Every season, anyone, who has any kind of writing commitment, will tell you at some point you hit a wall during a given season. It is up to every scribe to find what exactly it is that keeps him or her going, but for me, I usually draw my inspiration from on the field performances. I have gone from frustrated to empathetic when it comes to the 2011 season.
There is no question that 2011 has been a tough me for on many different levels. I am not an apologist, but I am a good friend to a man who lost his job that he loved. Compounding all of this was taking on a career that requires me to explain what happened and why things transpired the way that they did. To top everything off, I have had to endure one of the more trying seasons on the football field that we have seen in some time.
With that being said, every season can be salvaged with a win over TSUN this weekend. So, let’s get after a little Scarlet and Gray Q&A.
Ohio State has gotten off to slow starts in consecutive weeks. What is main cause of this uninspired play?
I have to be honest. I never was in the locker room for a pregame speech from the Vest. I have heard they are legendary for the most part, but most of the time I was out on the field before the game kicked off. I know that “getting up” for a big game isn’t based in just an inspirational pregame speech, but the message, whatever that may be, has gone stale.
It appears that for the most part Fickell likes to lean towards tapping into the team’s emotions. But there was a columnist, who covers Ohio State, that pondered how often Fickell could tap that well before it would run dry. I am in agreement that a player’s reaction diminishes to the same stimuli, and I feel like Fickell just doesn’t have a whole lot else in his arsenal. That is not all on him, because I think this is a learned skill for a head coach. If I asked you to go out and inspire the team to play the scUM on Saturday, we would all tap into the emotional side of things. It is just the way most people would do it. The problem is this is only effective for so long, especially when it is the same voice saying the same thing repeatedly.
I place some blame on the leadership on this team. We all love this group of seniors for what they have had to endure and have done so with class. It just seems like after Wisconsin, the upperclassmen were spent. Younger players feed off of the message from their elder counterparts, and I haven’t seen a whole lot of that lately, which leads me to my next question.
Has the senior class mentally checked out for the remainder of the season?
There were a lot of cryptic remarks made by Mike Brewster on several different media channels that referenced him looking to “the next chapter” of his life. This may be some indication as to where just not Brewster but the rest of many of these seniors (or at least the ones who contribute on a regular basis) may be at. This isn’t to criticize Brewster, but I think at some juncture he realized that the grind of 2011 has become almost too much. He didn’t seem entirely focused on Saturday, and I was surprised. This is a guy who never had an issue with shotgun snaps, and now he seems like he can’t snap a ball back to save his life. It seems like he is going through the motions of finishing out this year.
I can excuse this to a degree. I can relate a little bit. At some point, you just become numb to all the inspirational speeches and quotes. Nothing seems to affect you one way or the other. Going through the mental and emotional anguish this season has taken its toll.
It is not the first nor the last time this will happen, and it has been no different with the Buckeyes. I remember in 2001 at the Outback Bowl, a few seniors sat out from playing in the rematch with South Carolina, and the rumor was it was so they didn’t hurt their draft stock for the upcoming draft. Supposedly the team, which was blown out by the Florida Gators in the NC in 2006, succumbed to mentally checking out. Rumor has it that several prominent members of the team were more concerned with enjoying the fruits of their labor than prepping for the Gators. This senior class would not be the last, but I think I speak for most that I can excuse this year’s seniors much more than those of past classes.
Is all the Urban Meyer talk disrespectful to Luke Fickell and the rest of the coaching staff?
I may be one of the few who feels this way, but I say that it is not. I appreciate everything Luke Fickell has done for this program. There are only a few people who could’ve taken over this job, especially with all of the problems that he inherited, and done as good of a job as Fickell. I hope if all the Meyer rumors come to fruition that Fickell considers staying on as an assistant.
With that being said, it has become painfully clear Fickell is not ready to handle the rigors of being a major head football coach yet. I believe he has plenty of talent to excel one day at a program like Ohio State, but that time is just not right now. There have been many instances that have displayed Fickell needs some more seasoning at a mid-major program before he comes back to a BCS program.
Urban Meyer is a once in a lifetime coach. Fickell just can’t compete with the pedigree that Meyer would bring to the program, and he brings an instant credibility and legitimacy back to the Buckeyes. There aren’t a whole lot of names that can do that, and the decision to hire Meyer is a no brainer for the Ohio State brass. It may be difficult to ignore all the rumors swirling around the state and Buckeye nation, but I would hope, that even people who are currently on the staff, understand the impact that his name would bring to this college football program.
Do the Buckeyes have any chance to beat TSUN on Saturday?
Of course there is always a chance, but there is a clear path that I can see the Buckeyes pulling off one of the grander upsets in this storied rivalry. An interesting stat I saw was that the Buckeyes are 5-3 in games where they are unranked and scUM is ranked heading into “The Game.” Also scUM’s three wins have come by an average of seven points over Ohio State.
The Buckeyes need to do a few things to beat TSUN. One is holding contain in the secondary. This is easier said than done with the young secondary, but the Buckeyes did this a lot against Wisconsin. Mich1gAAn’s receivers aren’t as talented as many of the receiving corps Ohio State has faced this season, so maybe this task will be a little easier this week. The next is limiting the amount Denard Robinson can improvise by putting pressure on him. Clearly the Wolverines are susceptible to the run against good backs (just ask Iowa) and Ohio State stands a fighting chance.
I do think that Ann Arbor CC will need to be a little charitable with the Buckeyes, but I think Ohio State can give them some problems.
Here’s to making it eight in a row over scUM this Saturday!