to be drawn more to the theory of college football than to coverage and analysis of the games themselves. Look at the message boards. There is more frenzy before the event than after. The event itself (the season or Commitment Day) truly feels like “after-the-fact.” As the poet said, “Love is the ideal thing. Marriage is the real thing. Those that confuse the two are bound to suffer.”
There is an element of FOMO Phobia involved as well. It’s a new neurosis: “Fear Of Missing Out.” A person wants to be involved in any new event and - what with our dramatically reduced attention spans - we each want a taste of what’s going on. So we get the pre-event smattering full-force and don’t invest much emotionally in the substance. Like watching trailers rather than the movie.
I remark about this every season but it still takes me annually by surprise. Here we are, undefeated, a new coach and bright lights everywhere and the talk is all about “next year” or “that kid might commit to Ohio State” or “we need to swap out the coaches.” Healthy people enjoy the present as well as the future.
To your health, Buckeye Nation. It’s a great time to be a Buckeye. Right now…
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The missing linebackers …Our second line of defense seems to have been missing in action much of this year and a couple are just missing, period. Let’s first look at our action figures. Shazier is the real deal but he is still young and learning to play at a high standard. Sabino is a fifth-year senior and he isn’t going to get any better. The staff has high hopes for Grant but he is likely a year away. Now you see why the current group might be the Achilles Heel of what was expected to be a lights-out defense.
This past week, we ran this nugget at the venerable Boarding House: “We checked in with a source regarding OSU’s linebacker situation to see if things are really as bad as they appear. Maybe we’re missing something. As it turns out, we’re not. “They are a mess at linebacker,” the insider said. “They have Shazier and a bunch of guys. It’s time to see what some of the freshmen can do. But Luke (Fickell) is talking about how they need to get Storm Klein more playing time? That’s the last thing that needs to happen. It’s time to play the young guys.”
Who are the guys that are simply missing? Just two: Jordan Hicks and Trey DePriest. Hicks is a star at Texas and Trey is a starter for the nation’s best defense at Alabama – as a sophomore. These Ohioans were Ohio State’s for the losing and we lost them both. The best two linebackers each year in Ohio. Brian Sweat? Etienne Sabino? Dorian Bell? They were all “top two” in the nation at their position coming out of high school. Looks like fool’s gold, in retrospect. And one thing stands out: there’s no fooling the opposition with just your rep out there on the field…
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The twelve-step program … First, you have to admit you have a problem. Then, take it one game at a time. That is, if you want to win all 12 football games in a season…
They say that the difference between being an alcoholic and a drunk is that if you are a drunk, you don’t have to go to meetings. At Bucknuts, we are still secretly drinking the Kool-Aid that we can go, uh, undefeated this year. Despite the evidence we have seen so far on the field. That’s right. Ohio State is so talented (if not a bit disorganized) and the rest of the Big Ten is so bad (and getting worse) that an undefeated season remains possible. And like Lou Holtz says, you don't have to be the best each week, just better than who you're playing.
We wax philosophical because that’s what we play for this year – a philosophical championship. Hey – we are a third of the way there and with a rogue’s gallery of mediocrity waiting in front of us so who knows? One of the most mystical lines in all of the world’s liturgy – and a concept upon an entire Kabbalistic sect is based: “It is very near to you, in your hearts, that you may do it.” Just win, baby!
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Interviewing Mr. B … Last week, I was the lightning rod on our soon-to-be-very-famous live radio show broadcast from Rooster’s every Sunday on WING-AM 1410 ESPN radio in Dayton. Afterwards, a nebishy high school sports reporter asked if he could have five minutes and a few questions of this legendary (ahem!) cartoon figure. I was feeling pretty pumped as my self-inflated stature grew right before his eyes. Well, maybe my eyes.
He threw me a few softball questions and then – for background – asked me about growing up in Dayton. What was my favorite fast food back in the day? I said, “We didn't have fast food when I was growing up; all the food was slow.” Slight thoughtful confused pause and the follow-up: “Well, where did you eat?” I had to think back and it dawned on me: “It was a place we called ‘home.’ Mom cooked and when Dad came in from work, we all sat down and ate dinner.” OK, OK, well what if you were being driven to – say – soccer practice? “Uh, my parents didn’t drive us to sports events. In fact, they rarely attended. And we had never heard of soccer back then, really.”
I thought, I hope he doesn’t ask about my cell phone in high school because our house just had one phone – in the kitchen. And we were luckier than neighbor friends who actually had a party line and had to make sure no one else was using it. I was going to get him back to the food question and tell him about Cassano’s and Vic&Mom’s pizza but I realized he would never understand that pizza wasn’t delivered in the 1960s. But milk was.
I looked down at my Rooster’s wings (yes, they asked me to pay full retail…), felt really old and drove home. An unfortunate point had been driven home accidentally in the three minutes before that!