Another Reason Why You Don’t Give Up And Leave Early

Today Ohio State fans learned a valuable lesson:  you don’t give up and you never, ever leave a game early.

The Buckeyes were stumblebums for most of the game.  The offense sputtered.  The defense gave up an 83-yard TD on Purdue’s first play from scrimmage.  Purdue returned a kickoff more than 100 yards for a touchdown.  Braxton Miller was injured (no report yet on how seriously, but it didn’t look good).  The Buckeyes had a field goal hit the upright and gave up a safety due to a holding call in the end zone.  And, with 40-some seconds left, the Buckeyes were behind by 8, with no timeouts, trying to rally behind their second-string quarterback.  By then, many fair weather fans had already left, and only the diehards remained.

Yet somehow, improbably, the Buckeyes came back to win.  Kenny Guiton, the backup QB, led the Buckeyes on a drive that saw them score the crucial touchdown with 3 seconds left, and then gain the essential two-point conversion with a beautiful play that featured Guiton throwing a fine touch pass to his tight end.  And so, improbably, the Buckeyes sent the game into overtime, where the Buckeyes scored on their possession and Purdue didn’t — and that was the ballgame.

I always stay at games until the end.  I’m there to see the game, and the last seconds of a loss are as much a part of the game as the first few plays.  I’ve also seen enough football to know that anything can happen . . . and today it did.  It gives me some pleasure to know that the early departees are kicking themselves for giving up and missing the chance to witness one of the most unbelievable comebacks in Ohio Stadium history.

As far as the Buckeyes go, this is a team that still needs a lot of improvement on both sides of the ball.  For now, though, I’m going to enjoy a game that showed you should never give up, whether you are a player, or a fan.  Go Bucks!

Ducks On The Water

We didn’t see a lot of birds on our trip to Lake Temagami.  I’m assuming that most of them had already gone south for the winter . . . and if so, their timing was impeccable.

We did hear the cries of a few loons — a disconcerting sound if you’re not used to it — and early one morning I saw a flock of ducks land on the water near the island, do some quick diving for grub, and then get into formation and sail regally into the distance.

Where’s The Defense?

Today the Ohio State Buckeyes play the Purdue Boilermakers.  I’ll be there, in what is likely to be a very soggy Horseshoe, looking to answer one question:  what the heck has happened to the Ohio State defense?

Ohio State is undefeated, but I doubt if any Ohio State fan feels real good about that.  Last week the Buckeyes gave up 49 points, and almost 500 yards of offense, to Indiana.  The defense fell apart at the end of the game, giving up 21 fourth-quarter points and two late touchdowns that turns a comfortable win into a 52-49, recover-the-onside-kick-or-die nailbiter.  The indiana debacle is just the worst performance of an Ohio State defense that has given up a lot of points and a lot of big plays.  Is it the defensive scheme?  Injuries?  Poor tackling techniques?  Players who aren’t playing up to their capabilities?  Bad angles and coverage breakdowns?  This defense is so bad right now that it is undoubtedly all of those things — and probably a few more besides.

The embarrassing performance of the defense is particularly galling for two reasons.  First, Ohio State has traditionally prided itself on playing stout defense; during the Jim Tressel era the Buckeyes were a mainstay at the top of the college football scoring defense and total defense rankings.  With that history, it’s tough to see players blow assignments, miss tackles, and take bad angles that turn short gains into big ones.  Second, the lack of a defense this year is hard to swallow because the Ohio State offense is playing so well.  If the Buckeyes defense were good, this team might actually be in the conversation about the best teams in the country.  You just can’t include a team that gives up 49 points and had an end of game meltdown against Indiana in that conversation, however.

Today’s opponent, Purdue, is a bit of a cipher.  The Boilermakers looked good in their early games and lost a tight one to Notre Dame, but have been blown out in their last two games, against Michigan and Wisconsin.  In those games the Boilermakers have struggled to run the ball and put up points and have been gashed on defense — particularly on the ground.  When the Boilermakers have the ball, will the Buckeyes defense look better against what appears to be a weak offense, or will the Boilermaker offense feast on the offerings of a feeble Ohio State unit that will feature the team’s fullback playing middle linebacker?

Purdue always makes me uneasy, too, because it beat the Buckeyes in 2009 and last year.  I don’t want to see another loss to these guys.