Seeming Disengaged

Ohio State won yesterday against winless UAB, 29-15.  They won, but there’s not a lot of positive things to be said about Ohio State’s struggling performance.

The good?  No Buckeye seemed to sustain a serious injury.  Ohio State finally got a runner other than Braxton Miller — in the case, Jordan Hall — more than 100 yards on the ground in a game.  The defense forced two turnovers, and John Simon and Johnathan Hankins are terrors on the defensive line.  And that’s about it.

The bad?  A complete breakdown on punt blocking that allowed the entire UAB team, and probably some of their fans too, to block a punt before it was even kicked and return it for a touchdown.  Poor kick coverage that allowed UAB to get good field position.  A defense that gave up more than 400 yards to the UAB offense, had some serious third-down breakdowns, and couldn’t get UAB’s offense off the field.  An offense that sputtered for most of the game, can’t seem to control the line of scrimmage, had countless three-and-outs, and had to punt six times against a UAB team that hasn’t won a game.  When the game was in the balance, the offense couldn’t produce the score that would put the game away.  The team had more stupid penalties.

Overall, the team seems somewhat disengaged, and doesn’t play with much urgency or killer instinct.  Urban Meyer reminded OSU fans after the game that this is a team that was 6-7 last year; it’s not reasonable to expect that they will crush every opponent.  That’s a fair point — but it’s also fair to expect a team to be improving at this point in the season, and I’m not really seeing that from the Buckeyes.  With the team now moving into the Big Ten schedule, starting with a road game against Michigan State and then a home game against Nebraska, some significant improvement had better come quickly.

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Anticipation And Expectation In Buckeye Nation

At noon today, the Ohio State Buckeyes kick off their 2013 season in soggy Columbus.  The opponent is the Miami RedHawks, and Buckeye fans are looking for an old-fashioned butt-kicking to try to wash away the sooty taste of last year’s disasters.

In Buckeye Nation, expectation and anticipation is high.  Last year’s distractions and constant NCAA issues are over.  An interim head coach has been replaced by a fiery, demanding taskmaster who has already won two national championships.  Urban Meyer clearly has made some significant attitudinal and cultural changes in the Ohio State program — including a new, interactive pre-game routine between players and students that will debut today — and all signs indicate that the changes are for the better.  From watching Meyer and his staff, you get the impression that they will do whatever it takes (within the boundaries of propriety and NCAA regulations, of course) to win.

The team has some real talent, particularly on the defensive side.  Defensive linemen John Simon, a never-say-quit force of nature, and huge, quick Johnathan Hankins anchor what should be one of the best Buckeye front fours in years.  We’ll be needing them to disrupt opposing offenses, because the linebacking corps is a bit thin and unproven, although Ryan Shazier showed great promise and heart in his freshman year last year.  The defensive backfield features cornerback Bradley Roby and hard-hitting safety Orhian Johnson.  This is a defense that will focus on forcing turnovers, something the Buckeyes didn’t do much of last year, while avoiding the big plays that plagued last year’s unit.

On the offensive side of the ball, a lot rides on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.  Miller showed real flashes of brilliance last year — but mostly with his feet, on some stunning runs where it looked like the opposing team was trying to tackle a ghost.  Miller also will have some good running backs in the backfield with him, with Carlos Hyde likely to get a lot of the carries.  The Buckeyes’ air attack, on the other hand, was dismal.  If Ohio State is to take significant steps forward this season, Miller needs to take a quantum leap forward in his passing mechanics and his receivers need to hold on to the ball.  We should start, at least, to get a sense of that today.

It’s officially September, and I’m ready for some football!

Braxton Comes Of Age

What a great game!  What a great homecoming victory!  And what a great coming of age moment for Braxton Miller!

This was a game where Ohio State’s defense, led by John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, was dominant for three quarters.  In the meantime, the Buckeye offense was playing the ball control game, running the ball, and hoping that Boom Herron and Braxton Miller could break big runs.  And they did — but then Wisconsin came back.  Behind their cool senior quarterback, Wisconsin sliced up the Buckeyes defense for two quick scores in the fourth quarter and looked to have the game in hand.

But then, Braxton.  Miller somehow eluded the Wisconsin rush, as he had done all day, and then threw across his body to a wide-open receiver for the winning TD.  After a few nervous moments, and a weird double penalty that gave Wisconsin an extra play, the defense harried Wisconsin into an incompletion, and the Buckeyes had a great win.

This win may not mean much of anything, but then again it may mean everything.  Braxton Miller has shown that he can keep his cool and lead his team back to victory when all seemed lost.  Next game, the Ohio State offensive gurus might decide to let Miller throw the ball a bit more — and that could make the Buckeye running game that much more formidable.  Whatever the result, Ohio State’s season just got a lot more interesting, and the games to come just got a lot more meaningful.