Room For Improvement

I went to the Ohio State game today and, as expected, saw an easy 43-7 win over the Ohio University Bobcats.  The Buckeyes controlled the game from the start, scored 34 points in the first half, and put the game away early — which is what you want to do if you are the number two-ranked team in the country.

The Bobcats take the field

Defensively, the Buckeyes simply overmatched OU.  Cameron Heyward and his mates forced five turnovers, notched a safety, and held the Bobcats scoreless until the defensive reserves took over in the fourth quarter.  In all, the defense held Ohio U. to 158 total yards, most of which were gained during mop-up time.  The defensive line in particular looked very good, but the whole defense was solid.

Offensively, the Buckeyes sparkled for most of the first half.  Terrelle Pryor completed 16 straight passes at one point, ran for a touchdown, and threw for two more.  He used his tight end and spread the ball around, ultimately completing 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards.  Still, the offense had its struggles.  In the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, Pryor took a sack and threw an interception in the end zone.  The running game was not as steady as you would like, and some of the new plays the Buckeyes attempted (including some plays run from the “wildcat” formation, with Boom Herron taking a direct snap) clearly didn’t work as they had been drawn up.  I like the fact that the Buckeyes are trying some new formations, however, and a game like this one is a perfect venue to conduct some on-the-field experimentation against real opponents.

Finally, the special teams again looked shaky, and it is becoming a real concern.  Ohio U. had a kickoff return for a touchdown called back and came close to breaking a few other returns, and they also blocked a punt.  The special teams just don’t look sharp, and OSU’s inability to get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs is giving opposing teams excellent field position.

Coach Tressel will be thinking about how to improve the special teams

Only at a school like Ohio State, I suppose, could a fan look at a 43-7 drubbing of an opponent and say that there is “room for improvement” and really mean it — but that insistence upon excellence is what distinguishes the Buckeyes from many other college football programs.  True fans know that successful Big Ten teams need dependable running games in the second half of the season, when cold, wet weather and bad footing make it much more difficult to depend upon pass-oriented offenses.  True fans know that successful teams must consistently execute the two-minute drill and score touchdowns when you reach the red zone and be able to do so in a distant stadium filled with 100,000 howling fans who are hoping the  opposing team pulls off an upset that makes their season.  True fans know that, in a tough away game against well-coached teams like Iowa or Wisconsin, a special teams blunder can mean the difference between a win and a heartbreaking loss.

On days like today, when the weather is warm and sunny and the Buckeyes take the field against overpowered opponents, the team can work out the kinks and strive to establish the consistency and capabilities that will be sorely needed soon enough, when the cold winds begin to blow and the conference contests begin.

Early Signs

On my morning walks lately I have noticed political yard signs going up.  Nothing odd about that — except that Election Day 2010 is more than six weeks away and in New Albany we have a rule that says that yard signs should not be put up until two weeks or so before the election.

Can we draw any inferences from the early appearance of yard signs?  It probably means that the neighbors who have put up the signs feel especially strongly about the election and want to make their views known early.  In that regard, it may be significant that every yard sign I’ve seen so far is for a Republican candidate.

Pundits and pollsters have been writing for months about a purported “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats as they approach the upcoming election.  We may be seeing evidence of that on the lawns of New Albany.

It’s All About Me

This primary season has seen a number of establishment Republicans lose to “Tea Party” upstarts.  Some of those losing candidates have reacted with class, some have reacted with petulance, and still others have simply refused to accept the will of the voters.  Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the latest to fall into the last category.  Having lost in the Republican primary to challenger Joe Miller, she has now announced that she will run as a write-in candidate.

Murkowski, of course, couches her decision as some kind of noble personal sacrifice.  She says she is listening to the “will of the constituency” and feels a “responsibility” because she has heard an “outpouring of support and concern — concern about the future of the state of Alaska and our representation here in the Senate.”  Does anyone in Alaska actually buy such absurd spin?  We all know the real reason Murkowski has made her decision:  she wants to keep her cushy job and has an inflated sense of her own capabilities.   When your senatorial days are spent listening to the whispered blandishments of lobbyists and toadying supporters, I suppose that kind of reaction is inevitable.  But what has Murkowski actually done in her eight years in the Senate?  Read her bio information on her website and see for yourself whether she has a record of such stunning legislative accomplishment that her return to the Senate is crucially important for Alaska.

Of course, voters in Murkowski’s own party have already had the opportunity to decide whether her return to the Senate is essential — and obviously they decided it wasn’t.  Murkowski is simply too selfish to accept that legitimate decision.  Her decision in that regard is just another affirmation of the out-of-control egotism and unresponsiveness of so many of our elected representatives.  I hope Alaska voters recognize that and send her a message she cannot ignore come November.