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.

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