We discussed last week that in a tight game where all sides appear equal, someone or something has to become “the difference” that allows one team to obtain the edge it needs to put themselves over the top and win the game. Who knew that the spark the Buckeyes needed would be given to them in the form of a holding call late in the first half. From that point on, it was all Ohio State as they rolled through Beaver Stadium and whipped Penn State 35-23 to stay perfect on the year improving to 9-0.
Chris Spielman claimed he didn’t see it and his lackey booth partner agreed. Penn State fans have been screaming that it was bogus. The fact is this: The holding call late in the first half on PSU’s Brad Bars against Ohio State long snapper Bryce Haynes was 100% legitimate and, honestly, quite blatant. Forget that the long snapper is given a one second head start after he releases the ball to lift his head up, the fact (again, fact) is that you cannot grab a player by the shoulder pads, force him parallel and then ride him to the ground. It’s called holding at any level. It also should be noted that Haynes had been flying off the line previously and disrupting PSU punt returns. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but you have to imagine someone on the PSU staff instructed Bars to keep Haynes from releasing… only that isn’t the legal way to do it.
I can’t lie or downplay it, all the noise coming out of State College last week started to really fire me up. Taking complimentary quotes about crowd noise completely out of context and making rally posters with it reeked of desperation. Hearing all the “linebacker U” comments and about how this Penn State team would “show the world it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon” (PSU fan to me on twitter) stunk of arrogance from a confidence that was completely undeserved. I’m going to ask this question one more time: PSU, who have you beaten this year that is any good at all?
The first half had me thinking the Nits were for real and that this would be a dog fight to the very end. With it being a dreary, rainy day in Ohio and with rain in the forecast in State College, it almost began to feel like that 2005 game all over again. You remember 2005, the last time Penn State beat Ohio State at Beaver Stadium. More on that later… But the second half was a thing of beauty. It started with Ryan Shazier on back to back plays sacking Matt McGloin and then intercepting him for a touchdown. It ended with Jake Stoneburner exposing a weak middle of the back seven in Penn State’s defense and rambling for a 72 yard touchdown to put the final nail in the Lions coffin.
And speaking of “Moxie” Matt McGloin, you just knew he had it in him to revert to his old self and throw Ohio State a pick six if they could get consistent pressure on him. Somewhere, deep inside his gut, the real Matt McGloin was lurking.
For all the criticism he has taken this season, I think Luke Fickell should take a bow and receive a standing ovation for the defensive game he called. Moxie err McGloin was confused all night and it resulted in bad decisions and awkward throws. The defensive line moved the line of scrimmage a yard into the backfield at the snap of every play. The linebackers and defensive ends came at McGloin like demons. It was a dominating defensive performance and called masterfully.
There’s a case to be made that the Penn State offense, even when running its “NASCAR” no huddle (Is that a joke, like when Jay Paterno called his offense “HD”?) played right to the strengths of the Silver Bullets. I wrote two weeks ago that I felt this way (Wednesday Night Rumble: Undefeated?) but I managed to psych myself out listening to other sites and bloggers tell me what apparently my eyes were missing. The truth is PSU has a weak at best running game and mediocre receivers. If you can beat their offensive line, which the Ohio State defensive line should have and did, then the pressure is on McGloin to make plays to beat you. As we found out Saturday, he’s either not ready or not capable of doing that against elite competition. This is in no way an attempt to take away from the effort put forth by the Buckeye defense, it’s just, again, a fact. So, shame on me for not believing myself.
One last comment on Penn State before moving on: Saturday’s win marked the third straight convincing win at Beaver Stadium over the Nittany Lions. I can’t credit this week’s win or even the smackdown in 2009 to the ‘05 debacle, but 2007 certainly was payback. I believe, however, a stigma remains from that night in ‘05, a “we won’t be fooled again” kind of vibe when it pertains to traveling over to central Pennsylvania. To the Nit fans: Keep making a visit from Ohio State your “Super Bowl”, wear all white and spend all week preparing for whatever new chant you can devise while you’re sleeping in tents outside the stadium. Please continue whatever you are doing because it gets our boys attention and they seem to rise to your challenge and overcome it. I approve.
Fighting (?) Illini
This week the Buckeyes look to make it win number ten at Ohio Stadium against the Illinois Fighting Illini. The last game before an off week and then the two biggest games of the year (at Wisconsin and vs Michigan) can make this week seem like a classic “trap” game. That would be true if they were playing anyone other than the Illini. This is a team that has shown absolutely zero reason to believe they can come in to The Shoe and get a win over an Urban Meyer coached, undefeated Buckeye team. I know what you’re saying “any given Saturday”, and I get that. I really do, just not this week.
Despite a new coaching staff, philosophy’s, strength coaches, sayings on the wall, different colored shoes, more Buckeye leaves being placed on helmets than we’ve seen in years past, colder water in the coolers, you get my point, this team still has a tendency to play to the level of its competition. I think this is the week that trend breaks. Games like this one against Illinois are supposed to be fun for the players, a chance to pad their stats and get everyone in the game. The confidence coming from a head coach who told his team before the opener “we’re going to have over 500 yards of offense” coupled with huge road wins at Michigan State and PSU make this the trend reversing moment. Urban Meyer will break them of that habit. Why not now?
Though he didn’t carry for a lot of yards, Carlos Hyde again was impressive at Penn State. He ran hard, dragging defenders with him. The bulk of his yardage came after making first contact with a member of “linebacker U”.
Braxton Miller seemed more than a little juiced up in the first half. Some of his throws required the Joe Bausermann passing chart to statistically mark them. But, he settled down nicely and led them to a score at the end of the first half that proved to have a huge mental impact on the game. You could feel the wind come out from under the Lion’s sails after having a first half of great containment on XBrax360 come completely undone in one flash series.
I read Penn State fans saying that Ohio State looked good “whipping our third string” insinuating that PSU lost so many starters from graduation and sanction related transfers that it is no wonder Ohio State dominated the second the half (leading by 18 for a majority of it) and eventually won the game. Look, stop the hypocrisy. You can’t tell me all week how dominant your defense is, how great McGloin is playing, how awesome your offensive line is and then when you get dominated, backtrack and hide behind the sanctions. It doesn’t work that way.
Ryan Shazier played maybe the game of his life wearing number 48 in tribute to a friend of his from high school that recently passed away. Well done, Ryan. Well done!
Zack Boren is looking really good playing middle linebacker. He has a genuine nose for the ball and appears significantly faster than Storm Klein. It’s not too soon to start thinking about Denard Robinson and the impact Boren can have against him.
Wrap it up
Take care of business against Illinois and get to the bye week undefeated. Get everyone some much needed rest before the trip to Madison to play the Badgers and the finale with TTUN. I knew this year would be exciting, but I never thought having a real shot at 12-0 was possible. Yet, here we are. Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
Happy Halloween! In honor of the holiday, let’s play 2!
Werewolves are a pretty scary thought, so let’s summon up Metallica’s ode to shape shifting for a Halloween treat! We go back to this summer’s Rock Am Ring show in Germany for a blistering live rendition of “Of Wolf and Man”-
Science fiction and zombies tickle your fancy? He’s the official video for Death Magnetic’s crushing “All Nightmare Long”-