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Mr. B In A Happy Place

Deep in the Valley of Tears, in the moral torpor that once was Penn State, OSU was assigned the task yesterday of stemming the Nittany Lion tide of “resilience” and all that inappropriate celebration of a football program that now stands for the numberless. And we finally know the reason that there aren’t names on the backs of those uniforms…

I'm back, baby! Albeit briefly ...

So went the “No Bowl” – two teams that are said to be going nowhere but just being mentioned in the same “suspension talk” as Penn State creates a misnomer that should humiliate any one making that comparison. For Ohio State, it was the “Igno Bowl.” For PSU it was the “Abomina Bowl.” Neither has been exactly noble, in retrospect…

Hey - how long has it been since JoePa - the Cowardly Lion – has not patrolled the sidelines against the Buckeyes? Check it out. Ohio State has never played a PSU squad in Happy Valley without Paterno. Never is indeed a long time!

Well, we played them last night. Hurricane Brutus hit State College a little later than forecasted (the second half) but then blew away a Penn State team that was thinking itself pretty darn good despite the talent it is missing from player defections and PR deflections. In fact, both teams have some talent, lest we forget. Before Saturday evening’s game (just the stats, ma’am…), a third of the B-10 offensive or defensive player of the week awards had been won by either a PSU or OSU player this season.

The first half was truly a bunch of noise as both sides matched missed opportunities. Braxton was channeling his “inner Bauserman” (not a pretty sight) and spraying the ball all over; as the term “shotgun quarterback” took on new meaning with balls looking like clay pigeons at a skeet range.

Did you know that other than the scintillating 32-yard Miller highlight run, our next two longest offensive gains in the first half were a facemask and holding penalty? And special teams? There was no surprise that we got another punt blocked for a special-teams-against score; the surprise was that we got off five of the other six! Discouraging that…

But Urban showed the players films at halftime which revealed Penn State really wasn’t that good after all, and our defense was playing lights out. This is a PSU team where 14 players transferred; and its gaudy five-game win streak? Yes, those wins have come against less than high-level competition: Navy (5-3), Iowa (4-4), Temple (3-4) and Illinois (2-6). Its most impressive win came against Northwestern, which is the true surprise team in the conference this year.

Meanwhile, back at the game…a 21-3 third quarter danced this mess around and it felt like it could have been “name that score” time if we just kept blitzing Matt McGloin. Let’s all say this together, Bucknutters: LUKE – it changes the game when you get pressure on the quarterback!!! It disrupts his timing! It keeps him from stepping up into his throws!! It keeps the QB from letting his guys make 2-3 moves on our DBs! While McGloin is already No. 7 on Penn State’s career list for touchdown passes with 37, the McGloin we had come to know and love from last year seemed to re-appear in front of our eyes again this year. The Tom Brady comparisons are over officially now.

Speaking of Brady, you do have to admire the tenacious Bill O’Brien and his nose-to-the-grindstone style. I think that BOB is everything that Charlie Weis wasn’t, despite any similarities in their NFL lineage. O’Brien doesn’t talk a good game but he can get his kids to play one. Substance over form.

And Braxton? Don’t say anything bad about my boy! He had a relatively soft night and still accounted for nearly 300 yards of offense despite sliding and running out of bounds. Like Abraham Lincoln said when he was told that General Grant had a drinking problem: “You just tell me the brand of whiskey Grant drinks – I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”

Before we go all general again, here are some last specific thoughts now that my late night whiskeys have worn off:

1) The punt might not be the most important play in football but it might be the most interesting, at least the way we play it. We got one blocked to give them their offensive points for the first half and we stopped yet another fake punt and they (kinda) held us on still another which turned into a TD drive for the Good Guys.

2) How about our “sons of alumni’ streak there in Q3? First Adam Griffin broke up the fake punt, then Evan Spencer caught two Brax passes in one series. You have now earned your schollies, guys.

3) Were there times during the game you wanted to yell at Braxton, “Put the guns away son and go to the wheels!” … and then he threaded a perfect pass to Stoney and that’s that.

4) We should NEVER run a kickoff out of the end zone! We can either fumble or not make it back to the 25 or get called (over and over and over again) for a penalty. Can you remember a time we consistently started so deep on our own end?

5) They said that Happy Valley was a sell-out. Truer words were never spoke…

6) Finally, is there any scarier site for a defense in all of college football than Miller inside your five-yard line? Reminds me of a cat – with a mouse – on a square mile of linoleum.
Ohio State is now the nation’s only team at 9-0. It feels good, no matter what the critics say. The defense is coming around, Illinois is coming to town (like Santa) and I can justify this still as a magical year – sorta like 2002. It reminds me of the justifications about my weight, which is perfect for my height- which varies…

At the end of the Cincinnati-Louisville game Friday night, the ESPinners gratuitously spit out: “There are 11 undefeated teams if you want to count Ohio State." Yeah, we count, brother. We can count to nine now and soon we hope to count to 12. We count in a way that Bristol can’t understand and that the AP voters hopefully start to.

It’s a season that counts more than the anti-Ohio State crowd can imagine. Hey Urban; hey Buckeyes: You go, boys!

Long After the Game

Penn State game analysis by Duane Long

There is much credit to go around but it starts with the coaching staff.

I was worried about this one. I thought the Buckeyes were coming in on a downswing. Tough wins over teams that were completely outmanned in Indiana and Purdue. Penn State was coming on looking like the next best team in the conference. The game was at Penn State, a school looking for signature wins. None would be greater than a win over the Buckeyes. While Michigan is the Buckeyes greatest rival, there is no doubt that Ohio State is Penn State’s greatest rival. With no bowl to look forward to, this was its most important game. The "white out" and the noise level was proof of that.

Luke Fickell’s much-maligned defense was ready to play. The pressure was dialed up. We saw players coming from different angles all night. Matt McGloin never settled in. He was late and behind all night. The defense put some hurt on him. I find it ironic that the defense has risen to the occasion in the two biggest games of the year, this one and Michigan State.

We have all heard the movie line, "You're killin' me, Smalls.” I would say, “You're killin' me, Braxton.” Can anyone remember Miller getting off to a good start? I can't. Look at the first quarter. Miller was off throwing the ball. We should be used to that at this point. He missed Philly Brown for a sure touchdown. All the Penn State corner needs to do is catch the ball on another bad throw and it is 7-0 Penn State. This was another tough defensive line this week but the Buckeye offensive line found its way again and was key to the win.

We are a better special teams squad but we once again gave up a blocked punt. I don't know if Ben Buchanan is taking too long to get the ball off or what. I have never paid enough attention to special teams play to be able to suss it out but so often special teams is the difference in a game. The way the first half went I thought we were going to find out how much big plays in special teams can impact a game.

Technically Speaking

Unique insight from The Technician himself …

I loved watching Ohio State beat Penn State. But, then, I felt like I needed to shower. It was the type of enjoyment that leaves you feeling a little dirty.

I mean, has anyone ever seen a team that can look this bad actually be 9-0? In every game there are moments of such bad play it makes you think Urban Meyer has made a deal with Satan to get out with a win.

There were missed pick six chances for the Nits that would have put Ohio State in a tremendous hole.

There were dropped passes by the Nits that would have buried the Bucks.

There were passes by Braxton Miller in the first half that would have made Joe Bauserman blush.

But then, as has happened for nine glorious weeks now, Ohio State flips a switch, turns the corner, and sits up from its drunken stupor, all to grab victory from the jaws of defeat.

The first half offensive woes were predictable. Going into Beaver Stadium, in that environment the first week after an injury scares the bejesus out of you, will make your quarterback sail some passes into Section C. I thought at that time once Braxton has that first good play and goes back to his instincts and puts his fears to rest, the game was OSU’s for the taking. I know he won’t win the Heisman this year, but on the basis of his first run for touchdown, Miller is, hands down, the best player in college football. There are faster runners. There are better passers. But you simply DO NOT run through three unblocked defenders like he did on his first touchdown in Division I. You might see a play like that in high school, where there are differences in skill sets amongst players, but Division I? Not a chance. No one else can do what he did.

Additionally, whereas for eight weeks Miller looked for Devin Smith and Philly Brown almost to the exclusion of the other receivers, it was nice to see him go through his progressions and find Evan Spencer, who is showing that he has a decent pair of hands to go with his blocking skills. The pass to Jake Stoneburner was absolutely perfect in its placement and shows what Miller can/will be in the future.

It was great to see the defensive front put some pressure on a quarterback. Matt McGloin may be greatly improved, but even Bill O’Brien’s other quarterback student, Tom Brady, pees just a little when 275 pounds of man meat is bearing down on him. Ohio State’s defensive line was actually stemming pre-snap and doing some stunts! Just seeing it made me a little frisky.

But, this defense is not appreciably changed from what it has been for eight weeks. In the fourth quarter you got to see Ohio State revert back to its “bend and break” defense as they attempted to protect the lead. I know Luke and the gang want to win the surest way, but the surest way is rarely having your defensive linemen dance in place with the offensive linemen. In the future, it is paramount that the defensive staff devises ways of creating havoc and confusion on the line, in order to create pressure, even with spread teams that have a three step drop. It is amazing how much better your defensive backs look when you get pressure on the quarterback and how pedestrian they look when you do not.

In the whole “bend and break” sequence of events, one thing did stand out. Adolphus Washington is a “grown-assed man,” to borrow a phrase from Meyer. From the end position, Washington was simply bull rushing the Penn State tackle straight back to McGloin. Nice glimpse into the future to see how good this young man can become.

So, a great win for the Bucks. At the end, I looked around and, with no one watching, I let out a little devious giggle. The Bucks are just teasing the rest of the football world. “Are we really, really bad? You know, we can be very, very good, if you want us to be!” As long as Ohio State keeps hanging up “Ws” – I will just keep on taking those postgame showers!

Spanning the College Football Globe: The Facts and the Pub

The Big Ten and National Scene review by Dan Rubin, Bucknuts Publisher

As always, a little on the Buckeyes – the only 9-0 team in the country don’t ya know?

Ohio State has better players than Penn State and over the course of the game that was readily apparent.

There you have it.

On to the Big Ten and the nation at large …

**Note to the Hokester: When you have a 185-pound quarterback who likes to run it on a regular basis, you best get yourself a reliable backup. This just in: Russell Bellomy is not a reliable backup. Greg Mattison has crafted a respectable defense, one that kept TSUN in the game for a while in Lincoln last night. Whereas, Bellomy had three completions … and three interceptions. Passer rating: 1.2. If Denard is arm punt, what the heck do we call Bellomy? I’m open to suggestions.

**As I have opined here previously, Wisconsin rides shotgun in the rival wagon. Just not a fan. At. All. So to see Michigan State get them on the last play – again, but this time at Camp Randall – was an enjoyable exercise. Neither of those teams is particularly strong overall, but there is no way on Earth Michigan State should have been a sub-.500 team with that defense and it would have been had the comeback not been pulled off. The Spartans defense is the highest ranked unit in the Big Ten – No. 5 nationally in total defense – and certainly Rose Bowl caliber. Ol’ Dino looked genuinely pleased to get his first W as Spartans skipper in Madison and deservedly so. It averted this being a catastrophic campaign.

**When you lose at home in the same season to Louisiana Tech and Indiana by a combined 42 points, you are approaching legendary awfulness. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Fighting Illini! The Hooisers had lost 11 straight conference games until Saturday. Yo Beckman, I get the idea of transition and walking before you can run but this is more like stumbling in a blackout than walking.

**Pat Fitgerald > Kirk Ferentz.

And now some national (in-state?) perspective …

**Time for a shout out to Kent State and football in the Buckeye state in general. The Golden Flashes beat undefeated and 18th-ranked Rutgers ON THE ROAD by forcing seven turnovers. You just know the Scarlet Knights penciled in the Fighting Darrell Hazells as a glorified, midseason pseudo-bye. Hazell is a former Rutgers assistant who then schooled under Tress and was clearly paying attention. It was Kent State’s first-ever win over a ranked opponent. Nice work, D.

Miami of Ohio also deserves some credit for toppling previously unbeaten and No. 24 Ohio. Has there ever been a season when the MAC seemed this close in quality to the Big Ten? Ever? Old-timers feel free to chime in on this one.

**Speaking of the State University of New Jersey, our weekly counterfeit role call: Rutgers, Oregon State and USC please come to the front of the class and pick up your syllabus. And you, Texas, there in the back. Don’t look down and try to avoid eye contact. Yes, you won … against Kansas … on the last play of the game. Come on up here.

**It is now official: Notre Dame is good. They are. You know it. Manti Te’o has that Troy Polamalu-the-ball-finds-me-in-clutch-situations vibe. And the D overall is strong. Offensively they are nothing special. But they’re legit and a serious contender for the BCS title. Frankly, I NEVER thought I’d pen the previous sentence without the sarcasm font activated.

**Saban. McCarron. The nation’s No. 1 defense statistically by a wide margin. ‘Bama. Average game score 40.6–8.1. Good luck, Leslie. You’ll need it this weekend.

**So here is what I think the top 10 SHOULD BE now: 1. Alabama; 2. Oregon; 3. Kansas State; 4. Notre Dame; 5. LSU; 6. Ohio State; 7. Georgia; 8. Florida; 9. South Carolina; 10. Florida State

Bottom of the Bucket

Mr. B scrapes up some final thoughts …

Dodd gets frank … For those that follow such things, we know that CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd is no friend of Ohio State. And for those that follow this Bucket (admittedly, an even smaller slice…), you know I often depict Gene Smith as speaking with a forked tongue and E. Gordon Gee – well, in a football perspective – as a loveable buffoon.

But with that Duo Nothing pair having woven its magic, a team that should be looking forward to Indianapolis in December (and beyond) has a distinct air of wait-till-next-year about it. Since Dec. 20, 2011, we've known this season was going to be an exhibition season of sorts. A write-off. In terms of titles and hardware, the Bucks would be playing for Monopoly money. And that's a shame, as Dennis Dodd puts it. And then he puts more:

“Ohio State is the best team you'll never see this season -- in a bowl. It has been 10 months since the NCAA handed down its penalties in the Tattoogate case. And with each Ohio State victory, a nagging pain has to grow a little sharper inside those crazy Bucknuts. For them and their beloved football team, it didn't have to be this way. This could have been one hell of a season in Columbus. Don't blame the NCAA for the bowl ban. Blame the leadership that didn't see it coming. Worse, convinced themselves it wasn't a possibility. In that sense, they were almost daring Big Brother to bring the wood.

Five days before Christmas last year, half of us couldn't believe the program had gotten off so lightly. The other half -- a lot of them in Columbus -- were outraged at the severity. Neither side read the NCAA infractions committee quite right. That happens a lot. The difference is, pundits don't have a multimillion-dollar enterprise to protect. They're not on the hook for what could be known as Ohio State's Year of the Missing Ring. Its suits whiffed on what would have been an easy and sensible move at the time. Ohio State should have self-imposed a bowl ban last year.

Throw that season away; show the NCAA you're sorry while it is still contemplating those penalties. This is not Monday morning quarterbacking. I was calling for such a move a year ago. It wouldn't have been easy at the moment, but it would have been right for the future. The program was going nowhere in 2011. Look at the alternative. Is everybody happy with that Gator Bowl?

The school somehow found itself in NCAA double jeopardy -- going through an infractions committee hearing while dealing with an amended notice of allegations! That's not forethought. That's chaos. And so Ohio State football is currently paying for the worst indecision of 2011. Athletic director Gene Smith and President Gordon Gee deserve the criticism along with the school's lawyers and consultants. Either they were stubborn or unaware or both. The school made a convoluted argument to the NCAA about setting precedent with a bowl ban. One problem: When was the last time the infractions committee established any sort of pattern with its penalties?

A bowl ban would have been the best tactical decision. Assistant Luke Fickell took over as head coach of a team that was distracted and diminished. Would it have broken anybody's heart if last year's 6-7 team didn't go bowling? Meanwhile, Gee looks like an entitled fund-raising goof. Even if you can look past the "I'm-just-hopeful-the-coach-doesn't-dismiss-me" comment that stamped a label on the man, the school and its priorities.

The president of both Ohio State and the Bowtie Revolution was eventually responsible for signing off on the strategy that landed the football program in its current situation. But in the end it's better to impress the NCAA rather than tempt it. Some higher-ups at Ohio State badly misread the situation.

That's why it's a shame that the program's seniors this season are playing only for the Leaders Division trophy. (At least they'll get that, according to the conference office.) But if Ohio State has the best record in the division, we already know a second-place team from the Leaders -- at best -- will be playing for the conference championship. It didn't have to be that way. The worst indecision of 2011 assured it.”

A Few Bullets at the Bottom

Quick hits, cheap shots and fill-in (the blanks)…

***Ten-year tenure … Ten years is now considered a long time to be a head coach at a major college program. Think not? The Big Twelve has longest average tenure of coaches at 8.6 years. Big Ten is fourth (behind ACC and SEC also) at 4.3 years. These numbers are skewed slightly by Bill Snyder being at Kansas State for 21 years and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa for 14.

***If it wasn’t for bad breaks … He wouldn’t get any breaks at all. Purdue QB Robert Marve tore his ACL and has played sparingly during the 2012 season. This is the third time the kid has torn his ACL and this is his 6th year, so it appears as if his career is over. Now, for team QB’s? The Faulty Breaks award goes to Maryland, whose third quarterback went out for the season last week (ACL then another ACL now a broken foot). A true freshman – with one series of experience - started yesterday.

(Imagine that for the Buckeyes – Brax goes down, then Guiton; they turn to Cardale/Cordale and then – uh - who?)

*** A nation of realists? ... Buckeye Nation isn’t the only group of people that are becoming more realistic and less optimistic. It was noted that nearly 20 years have passed since the first poll that found more young Americans expect to be visited by a UFO than to receive a check from Social Security.

(OK. It is political season and you know the one thing I can’t resist is temptation. That’s why we created the comment section!)

Don’t forget Bucknuts Radio – live today and almost-like-live tomorrow. The Bucknuts 90 broadcasts from Rooster’s in Miamisburg from 11 a.m-12:30 p.m. today on 1410 WING-AM ESPN Radio in Dayton and tomorrow morning brings another edition of Front Row Radio. Miss a day? You miss a lot…

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