A Game That Coaches Should Like

Ohio State spanked the Miami RedHawks today, winning 56-10.  It was the kind of game that probably is a coach’s dream — a comfortable win, but chock full of errors that will keep players and coaches focused on improvement.

The Buckeyes scored 35 points in a row to put the game away.  They got a special teams touchdown, a good thing for a team looking to significantly improve its special teams play.  Ohio State racked up 244 yards through the air and ran a lot of passing plays involving a lot of players.  Braxton Miller had some great runs, and Devin Smith made one of the most unbelievable catches I’ve ever seen from a Buckeye receiver.  The defense had two picks and held Miami — admittedly  a pure passing team — to -1 yard on the ground.  The back-up quarterback, Kenny Guiton, played significant minutes and looked comfortable running the offense.  And no one got hurt, aside from Miller’s cramps.

At the same time, the coaches will have a lot of negatives to point out.  The Buckeyes offense sputtered early — OSU trailed, 3-0, after the first quarter — and the offensive line looked shaky at times, giving up a number of sacks.  The defense allowed more than 300 yards through the air and had some breakdowns early that produced huge Miami gains.  Many Miami drives were stopped by its receivers dropping catchable balls , rather than rugged defensive plays by the Buckeyes.

Pulverizing an overmatched team doesn’t mean a whole lot, but I liked what I saw during the last three quarters of the game.  I liked the hurry-up, I liked the mix of plays, and I liked the athleticism and skills of the players being showcased by Meyer’s new system.  Today was an eminently acceptable start to the Urban Meyer era.

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  An interim head coach has been replaced by a fiery, demanding taskmaster who has already won two national championships.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!