Good God, how much I love my Buckeyes. And - good grief - how much I hate that no pressure/soft contain defense they showed in the first four games. I wanted an old-fashioned Big Ten slobber-knocker. And, brother, both teams delivered. It got a little chippy out there with late hits (some called…) and eye-gougings and Sparty throwing a bunch of elbows and knees. And it was a war of attrition that Ohio State tried to lose at various times; but prevailed nonetheless to remain the class of a questionable conference. What couldn’t be questioned was the heart and determination of a bunch of kids who – all of a sudden – became a football team.
For the first time this season, the defense rose up and absolutely shut down one of the best rushing teams in the nation. Yes, to be fair, for the fifth time this season, we made a pretty average quarterback look like, well… a Maxwell Award winner, as this particular Maxwell (previously last in the Big Ten in passing efficiency) passed at will and at everyone else. We also used our time tested mix of out-of-position players and stupid penalties (Johnson, Howard, Roby, et al) to confuse and wear out MSU. But we beat them, in the end. We beat them physically, psychologically and - say it with me now: “Scoreboard.”
And those will be my last complaints this week about a Buckeye team that reminds me of 2002, when we did just enough to win; when we played down to weak competition and played up to the tough guys.
Braxton Miller was heroic. An absolute warrior. Carlos Hyde was heroic and simply not to be denied. And the guy that left his hometown to play for the other team? No, not Le’Veon – he was a non-entity. I am talking Johnathan Hankins. Big time heroic appreciation for Big Hank.
OK, I lied a little. I do have one more complaint: Brent Musberger. He hates us. All that pompous and fake gravitas and rehearsed ad libs. And he talks his insipid little stories through the action out there on the field. He almost missed the end of the game completely with yet another irrelevant and insipid anecdote. He is the George Dohrmann of announcers. The replacement ref of talking heads. OK, I’m doing what Brent did now – ruining a good game with a digressing story line. Let’s talk Ohio State football!
The lines for the game were simply three points for the home team, which always gets a three-point edge. But the winning lines were both our offensive and defensive lines. The O-line meted out big time punishment and just beat up a good Sparty front. The D-line was not to be moved. The linebackers and safeties didn’t earn any NFL money yesterday afternoon but rose up when they had to (plus or minus one crappy drive and the aforementioned gaffes). Yes, Buckeye cynics, Luke’s job is safe for another week!
We had no takeaways but yet here were a couple of my own:
1) To play a team like MSU at their place, give up three huge turnovers, waste a blocked punt and have their first-year novice QB look like Tom Brady – and we won! That’s saying something. That’s a statement about resolve and determination.
2) We had three different drives that would have been “kill shots,” drives that all ended in Brax turnovers. The score could have been 24-6, or in that territory. It wasn’t. The kill shots didn’t kill them and the lack of cashing in didn’t kill us……..
3) Have you ever seen a bigger smile on Urban Meyer’s face? Do you think that man enjoys this team, this job? Are you kidding me?
MSU came in as a rushing machine with a huge back that plays like the Terminator. We rang Bell so many times he will be hearing and feeling the Buckeye fight song for a week. It was a 1.9 yards per carry average rushing for Michigan State. No first downs rushing!
And the pain. Not only on the field, but what I did to myself on the couch! I pulled a leg muscle kicking the TV when Howard wasted our fourth down defensive stop with a senseless away-from-the-action penalty. I hurt my back imploring Braxton to get up and get up again. My rotator cuff is sore from throwing up both arms on the Brax-to-Devin TD throw. It was a physically tough game and I do much better attending than watching on TV.
The Michigan State team and this game have taken on a new hue (and cry) in the past few years. Nick Satan and John L. Smith might have moved on but the aura of Sparty being able to lose almost any game remains. No Rose Bowl season since 1987 and no MNC since 1966. This year, their team mantra is “PRB” as in “Prepare for the Bose Bowl.” This could still be their year for that due to the bureaucrats and their infernal meddling.
Dantonio seems more crotchety by the week and still is like Tress Jr. to me, with a little more flair for the unexpected. What would he say about that assessment, about the game? “Next question.” When I first looked at the 2012 schedule, that initial road trip to Michigan State stuck out like a green thumb. It said a lot by game time that it was the premier game in the country – No. 14 against No. 20. And while other teams played without any defense at all yesterday, two very physical teams put on a show for the Game Day crowd.
Ohio State is now 20-10 when a featured combatant on ESPN’s Game Day. I loved the casually vulgar signs and treatment of Desmond Howard – hated equally by MSU and OSU crowds and arguably the most classless of media sports personalities. It only got better when he picked the Bucks. Herbie walked the fine line and defaulted to the fact that he had to carry Mushberger in the booth later. Lee Corso (see: Beano Cook, Louis the XIV’s court jester, et al) espoused endearingly that he first wore – 15 years ago - the Brutus head gear and he put it on again in front of a drunk-by-noon MSU crowd, which then chanted “Ass-hole! Ass-hole!” to the bemusement of dozens that could hear it.
Yes, it was a party atmosphere with a happy ending. This is a Buckeye team that can beat – and should beat – any of the teams they are expected to play. It won’t always be pretty and the Big Ten is physical if not good so injuries can determine outcomes down the road.
But what a great road, the one less traveled than last season. Good times.
And always a good time to be a Buckeye!
Long After the Game
Michigan State game analysis by Duane Long
This was a massive win for the Buckeyes. You could see it in the postgame reaction of Coach Meyer and the team. This was the one that set the stage for the rest of the year. Getting past the second best team in the conference on their field is the first defining of the Meyer era.
We can start talking about 12-0 again. That is the goal. It is the only goal. We cannot think about playing for the national championship. That is no different than asking whether the Steelers of the 1970's could beat the 49ers of the 1980's. Great fun to speculate about but it is an impossibility. The prize for this year is to go undefeated. It is a very simple formula. Win four games: Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan. This was the hardest of the four.
Tough game. That has been the script this year for the most part but this game we were looking at a team that could beat the Buckeyes. In past weeks I noted the wins coming harder than they should have would reap benefits down the road. I think we saw this team react well to adversity. Shook off three turnovers in its first away game of the year against the next best team in the conference.
I am not a fan of the spread for several reasons. I don't see an effective short-yardage offense. I don't see a good red zone offense and I don't see an offense that can run out a game. I have been calling for more I-Formation because I see an offensive line we could get behind and just run right at people. At the end of this game we saw this offensive line blow holes in the best defensive line in the conference out of the spread.
I see a team with the wind in its sails coming off this big win. The confidence generated could be that thing that makes this team as good as we thought they could be coming into the season. Next week will tell us a lot about that.
Michigan State game analysis by The Technician
Saturday, I watched a gutsy win by a very talented, immature team.
Coach Tressel always said the strength of each team would be how well it deals with adversity. This offense, as it tries to find itself, sputters and coughs and, at times, looks downright ugly. But, yesterday, that offense showed that it has the ability to weather adversity. Each time MSU pressed Ohio State and got its act together on offense, OSU would rise to the occasion and claw back. Ohio State had 12 offensive possessions on the day, and put together drives of over 39 yards on 5 of them. MSU came out and scored a FG to start the second half, OSU follows up with one of their own. MSU scores a TD on the next drive, OSU counters with a scoring strike to Devin Smith.
The defense, once again, looked spotty at times. But, they held Le’Veon Bell to 45 yards rushing on the day, a whopping 107.5 yards below his average. Yes, the tackling was atrocious at times, inopportune penalties hurt the defense, secondary miscues were prevalent and QB pressure was almost non-existent. But, when the Bucks needed it, the defense dug down deep and kept Sparty out of the end zone.
Immature teams make mistakes. They are frustrating to watch, at times. They rarely play to their potential. But, young teams do tend to get older. They learn to play through the emotions and stop the silly penalties. They grow to understand that you wrap up the ball carrier to make the team successful, not strip the ball to be the hero. They understand the defenses better and know how to go to another option.
But, this immature team on Saturday showed that they have something that doesn’t necessarily come with age. You either have it or you don’t. The ability to play through adversity is what Coach Tressel called it. Coach Meyer simply calls it “playing with heart.”
This team will struggle at times as it matures. The coaching staff will have gaffes as it matures and comes together. But there is talent on the field and wisdom in the coaching booth. Until it all jells, I’m sure that Coach Meyer is resting comfortably knowing that he has a team of warriors.
Spanning the College Football Globe: The Facts and the Pub
The Buckeyes, the Big Ten and the nation by Dan Rubin, Bucknuts Publisher
Was it perfect? No. Was it pretty? At times (see Miller, Braxton, open field). Was it the most impressive win a Big Ten will get in conference this season? Yes.
The Buckeyes are a work in progress. From the new coach making the program his own … to the uber-talented quarterback making the offense his own … to the (co-)defensive coordinator developing his unit’s identity. What we saw yesterday is all three are coming together – not without customary growing pains, sure – but even in this nascent stage of the Urban Meyer Era, the convergence makes Ohio State the best team in the Big Ten.
Winning on the road against a legit opponent means something. It’s not something to gloss over. Ol’ Urb has not been one to heap consistent praise on his group thus far but you can tell he was truly pleased with the result.
There’s plenty of kudos to go around, but what I take away most was the defense keeping the Spartans from getting the winning points late. Andrew Maxwell and Co. had their chances. They were a big play away from Michigan State kicker Dan Conroy putting his reputation on the line.
The pressure was there … late. I’ve railed about this on countless Front Row Radio broadcasts but the lack of a ferocious pass rush has limited the team for a while. Limited them from what? From being great, from being dominant, from making the opposing offense feel like they can’t breathe and that the clock is moving faster than it is. We saw that late. It bodes very well going forward … if it begins to arrive early.
The dream lives.
Buckeyes-Spartans was the main attraction yesterday, even from a national perspective. But that won’t stop us from cracking wise on the rest of the Big Ten and the national scene. First, our conference brethren:
*Get ready for a healthy dose of Braxton Miller-Taylor Martinez comparisons, breakdowns and evaluations over the next six days. With the Huskers booked for Columbus and these two quarterbacks so much the focal point of their respective offenses, you can guarantee it. I happened to have the tele on mute last night when the Nebraska-Wisky highlights came on. Martinez jumps off the screen even with the sound down. Dude can run. Fast. He’s not the juke-you-in-a-phone booth-still-get-North talent that Braxton is (I’m not sure anybody is – seriously) but I’ll bet it would be a real close 40 if they raced. I don’t buy Martinez’s improvement as a passer, however. Let’s make sure that ferocious pass rush made the trip back from East Lansing.
And as a brief aside, I still love seeing Bret’s boys go down. For me, they are riding shotgun in the Big Ten Foemobile right now.
*Oh, Illinois. Good gracious. You just subjected the home crowd to two weeks of embarrassment. I credit our Dave Biddle for downplaying the Tim Beckman hire. I was more optimistic and four games does not a coaching tenure make. But they are flat-out terrible.
It was an otherwise uneventful day in the conference. I guess Northwestern going to 5-0 is noteworthy. I guess. Iowa over Minnesota was a sleep-aid special. Next week figures to raise the blood pressure a bit, though. The Buckeyes and Huskers will control the primetime stage. But I’ll warm up with Michigan at Purdue. Keep Hope alive.
Now some national impressions …
*Alabama is the best team in the country. Not sure how a debate could be crafted otherwise. But at least at this point, it’s not the force it was last season. A.J. McCarron is closer to a game manager than the put-me-on-your-back type we saw in the BCS title game. There’s no Trent Richardson to tote the rock. And while the defense probably has as many first round draft picks as a season ago, they’re young. Ole Miss and Michael Oher’s high school coach moved the ball better than I thought they would. That could change by the end of the season as the unit gains experience.
*Who knew when West Virginia left the Big East it was actually joining the Arena League. Listen, I like prolific offense as much as the next guy. But who thinks Urban’s postgame comment on the field – “This was a great Big Ten football game – was at least semi-directed at Morgantown? West Virginia’s quarterback had eight touchdown passes; one Mountaineers receiver had 303 receiving yards and another had 215 – AND NEITHER WAS THE LEADING RECEIVER IN THE GAME. Baylor’s Terrance had 17 receptions for 314 yards. Those are the type of numbers reserved for video games when you go in and change all your players to 99 ratings … well, except for the defensive players.
Sorry, that’s not real football to me. If this is the Oregonization of football, count me glad to be in the Big Ten where we must be too slow to score that many points.
*And don’t look now, mighty SEC. You are headed for such an ‘offensive’ culture. The Buckeyes and Spartans combined to score 33 hard-fought points. Georgia and Tennessee eclipsed that early in the second quarter. South Carolina put 31 on Kentucky in the second half. LSU gave up 22 points to Towson and I don’t want to hear about how much of it came late. LSU’s third string would all start for Towson. Quick: How many of you right now know where Towson is located? Exactly.
Bottom of the Bucket
Mr. B’s quick hits (and excuse the misses…)
This week’s menu: Teams we love to hate in the Big Ten
***On the average, we’re a lot like Michigan…No, Urban is a helluva lot better than Brady Hjoke (that “H” is getting more silent each week…) but the comparisons are odious all the way around. UM and OSU are once again at the top of the B-10 but only because the rest of the conference is sucking air. We both have entire offenses built around remarkably athletic quarterbacks that haven’t proven they can consistently pass when needed. The difference is that Brax has 2-plus more years to work on that and Denard is baked and done.
Statistically? Average. Both teams. Take away the game Michigan played against UMass (who Indiana beat 45-6; ‘nuff said…), and Michigan’s vaunted offense is averaging less than 14 points a game. They were 74th in total offense and 63rd in scoring offense. That includes 94th in the nation (there are but 120 teams) in passing efficiency. Defense? 54th in scoring defense, putting them barely over the median.
This is not a good Michigan team. Recruiting classes notwithstanding, the gap between Meyer and Hoke will only grow larger – to chasm size – in the years to come…
*** Global weirding hits Nebraska …With oil prices up (too many gases in the air?) and natural gas prices down (too many gases in the ground?), something had to give. And that something hit Lincoln, Neb., in the form of a helium shortage. The tradition of releasing 5,000 helium balloons when the ‘Huskers score their first touchdown was reduced to just 2,500 such balloons this year. “We don’t want to take away helium from hospitals and industries that need it more than we do right now,” said Ethan Rowley, the school’s director of athletic marketing.
***Used and abused … The Big Ten has acted the role of the abused spouse these past decades with Notre Dame. Despite the beatings (we used to give them) we kept begging the Irish to come back. The only way to break such a cycle? Well, before we could figure it out, they left us! Good riddance. They keep their traditional rivalries with the ACC (?) and Stanford and Navy but not their geographical B-10 buddies. Hey – the Michigan rivalry? Gone. Historically speaking, the Wolverinos got by without playing them from 1910-1941 and then again from 1944-1977. I say another 30-year cooling off period is about right.
***Well, at least they are boo-ing quieter … Now that they’ve solved that pesky scheduling issue, Notre Dame is trying to find ways to get their crowd to be louder. This, in a stadium where ushers have been known to warn fans about being too loud. Whew. Well, the fact that the Domers are only 19-16 at home since 2007 might have something to do with it. AD Jack Swarbrick says he is tired of “other athletic directors telling him how much they enjoy bringing their teams there.” Hey, Jack – try the ACC. Maybe you can make some noise there…
***Recruiting quarterbacks … Duane Long always insisted the two hardest positions to project for players going from high school to college were quarterbacks and offensive tackles, as their development AFTER high school usually determines their success on the college gridiron. Yet. Recruiters have gone gaga over high school quarterbacks this season: 58 of the top 60 (according to one database) have already committed! And that’s with more than four months to go to Commitment Day. One interesting note to Ohio State fans (which has the No. 1 rated dual threat QB in the country coming in – J.T. Barrett), TSUN’s early verbal is Shane Morris – rated as one of the top five pro-style HS QB’s in the nation. After four games, Shane’s team was 2-2 and he was 40-83 for 456 yards, 3 TD, 3 Int. Uh oh, scUMers. Plus, he seems to have mono and might shut it down for the year. The other thing he is developing is excuses, which means he will fit in well in Ann Arbor…
***SECheats … It’s all one word, like a tautology (water is wet…). The SEC passed their OWN rules this year to allow recruits to attend neutral game sites as guests of the school, even inviting along family members – heretofore a rules violation for the rest of civilized college football. As one blogger put it after the Alabama and Auburn “neutral site” games: “These games have always been considered a major boost for recruiting but this weekend the Tide and Tigers turned their high-profile games into an even bigger recruiting bonanza. Respective fan base can make at an intense, marquee game could give them a major edge with their high-profile visitors.”
***From the penthouse to the outhouse: Denard Rob-em-some has been on an elevator ride this season. We detailed two weeks ago an unusual statistical anomaly when he had 426 total yards and the Michigan team had a total of 422. Now how about this for a record: a week ago against Notre Dame, he threw four straight interceptions. As our defensive guys have shown at OSU, you need a lot of cooperation from ham-handed defenders just to pull that off! Bucknuts supporter, Colin Cowherd remarked the next day: “Has any college player regressed more than Denard Robinson? Last year at this time we thought he was a Heisman Trophy candidate. Now I don’t think he is a starting quarterback … in the Big Ten.”
Check this out: After their first four games, how has Heisman Denard looked versus newbie Brax? Here’s the comparison:
Denard: 66 rushes, 441 yards, 4 TDs; Passer rating: 129.4; 837 passing yds, 6 TDs 8 INTs
Braxton: 67 rushes, 441 yards, 7 TDs; Passer rating: 145.3; 754 passing yds, 7 TDs, 2 INTs
And our boy Brax put on quite a show again yesterday. My vote is for him…
***We were…Penn State… 98,792. The last Penn State home game attendance. That is like 90-percent full. The next time when the stadium is filled up may be Oct. 27 when Ohio State visits. Their fans see Ohio State as their rival, so they will show up.
Looking at some of the past Nittany games, you can have gotten good tickets in the $35-$55 range. Just wait until next year when the reality of how bad they will be for next decade sinks in. And recruiting? They just landed safety Kasey Gaines (5-foot-10, 160 pounds, 4.4) , the No. 112 safety in the nation and the No. 136 recruit from Georgia, with offers from Harvard, Howard, Miami OH, Presbyterian and VMI. It’s a long road back in Sad Valley…
***The sins of the fathers… I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to – and wouldn’t want to. There is a new investigation into Pop Warner football that parents paid 10 and 11-year old players to intentionally injure opponents. Coaches and fathers have now been suspended from the league. One father has detailed numerous incidents of bounties paid to knock out running backs from other teams. The SEC is looking into these allegations to see if there are any recruits available who learned how to get away with cheating at this level (OK, I did make up that last part…)
***Replacement jokes… There are still concerns about those replacement referees who were replaced by the better-paid part-time referees. Questions have emerged such as: Do we really want these guys back on the street? I phoned one of the replacement guys for his comments and got this voicemail: “Sorry I missed your call”…
What Stat You Say?
1) There are 425,000 kids that play Pop Warner football (including cheerleaders) for over 5,000 individual teams.
2) The Buckeyes have now won 13 of the last 16 meetings against MSU. OSU is 16-5 against Sparty in East Lansing. Ohio State hasn’t lost in Spartan Stadium since a 23-7 beating in 1999.
3) Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is now 1-5 lifetime against the Buckeyes. Last year’s victory broke a streak that included losses in 2004 and 2006 while at Cincinnati in addition to defeats as in 2007 and 2008 with the Spartans. And I think Danto hates Meyer as much as he loves Tress. Put him on the “He Hate Me” ledger with Bielema and Hoke and Pelini…
4) This is Ohio State’s 100th year in the Big Ten and Michigan State’s 60th. All-time in Big Ten openers, OSU is 72-24-4. MSU is 32-24-4 and is now 1-5 against OSU in Big Ten openers.
5) All the teams that we beat this year lost yesterday except for Miami, which outlasted a hapless Akron team, 56-49. UCF did scare Missouri, however…
6) After yesterday, the Buckeye defense is still 57th in total D and 25th in scoring D but has moved to 19th in rushing D. In all categories – offense and defense – we lead the Big Ten in, well…nothing.
7) Braxton Miller is 13th in the nation in rushing and fourth in “injury recoveries” (OK, I made that up to see if you were still paying attention…
8) Nebraska is now 5th in the nation in rushing offense but 77th in passing offense – a Taylor-made formula for the Bucks?
9) In the most important category: Ohio State is tied for first in the nation at 5-0!