On Homecoming 2012 in Ohio Stadium before a record crowd of 106,102 fans on national television in prime time the Ohio State Buckeyes left no doubt they are beginning to arrive in new head coach Urban Meyer’s system. What was being billed as a “Showdown in The Shoe” turned out to be a “Blowout in The Shoe” as the men of scarlet and grey plowed their way to an impressive 63-38 victory.
Fire and Ice
The Ohio State offense wasn’t exactly on fire to start the game. Coming out of the locker room the Buckeye offense went four straight series of three and out, the last included a fake punt attempt. I’d like to say that Bradley Roby’s 41 yard interception return for a touchdown at the 8:29 mark of the first quarter was the spark that got the team rolling, but the truth is Ohio State found themselves down 17-7 at the end of the first quarter. Starting slow is a first quarter trend that started back in game one against Miami, Ohio and continues through week six.
So what got the proverbial ball rolling? What kicked the offense and the team itself into gear and got them on a torrid scoring pace that ended up with a 63 spot on the board for the good guys? The answer: Braxton Miller. A 72 yard burst from “XBrax360” juking defenders out of their shoes and racing to the three yard line put the stadium and the Ohio State sideline into a frenzy. Two plays later Carlos Hyde busted into the endzone (more on Hyde later) and the onslaught of scoring had begun.
After his 72 yard sprint, Miller limped to the sidelines and could not finish the series. It’s the second week in a row that Braxton has given the Buckeye faithful a near heart attack. It’s also the second week in a row he shook off a bump and got back in the game. The question of course has to be asked: Can he keep taking hits and carrying the ball at this pace for an entire season?
Upon examining the question it begs us to look at the overriding factor that will have the greatest impact on getting Miller to 11/24/12 healthy, the schedule. Luckily the schedule lightens up this week with a road trip to “The Horseshoe West” to face the Indiana Hoosiers. There’s also a bye week leading into the final two games of the season, at Wisconsin and home against that team up North. Can he make the long haul to the finish line? I think he’s a tougher kid than maybe some of us give him credit for. If they can limit his carries in the coming weeks (Indiana, Purdue) he should be full-on Braxton for the trip to State College against Penn State. From there we get into the month of November, and we all know that November is for contenders. Once the calendar changes to November its kill or be killed and all bets are off.
One aspect lost in the euphoria of scoring 63 points on Nebraska’s “Black Shirt” defense is that our own Silver Bullets gave up 38 points and 437 yards of offense including 223 on the ground. I realize that there were a few big plays that accounted for large chunks of that yardage, but the tackling and angles that we worried about so much going into Big Ten play seemed to rear its ugly head once again.
Let’s not forget to give credit where it is deserved. Taylor Martinez is a dangerous football player and Rex Burkhead runs with purpose. Containing those two guys, even if you’re perfect on form and position, can be a hassle to say the least. This is also, short of Denard Robinson, likely the fastest team they have seen or will see all season. That being said, some of the whiffs in the open field and even between the tackles can only be described as a setback. The Buckeyes have to use the Indiana and Purdue games (which by the way, if not taken seriously could easily end up in humiliating defeats given what has been accomplished to this point) to re-establish that defensive focus from the Michigan State game and get back to fundamental tackling. The opponents speed and talent can only be used as an excuse to an extent. At some point you have to make the plays.
Etienne Sabino is easily having his most productive season as a Buckeye and really seemed to turn a corner on his fundamental play that seemed to hold him back at times in the past. The Michigan State game in particular was a shining moment and almost an announcement of his arrival as a formidable linebacker at the real “linebacker U”. Unfortunately, Sabino went down Saturday night with a broken bone (a part of his fibula what was being reported on Monday nights Buckeye Roundtable on 97.1 FM in Columbus) in his leg that was surgically repaired (a plate was inserted) on Sunday. He’ll be out at least three weeks, maybe longer.
The Ohio State defense needs someone to step up and be a force in his absence. The time has come for freshman mistakes needing to be dwarfed in the shadow of raw talent and an inability to take a player off the field. The question is: Who will do it?
Let’s be honest, even without Sabino going down this type of emergence was going to be necessary to happen. In the case of replacing Sabino on the outside it’s likely to be Josh Perry or David Perkins. But what about the position as a whole since it’s obvious the linebackers have been thin to begin with. It really makes me wonder: What has become of Curtis Grant, the former number 1 linebacker recruit in the United States? You’d like to think he will be a guy who picks up the reigns in the middle so that Storm Klein can move outside, but his game snaps have gone down to the point that Klein is forced to barely come off the field.
Regardless if it’s Perry, Perkins, Grant or someone else, the Silver Bullets badly need someone to step up in the way that Ryan Shazier did last season and lend a much needed helping hand to this linebacker unit.
There’s something about a power running back wearing an Ohio State uniform. My favorites, Eddie George, Keith Byers, Beanie Wells, Maurice Clarett, they all had some shake and wiggle but the bottom line was they could put their shoulder down and smash into a defense. Carlos Hyde fits the bill and he’s as fast as or faster than them all.
He grabbed my attention last year against Nebraska and has been intriguing, to say the least, since. No longer a man of mystery, Hyde is a man of action who’s play is demanding he touch the ball more and more. He needs to be a huge part of this offense going forward. After Saturday night’s four touchdown performance against the Huskers, I don’t think there’s any doubt we’ll be seeing a good dose of number 34 battering defenses the rest of the way. This of course helps relieve pressure off Braxton Miller thus potentially keeping his carries down and assisting in that goal of keeping him fresh and healthy heading into November.
Run it up?
There seem to be all kinds of mixed emotions and thoughts regarding Urban Meyer’s decision to hand the ball to Carlos Hyde with less than two minutes remaining and sitting on a 56-38 lead. Some have suggested it was in poor taste and even used the phrase “no class” while others have said they absolutely did the right thing and loved the aggressive nature.
No matter how what side of the fence you’re on, you’re right. There’s nothing wrong with taking a knee and running out the clock at that juncture of the game. There’s also nothing wrong with sending a message to your team, your fans, the people who vote in the polls, recruits, future opponents and even the opponent across the field that this is what we do, we score points and we play to the last whistle. Furthermore, if you don’t like that philosophy feel free to step out here and do something about it.
If you’re in the camp that prefers the former and thinks they should have taken a knee, hey, that’s fine and I completely understand it. However, don’t get upset when it doesn’t happen because it likely won’t very often. It goes back to comments I made (and others) about Urban Meyer when he was hired and prior to week one. In summation, there’s a different kind of cat walking the sidelines at Ohio State now. He’s going to put a whipping on you and keep it going till the clock demands he stop. And if he is the recipient of such a whipping, he’s not going to cry about it and complain about someone else not being a “good sport” or any of that nonsense. He’s going to say exactly what Bo Pelini should have said, and in some ways did; it’s our job to stop them from scoring, not theirs. That’s just the football mentality that Meyer has. It’s why so many people in the SEC hate him.
That mentality is why I was ecstatic to hear he was taking the job when it was offered. If you’re tired of hearing about “SEC this” and “Big Ten that” then get on board and embrace what Urban Meyer is about. It’s not about humiliating someone it’s about playing hard and having fun to the final whistle. And if that means you drop 70 on somebody, so be it. If that means you give the ball to Carlos Hyde with about a minute and a half on the game clock and he scores, then that’s part of it too.
Some of you may be saying it was still “wrong” and there’s no excuse for lighting someone up who has clearly surrendered. To those folks, you have to ask yourself: Where do you want this program to be? Do you want it to be the program we think it is in the Big Ten, the one that all the other programs aspire to be and beat? Do you want it to be the program that puts an end to the SEC dominance that’s been going on for almost 8 years? Do you want the best athletes in the country considering and coming to play at Ohio State? Or do you want to be the nice guy that wins the Big Ten and still can’t beat the LSU and Alabama’s of the world? If you want the glory, then you have to get onboard to the philosophy of what Urban Meyer believes. Meyer knows what he is looking for and he knows how to get it done. I for one am all in. It’s an attitude I’m proud to say I was taught in Pop Warner and carried through high school and still occasionally refer to in regular life to this day. There are no friends on a football field. You don’t want us to score 63 on you? Stop us. It’s that simple.
There cannot be a letdown in Bloomington this week. While Indiana really isn’t a threat to beat Ohio State, anything can happen. The game being another 8 o’clock start (Big Ten Network) can help prevent that from happening. A night game on the road in-conference should keep a team coming off a huge win at home against a ranked opponent from slipping up to inferior talent.
I don’t want to rehash the linebacker situation, but Storm Klein looked awful on Saturday night. There’s just no nice way to put it. I know he had a big tackle in the backfield late, but overall he was out of position and grabbing for ankles all night. Not to mention he let up on his block that allowed the attempted fake punt to get stopped a foot short of the line needed to gain.
Where was Devin Smith this week? The run game was chewing up the Husker defense, but it would have been expected to see at least a few shots down the field to Smith. I expect a big night from him against Indiana.
I loved seeing Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman get into the endzone from the tight end position. We knew going in and it was proven Saturday night that Nebraska’s defense was suspect in the middle especially when teams are running well against them. I thought Jake Stoneburner would have a big night and ended up only being targeted once, possibly twice.
The defensive line continues to dominate. John Simon is unreal, Jonathan Hankins is likely a first round NFL pick, but Garrett Goebel quietly had a stellar game against Nebraska and has been a rock all season. I heard Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson before the Florida vs. LSU game saying LSU has “the best defensive line in the country and Florida is close to them” and the hacks on ESPN spewing their nonsense about southern speed up front etc. Well, I’d put this Ohio State defensive line up against any of them, they’re that good. Maybe one day the national pundits will realize it.
A note to Ryan Shazier and anyone else on defense: When the ball is on the ground in traffic, get down on it in a cradle position bringing your knees to your chest and squeeze. They teach this in Pop Warner all around the country.
One last quick thought on the “running up the score” debate, don’t let this aspect be lost on you: Impressionable voters and high school athletes around the country see that 63 and say “Wow, Ohio State has got it going on. I should look closer.” A top five wide receiver in the nation wants to play for a coach that scores points. People who only look at scores and then fill out ballots for rankings love that 63.
We can’t leave without mentioning Corey “Philly” Brown and his punt return and for a second time Bradley Roby’s pick 6. Those are the type of plays that win big games and the reason guys come to Ohio State and play in big games like this one was. Well done boys! Well done!
Wrap It Up
The big question everyone in Ohio is asking: Is undefeated possible? We’ll look into that more next week, but in a word: Yes. Look for a “workman-like” performance Saturday night against Indiana. Hopefully we’ll see a lot of young kids getting a chance to show off a bit too. See you next week! Go Bucks!
Metallica Track of the Week
Hidden amongst the two mid-90’s releases Load and Re-Load are some pretty dynamic hard rock songs. I understand why some hardcore fans shunned these albums, especially at first, because let’s be honest, they aren’t of the same mold as Master Of Puppets or Ride The Lightning. That said, if you’re in the “hate the Loads” group, give them another listen all these years later. You may be surprised that you like what you hear. In honor of an epic crowd and a pretty epic offensive performance, we go to San Francisco’s famous Fillmore Auditorium, December 9th 2011. During night three of the four “30th Anniversary” shows held there last year, the band put on a truly epic performance of “The Outlaw Torn” from 1996’s Load. I was standing about ten feet to the right of where this was recorded in the crowd and can confirm it was as absolutely commanding and brilliant as this video portrays! When James Hetfield gets going into the songs second solo around the 6:50 mark, the vibe in the room was incredible!