Those of us in Ohio have always known that The Ohio State University Marching Band is the Best Damn Band In The Land.  Now, thanks to the Bus Riding Conservative and this video showing the band skimming across the waters of Lake Erie on their way to a celebration of the War of 1812 at Put-in-Bay, we know that TBDBITL is also TBDBOTW.

The Offense Rolls, But The Defense . . . .

Ohio State’s 52-34 win over Cal told us several things.

First, it told us that Ohio State has the best back-up quarterback in college football.  Kenny Guiton performed almost flawlessly, throwing for four touchdowns and 276 yards, rushing for 92 yards, and navigating the multi-faceted Buckeyes offense as it steamrolled the Cal defense.  Led by Jordan Hall, with three touchdowns and 168 yards, the ground game amassed 332 yards.  (Somewhere, Woody Hayes is smiling.)  A national TV audience also was introduced to lightning-quick Dontre Wilson, burner Devin Smith, who had a nifty three catches for 149 yards and two TDs, clutch receiver Corey Brown, who made a great end zone grab, and other offensive options.  The Golden Bears simply had no answer for the Buckeye offense, which put up more than 600 yards.

photo-96Second, we know that Urban Meyer has the soul of a riverboat gambler.  From the long bomb to start the Buckeye scoring, to the repeated decisions to go for it on fourth down, Meyer demonstrated a willingness to push his chips onto the table and count on his team to perform — and they did.  There will be fourth downs that the Buckeyes don’t convert, of course, but Coach Meyer has sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten:  don’t expect these team to play conservative offensive football.

Third, it’s clear that the defense needs a lot of work.  Cal has a high-powered offense, and you’re going to give up touchdowns and yards.  But what concerned me was the poor fundamentals, particularly in tackling.  From Bradley Roby’s desultory shove of a receiver who nevertheless tiptoed down the sideline to a score, to countless failures to wrap up, the defense showed it still has a long way to go.  Against a team that matches up better against the Buckeyes’ offense, one of those breakdowns could cost the Buckeyes the game.  From a talent level, the defense seems to have as many weapons as the offense, but the pieces haven’t been put together.  Next week against Florida A&M, I hope to see a tackling clinic.

Finally, we know that Buckeye Nation travels — and how!  From TV shots, it looked like the Cal Stadium was mostly clad in scarlet and gray.  I know that the fans had a blast too.  Thanks to Mr. Nesser, one of the traveling Buckeye Nation faithful, for sending me this photo of The Best Damn Band In The Land performing at the Hearst Greek Theater in Berkeley before the game.

Let The Games Begin!

On Saturday, a bit before noon, the Ohio State Buckeyes football team will take the field for the first game of the 2011 season.  When The Best Damn Band In The Land marches down the ramp to the cheers of more than 100,000 fans, it will mark the end of what has seemed like the longest off-season in college football history.  I’ll be thrilled when that happens, and I’m confident that countless other members of Buckeye Nation agree with that heartfelt sentiment.

I’ll have a bit more to say about the 2011 version of the Buckeyes later.  For now, I just want to say how wonderful it will be to focus on what happens on the field once again.  I’m ready to get seriously into the minutiae of college football and the strangeness of talking about the Legends and Leaders divisions of the Big Ten.  (Let’s see . . . which one is Ohio State in, again?) I want to talk to my buddies about the freshman phenom, the senior who is under-performing, the stud defensive lineman, and the safety who hits like a ton of bricks.  I want to debate play-calling and controversial penalties.  I want to focus on the fact that Nebraska is now part of the Big Ten, and argue about who should be ranked number one.  Those are the things that make college football the greatest sport of all — not the off-the-field noise and controversy.

I say, let the games begin!

A Nailbiter At The ‘Shoe

Just back from the Navy game, which was more exciting than we would have wished. The Buckeyes came away with a victory, which means something when a game comes down to the wire, and the team will have a lot of things to work on before USC comes to town. To the extent any Ohio State players were overconfident before this game, they’ve had that knocked out of them — which could be a good thing, too.

UJ, Aunt Bebe and I got to the Stadium early and went to the skull session, which was a lot of fun as always. St. John Arena was packed to the rafters; I think every seat was filled at the start of the session. We heard from The Best Damn Band In The Land, the Alumni Band, and the Navy Fife & Bugle Corps. John Glenn, who dotted the “i” in Script Ohio at halftime, spoke a few words, Navy personnel were everywhere in their bright white uniforms, and patriotism was in the air. We were treated to Stars & Stripes Forever, Anchors Aweigh, and the Navy Hymn, as well as classic TBDBITL fare like Le Regiment and the Buckeye Battle Cry. Properly fortified for the game, we walked over to the Stadium, walked up the steps to our seats in the closed end, and settled in for some college football.

Ohio State looked good at times and very young and inexperienced — which they are — at other times, including on some crucial plays in the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes went out to a 20-7 halftime lead then started to make some mistakes, with penalties and dropped passes. In the meantime, Navy’s triple option/cut blocking offense gave the Ohio State defense fits. Still, the Men of the Scarlet and Gray had the game under control, ahead 29-14 with a 4th and 2 on about the Navy 20 yard line. They went for it (in a very unTressel-like move), didn’t make it, and Navy promptly threw an 85-yard touchdown pass. An interception and another Navy up-the-gut touchdown later, and Ohio State was up two with Navy trying for a two-point conversion. Fortunately for the Buckeyes Navy tried to convert through the air rather than on the ground, and one of the OSU linebackers picked off the pass and ran it back for two points. An unsuccessful on-side kick later, Ohio State had the ball and was able to run out the clock, and Buckeye Nation heaved a collective sigh of relief.

This was the first game, and one against a gutty team that runs an unusual offense with great success. Still, it seems obvious that Ohio State’s offensive line needs a lot of work. It was largely unable to move Navy off the line of scrimmage and didn’t provide much pass protection for Terrelle Pryor. The defensive line, which was supposed to be a real strength, looked pretty ordinary and had a tough time making plays against Navy’s line. Navy seemed to have an easy time making yardage right up the middle, including two touchdowns in which their quarterback raced untouched into the end zone after faking a handoff to the fullback. I firmly believe that football games are won on the line of scrimmage, and if Ohio State hopes to compete with teams like USC it will need to figure out how to improve its line play pronto.

Still, the season is young, and the Buckeyes can put one in the win column. I also give great credit to Navy’s players and coaching staff. They run a tough offense to defense and do it very well, and their players don’t quit. Best of luck to the Midshipmen in the rest of the season!