Finding Horrible New Ways To Lose

After years of great success, it’s like Ohio State is learning how to lose.  And doing it in so many different and awful ways.  Against Miami and Michigan State, it was offensive ineptitude.  Tonight, Ohio State built a three-touchdown lead and seemed to have the game in hand when a turnover, an injury, and the inevitably fatal appearance of Laughing Joe Bauserman caused the Buckeyes to give up the lead and lose to a Nebraska team that got crushed last week and was on the ropes tonight.

Tonight’s game showed what has become increasingly clear as the season has gone on — for all of the criticism of Jim Tressel’s conservative play-calling, he was a great in-game coach.  I’m confident that, with Tressel at the helm, Ohio State would not have lost tonight’s game.  Even after Nebraska scored after Braxton Miller’s turnover, the Buckeyes still had a two-touchdown lead, and Tressel would have run, run, run the ball — and Ohio State was moving it on the ground — milked the clock, and worn Nebraska’s defense down.  He would have kept the defense off the field, and he never would have put the game in Bauserman’s hands.

Instead, the coaches inexplicably went away from the run, and we got to watch the infuriating spectacle of Bauserman hurling the ball 40 feet over receiver’s heads out of bounds.  Here’s a tip for the Ohio State coaches — forget Bauserman!  He brings nothing to the table.  If Braxton Miller’s injury keeps him out of the lineup, play Kenny Guiton, or Taylor Graham.  They cannot possibly be worse than Bauserman, and you would be doing a service for the blood pressure of Buckeye fans the world over.

As for the defense, it’s time to show some guts and some pride.  Even when the offense returns to its state of torpid, Bausermanesque ineptitude, you can still play like the Ohio State Buckeyes, instead of the gang that can’t tackle.  We need the defense to step up, with the season now truly teetering on the brink of the abyss.


Let The Braxton Era Begin!

In a few hours, Ohio State will take the field against the Colorado Buffaloes.  The Buckeye Nation hopes that it is the start of a new era — the era of Braxton Miller.

We’ve been told that Miller will start for the Buckeyes, and I’m glad to hear it.  It’s time to put the image of “Laughing Joe” Bauserman out of our minds and exorcise the demons that have haunted us since the Miami debacle.  Miller is a freshman, and he will make mistakes as he did last Saturday night — but Miller, not Bauserman, is the future of Ohio State football.  I’d rather see Miller get his snaps and work on improving his game, including holding onto the ball, even if it means a few turnovers and bad decisions.

As painful as the Miami loss was, it is only one loss, and it counts for nothing in the Big Ten race.  Anyone who watched the Miami game knows that Bauserman is not the answer, and there is no reason to think he will perform any more capably against the likes of Nebraska or Wisconsin, which appear to be much better teams than the Hurricanes.  If Ohio State’s offense is to get back on track, Braxton Miller, with his multi-dimensional talents, needs to be at the helm.

Today, let the Braxton Era begin!

Bauserman Out, Miller In

Sorry, but I’m going to be a bad loser here, as I stew in the wake of an embarrassing defeat.

Ohio State just lost a game they easily could have won.  The Buckeyes defense gave a tough, gutty performance, keeping Ohio State in the game and giving the offense opportunity after opportunity.  But the offense was horrible.  Putrid.  Rotten.  Beyond redemption.  Astonishingly awful.  An exercise in futility.

I lay this loss at the feet of Joe Bauserman and Jim Bollman.  The Buckeyes had an embarrassingly bad day in the air, but they were able to move the ball on the ground and up the gut — until Bollman stopped calling those plays.  And Joe Bauserman — at one point at the end of the third quarter, shown laughing, inexplicably, on the sidelines, when he should have been weeping at the futility of his dismal performance and inability to throw a spiral — simply is not the answer.  When the defense gave Bauserman opportunity after opportunity, he simply could not execute.  Tonight we learned, as if anyone had any doubt, that Bauserman is not a big game QB.  It wasn’t Miami’s defense that stopped Ohio State, it was Ohio State’s playcalling and ineptitude.  At least freshman Braxton Miller provides a spark and a new dimension.

So, the Buckeyes won’t win every game.  No rational person expected they would.  Now it is time to let Braxton Miller show us what he can do.  Sit Bauserman, play Miller, open up the playbook, and apologize to the defense for losing a game tonight that the Buckeyes very easily could have won.

The Buckeyes Dodge A Rocket

Ohio State stayed undefeated today, beating a game Toledo Rockets squad 27-22.  By winning, the Buckeyes kept alive a 90-year-old streak against other Ohio teams — and woe betide the OSU head coach who sees that streak end on his watch — but they also gave their coaches lots to talk about in getting the team ready for the first road game of the year, next week against Miami.

Offensively, the big concern is the offensive line.  Ohio State never got much of a push against the Rockets front four, and that does not bode well for upcoming games against teams like Nebraska, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.  Quarterback Joe Bauserman had an up-and-down game, and running back Rod Smith made the crucial blunder of putting the ball on the ground when the Buckeyes were on the verge of running out the clock and putting the game away.  Fortunately for Smith, the Ohio State defense kept Toledo out of the end zone — but the fact that Smith has now fumbled twice in clutch situations is going to affect how many carries he gets going forward.  There were some flashes of promise on offense, but for the most part the Buckeyes looked like a team that is still getting used to new players at the skill positions.

Defensively, the concerns are tackling and depth.  Fortunately, stud defensive lineman John Simon battled back from cramps that took him out of the game and returned to make some key plays as the game entered crunch time in the fourth quarter.  The defense rose up and stopped Toledo when it counted, but they also missed tackles that let Toledo turn short-yardage plays into big gainers.  The back-ups got some playing time and played respectably, but my sense is that the team lacks real quality depth in several positions on the defensive side of the ball.

On special teams, a blocked punt on what looked like a blown blocking assignment and a Buckeyes’ punt return for a touchdown about canceled each other out.  The significant issue is whether Drew Basil will develop into a reliable field goal kicker.  He missed another attempt today, and if I were coaching his accuracy in the two games to date would not give me lots of confidence to send him in for big kick with the game on the line.

The bottom line is that many of us expected Toledo to be more of a test, and they were.  Give the Rockets credit — they weren’t intimidated, they played hard, and they took advantage of the OSU mistakes.  I think this is a win that will look a lot better at the end of the season than it does right now.

A New Era Begins

Today the Buckeyes started their new era — an era without Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor — and beat Akron, 42-0.  The win was, if anything, even more convincing than the one-sided score.

Defensively, the Buckeyes were dominant.  They held the Zips to 90 yards, forced a turnover, and didn’t let Akron get within spitting distance of the end zone.  Everybody contributed to a team effort that featured solid play by the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs.

Offensively, the game was a coming-out party for Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller.  Bauserman has been a cipher during the past few years; he didn’t see the field much and didn’t make much of an impression when he did.  Today he played well, made some good decisions, and threw some fine passes.  Miller, after an initial hiccup, displayed the run-pass abilities that will likely make him a dangerous offensive weapon.  The offensive line got a good push, and the Buckeyes showed depth at running back and wide receiver.   We also saw that fullback Zach Boren is a fierce lead blocker and tight end Jake Stoneburner poses huge match-up problems for defenses.  (Let’s hope the 2011 Buckeyes continue to go to their tight end, unlike prior teams.)

Congratulations to new head coach Luke Fickell on the win.  Now let’s all take a deep breath, remember that Akron is probably one of the worst teams in college football, and focus on the Toledo Rockets who will visit the Horseshoe next Saturday and provide a much stiffer challenge for the Buckeyes.