A Nailbiter At The ‘Shoe

Just back from the Navy game, which was more exciting than we would have wished. The Buckeyes came away with a victory, which means something when a game comes down to the wire, and the team will have a lot of things to work on before USC comes to town. To the extent any Ohio State players were overconfident before this game, they’ve had that knocked out of them — which could be a good thing, too.

UJ, Aunt Bebe and I got to the Stadium early and went to the skull session, which was a lot of fun as always. St. John Arena was packed to the rafters; I think every seat was filled at the start of the session. We heard from The Best Damn Band In The Land, the Alumni Band, and the Navy Fife & Bugle Corps. John Glenn, who dotted the “i” in Script Ohio at halftime, spoke a few words, Navy personnel were everywhere in their bright white uniforms, and patriotism was in the air. We were treated to Stars & Stripes Forever, Anchors Aweigh, and the Navy Hymn, as well as classic TBDBITL fare like Le Regiment and the Buckeye Battle Cry. Properly fortified for the game, we walked over to the Stadium, walked up the steps to our seats in the closed end, and settled in for some college football.

Ohio State looked good at times and very young and inexperienced — which they are — at other times, including on some crucial plays in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes went out to a 20-7 halftime lead then started to make some mistakes, with penalties and dropped passes. In the meantime, Navy’s triple option/cut blocking offense gave the Ohio State defense fits. Still, the Men of the Scarlet and Gray had the game under control, ahead 29-14 with a 4th and 2 on about the Navy 20 yard line. They went for it (in a very unTressel-like move), didn’t make it, and Navy promptly threw an 85-yard touchdown pass. An interception and another Navy up-the-gut touchdown later, and Ohio State was up two with Navy trying for a two-point conversion. Fortunately for the Buckeyes Navy tried to convert through the air rather than on the ground, and one of the OSU linebackers picked off the pass and ran it back for two points. An unsuccessful on-side kick later, Ohio State had the ball and was able to run out the clock, and Buckeye Nation heaved a collective sigh of relief.

This was the first game, and one against a gutty team that runs an unusual offense with great success. Still, it seems obvious that Ohio State’s offensive line needs a lot of work. It was largely unable to move Navy off the line of scrimmage and didn’t provide much pass protection for Terrelle Pryor. The defensive line, which was supposed to be a real strength, looked pretty ordinary and had a tough time making plays against Navy’s line. Navy seemed to have an easy time making yardage right up the middle, including two touchdowns in which their quarterback raced untouched into the end zone after faking a handoff to the fullback. I firmly believe that football games are won on the line of scrimmage, and if Ohio State hopes to compete with teams like USC it will need to figure out how to improve its line play pronto.

Still, the season is young, and the Buckeyes can put one in the win column. I also give great credit to Navy’s players and coaching staff. They run a tough offense to defense and do it very well, and their players don’t quit. Best of luck to the Midshipmen in the rest of the season!

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