A Good Start

The cheerleaders and team rush the field to start the 2010 season

Richard, Cath, Brittany and I went to the Ohio State-Marshall game tonight.  We sat in Section 28A, Row 32 of a packed Horseshoe on a hot and muggy evening and watched as the Buckeyes rolled, 45-7.  It was a convincing win, and it was one of those games where there were many more positives than negatives — but still some kinks to work on.

Terrelle Pryor threw the ball a lot and threw the ball well.  Although there were a few plays where he seemed locked in on one receiver, for the most part he appeared to see the field and went through his check-offs when primary receivers were covered.  His protection was excellent, he spread the ball around to lots of different receivers — including making liberal use of the tight end and his running backs — and threw some balls with great touch.  The long touchdown pass to Dane Sanzenbacher was one of Pryor’s fine throws, but there were many others where he floated the ball over the hands of defenders.

TBDBITL welcomes Marshall to the 'Shoe

The running game does not seem to be as ready for prime time as the passing game.  Brandon Saine broke some nice long runs, as did some of the other backs, but the Buckeyes weren’t very consistent.  At the same time, the run play-calling seemed pretty vanilla and was largely between the tackles.  Ohio State may have been saving some of the flourishes for the Miami game, which is up next.

On defense, the Buckeyes looked good, but not dominating.  The front seven controlled the line of scrimmage early on, and when Marshall fell well behind they pretty much resorted to a spread passing offense to try to get back in the game.  When that happened the defensive line got some pressure, but frankly not quite as much as I expected.  Brian Rolle’s interception return for a touchdown was an excellent athletic play, and the Buckeyes made some big hits to force fumbles and drops.  I got the sense that the Ohio State coaches also were holding back a bit on defense.  Other than the Tyler Moeller sprint blitz, the Buckeyes didn’t appear to use any of their blitz packages.

Ohio State’s special teams, which typically are a strength, were the weakest link for the team in this game.  Marshall had one long kickoff return, there was a blocked field goal and a partially blocked extra point, and the Thundering Herd returned a blocked field goal for their only score.  Ohio State’s punting was average, and most of the kickoffs did not reach the end zone.  The special teams coaches will have things to work on between now and next Saturday when the Hurricanes come to town.

Richard, Cath, and Brit tailgating

For all of that, it was fun to tailgate again (thanks, KW!), fun to see old friends, fun to don the Buckeye regalia once more, and fun to sit in the Horseshoe, eat a hot dog, and watch the Buckeyes play.  The Best Damn Band In The Land performed up to their customary level, and the alumni band made its appearance and assisted in the now traditional performance of a quadruple Script Ohio.

The college football season is here, and it is off to a good start!

The Thundering Herd, On Deck

The Buckeyes have completed fall camp and begin their season Thursday night against the Marshall Thundering Herd.

First games always make me nervous, and this game is no exception.  The other team hasn’t played, and you don’t have any film or tendencies to study.  In addition, in the past few years Ohio State has played their second or third game of the year against a marquee team — including Texas, USC, and, this year, Miami — and I always wonder whether the Buckeyes will look past their first opponent.  It seemed to happen last year against Navy, and we’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t happen against Marshall this year.  Buckeyes fans know that Marshall can come to Columbus and deliver a nailbiter; Marshall almost upset Ohio State back in 2004.

What do we know about Marshall?  Not a lot.  They hail from West Virginia and have a bison as a mascot.  They have a new coach.  They have three returning starters on their offensive line and an experienced quarterback who started 13 games last year and who has chemistry with a wide receiver who caught 60 passes last year.  Having experienced players is a real plus when you are playing in a tough environment like the Horseshoe.  Their leading rusher from last year turned pro early; two sophomores will have to pick up the slack.  On defense, Marshall returns some capable defensive lineman and linebackers who look like they can hit and put pressure on the quarterback.  However, the team seems to be thin in the secondary.

As for the Buckeyes, the big question will be whether the team will continue to progress in the same positive direction we saw in the Rose Bowl.  Offensively, Ohio State has an experienced offensive line and a cadre of very solid, multi-dimensional running backs.  Terrelle Pryor, now a junior, made significant strides as a passer last season after the disastrous Purdue game, and Buckeye fans will be hoping that the improvement continues.  The receiving corps has been depleted but returns some quality receivers.  Defensively, Ohio State lost some exceptional players from last year’s defensive line, but that unit looks to have great depth and a returning stud in Cameron Heyward.  The linebackers are experienced, rangy, and able to hit.  Ohio State’s question on defense will be the defensive backfield.

We’ll find out more about this season on Thursday night.  It will be one of those games where I will be holding my breath.