What a show put on by the Buckeyes! We wrap up quite a night in The Shoe as the Buckeyes wallop Penn State and we look forward to the final four games of the regular season. We’ll also take another peak at the BCS and see where the Buckeyes stand nationally and how they can get themselves into the National Championship game. It’s Wednesday, let’s rumble!
You can’t always get what you want
How often do we ask for the Buckeyes to perform to the fullest of their potential and show the world what we all feel they are capable of? We sit and ponder the scenarios of “If this guy can do this and that guy can do that…” in hopes of seeing it all come together. Saturday night was one of those times where it all clicked and the proverbial light bulb turned on.
As a complete unit with Braxton Miller at quarterback and Carlos Hyde at running back, this is only the third game we have seen the Buckeye offense play together. Think about that for a second. After drilling Penn state for 63 points (42 in the first half!) this is an offense that is just now, from a gelling together and games played standpoint, heading into early-mid season form.
The lyrics may say that “you can’t always get what you want”, but I’m here to tell you we are getting what we need. We are getting an offense that is about to hit their high point with four (five including the Big Ten Championship game) games left to play. You couldn’t ask for more.
Anatomy of a force
Braxton Miller is back. I don’t want to hear anything else about it. He is officially the Braxton Miller that was the Heisman frontrunner coming into the season. It took a while and some missed time to get there, but he is here. His feet are back. He looks as tough as ever taking on tacklers. His arm is like a rocket. And the most importantly, he is making great decisions and has his completion percentage is over 70%.
Carlos Hyde may be unstoppable and is the best running back if not the best football player in the nation. You can have Johnny Football, Marcus Mariota, Clowney down at South Carolina, any and all of them. I’ll take Carlos Hyde. The shame of the situation is that he won’t be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony because of the stats missed in the three game suspension.
The wide receivers and other contributors are doing their part. They’ve started using Devin Smith in the short out patterns, the same with Evan Spencer. Philly Brown has been great in the slot. When used against the Nittany Lions, Dontre Wilson proved he belongs on the field in a more encompassing role. And to think: They’re barely using a talent like Jordan Hall and still can’t seem to find ways to throw to their extremely talented tight ends, Jeff Heurmann and Nick Vannett.
All of that is great but what makes it all go is the offensive line. The value of having 4 seniors starting up front cannot be overlooked. When they aren’t driving guys into the ground they’re putting a body on them enough to allow a fully steaming Carlos Hyde to blow through the first wave of the defensive line into the linebackers. They’re walling guys off when they need to and they move defenders toward the designed run side knowing that if they stay on their man the back is good enough to cut off of the block. They’re doing things that veterans do.
Some will say “well, that was Penn State, who have they beaten?” and I’ll simply reply “Yeah, that was Penn State and I don’t care who they’ve beaten.” Run up big numbers on Florida A&M or California and it is kind of expected, especially against the former. I don’t care what year it is or what sanctions are in place, you do what the Buckeyes did to Penn State and it is damn impressive.
I’m not willing to say that the Silver Bullets are back to being their old selves, but they certainly took big steps in the right direction on Saturday night.
We talked all week about how the defense had to get pressure on freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Not only did they get to Hackenberg and rattle him, they did it mostly with just their front four. The sack-fumble happened with only the front four coming after him. Both interceptions he threw were with only the front four getting after him. I think Hackenberg woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering if Noah Spence was hiding in his closet about to attack him.
We also saw the safeties make plays on the ball. Cory Bown and CJ Barnett both came down with interceptions that a year ago, even a week ago, they don’t make.
So how and why did the defense look so much better this week and can it be continued? The how is maybe a bit shocking. The continuity of the ball still rolling seems obvious if for one simple reason.
I wondered if there would be a major scheme change or blitz packages to confuse Hackenberg. As it turns out, the answer is no. In fact, in a bit of a revealing statement, Noah Spence told reporters after the game the coaching actually simplified things for them in practice. And it actually makes perfect sense: Let your athletes be athletes and win the one-on-one match-ups, the rest will take care of itself.
As for consistent success on, I can’t see the Buckeye defense regressing if not for one simple reason: The schedule. Purdue is atrocious and trots out a freshman at quarterback. Illinois is a wreck. Indiana is up and down, mostly down. And what has TTUN showed you offensively to make you think they are capable of exploding for some massive point total?
Call the opponents what you will but drilling teams breeds confidence. And that confidence is exactly what a defense that has been much maligned and singled out as the sole reason the team can’t win a championship game with an offense like Oregon, Florida State or Alabama needs. That’s how guys end up playing above their capabilities when the team needs them most. And in the end, all they need is to be really good for 60 minutes.
Cry me a river
The third quarter wasn’t even half over and Penn State fans had gone to message boards and twitter to start crying about the beating they were taking. We heard it all from terrible officiating to Urban Meyer is a jerk for leaving in his starters to Urban Meyer is a jerk for challenging the spot on an obvious officiating error to the PSU players are being blinded by the shiny helmets the Buckeyes are wearing all the way to the field turf is trimmed down lower than grass and is making the Buckeyes faster.
The last two are made up, but you fell for them at least for a second.
Here’s the bottom line Nit fans: You got worked in every facet of the game. Your defensive line got pushed around despite the boasting they made about how they would enjoy shutting down the Buckeye run game. Your offensive line got worked by guys that are bigger, stronger, faster and just all-around better athletes. You remember Noah Spence and now you see why your coaching staff wanted him to come to Penn State so badly.
And I don’t mean to pile on, but you don’t have athletes that can cover Philly Brown, Devin Smith or Evan Spencer. You hardly have a defensive back that can cover Chris Fields.
Stop me if I’m getting you upset, but your best offensive weapon, Allen Robinson, put up some big numbers in garbage time. Hooray! It’s unfortunate he couldn’t break open with Doran Grant covering him. Yeah, that’s correct. Grant was on Robinson seemingly the majority of the game. Bill O’Brien did a nice job of keeping Robinson away from Bradley Roby. It didn’t matter.
For the record, the Buckeyes began a mass removal of starters in the middle of the third quarter. It’s funny that Penn State was still running with its first team offense (minus Hackenberg who was pulled, no he wasn’t injured, he got pulled) all the way to the bitter end.
Yes, it sucks, Nits. The harsh reality of just how far away you from being a legit contender hit you in the face like a ton of bricks. And you know what? I’m a little peeved the Buckeyes didn’t score 70 or even 80 like they could have. You see, I remember 1994 and the 63-14 victory you hung on us. I remember the feeling that day like Joe Paterno was trying to send us a little message. I also remember 2005 and the way you as fans treated everyone and anyone wearing scarlet and grey that night.
This one feels good. And it could have felt better if not for the mercy of Urban Meyer. Think about that, Nits.
Bill O’Brien: Welcome to big time college football
Let’s get all the prerequisites out of the way now: The job Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien did last season was commendable, if not a near miracle. Taking a program ravaged by sanctions and transfers with a community and student body in complete denial over something so blatantly horrific to the rest of the country and leading it to an 8 win season is, well, pretty impressive to say the least. And to do it with Matt McGloin at quarterback is maybe the biggest act of wizardry of it all.
It’s now 2013 and those are officially things of the past. Looking back at the Lions 2012 season I won’t say anything negative about the schedule to take away from the accomplishments. However, I will point out that up until this past Saturday night, Bill O’Brien had no idea what big time college football was all about.
In 2012 O’Brien’s Nittany Lions lost at Nebraska. They also lost on the road at Virginia early in the season. Those two road games would prove to be O’Brien’s “initiation” into the world of major college football as being the experiences he would rely on when he thinks about his team on the road playing in hostile situations and how they react and more importantly how to coach them. Not exactly a high bar to set.
They closed their 2012 season with a home win over Bert Bielema and his Wisconsin Badgers. Sure, it was a big game against a solid opponent, but they got it at home and were able to feed off the emotion. It’s just different at home, you all know what I mean.
And yes, they played Ohio State at home. A game that he kept them in until around the end of the third quarter when Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes pulled away finishing off a 35-23 win. Again, at home, feeding off emotion.
Turning the clock ahead to this season, they have won a big game at home by beating TTUN in overtime. They also got curb stomped on the road at Indiana.
Take all of those collective experiences and put them together and they are still nothing like what they were in for on Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
Last Saturday O’Brien got a chance to walk his team into a fire and see if they could come out on the other side scratched and burned but still living. They had no such luck. In his first test against a top 5 team on the road, in a truly hostile environment against a great coaching staff and all-around better talent, O’Brien, with two weeks to prepare, looked lost and had no answers for anything and everything that Urban Meyer and his staff threw at him.
All week at PSU and on conference calls with the Ohio State media, even in the final moments before kickoff with Miss Piggy the sideline reporter (Yeah, she’s probably a nice lady, but her face looks like Miss Piggy. I can’t help it) O’Brien kept saying that Christian Hackenberg would be just fine because he plays in front of over 100,000 people in Beaver Stadium. I assumed he was using that as a calming mechanism to try and keep the true freshman’s head on the field and not in the clouds. I never for a second thought O’Brien himself actually believed it and would have such an “NFL attitude” about playing on the road at night against a major college program. An attitude of “we’re all pro’s, this is what we do, we’ll take any crowd momentum away before it even starts.” How Charlie Weis of him. Now he knows what it’s like to walk into a buzz saw.
To be honest, I expected better. And to be fair, I think next time he’s in a situation like this he’ll be better prepared. He will certainly have an experience to draw thoughts and reference from.
Let’s do a quick rundown of what’s happening nationally this week.
The Buckeyes remained at number 4 in the BCS rankings but did gain percentage points on number three. That number three is new this week, as Florida State and Oregon flip positions with the Ducks moving up to number 2 and the Seminoles dropping back a spot.
You can look at all the scenarios as we did here a few weeks back, and one thing keeps becoming clearer and clearer: The Buckeyes must win, big if possible, and are going to have to hope that two of the three of Oregon, Alabama and Florida State drop a game somewhere. History will tell you that it’s going to happen and two of those three will inevitably lose somewhere. The problem is that your eyes look at their schedules and how they are playing and can’t see where it happens.
Oregon – still has to play Stanford, Oregon State and then the PAC-12 Championship game against likely Arizona State.
Alabama – still has to play LSU, Auburn and the SEC Championship game against either Missouri, South Carolina or maybe Georgia.
Florida State – plays undefeated Miami on Saturday night, plays at Florida and then the ACC Championship where they will either rematch with Miami or play Virginia Tech.
Fingers crossed, Buckeye Nation.
Wrap it up
Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana has been something of a House of Horrors for the Buckeyes in the last 10-12 years. I expect our guys to have no part of any of that nonsense and come home big winners. Until next week, Go Bucks!
Metallica track of the week
To Nittany Lions upset that their team actually just stinks… to the nation that is upset that Ohio State will not go away… you know it’s Sad But True! (And if you look real hard you can see my arms by Hetfield’s feet! lol)