Thoughts about an unimpressive win

OSU FootballOver the next week, pundits will either over- or under-analyze today’s victory over the Ohio Bobcats. Here’s the fair and balanced (seriously) point of view of today’s 800th victory.

The defense was fine. I say again, fine. Whatever you do, don’t listen to the superficial ramblings of sports reporters that say the line wasn’t getting pressure. The problem was they were getting too much pressure against a very mobile QB in Boo Jackson. On every single snap, the front four was in the backfield almost immediately.

However, nobody had the answer for Boo’s feet, and he kept at least three drives alive by long third-down scrambles (where he had no receivers open and had to scramble for his own life.)

Shades of Illinois? Absolutely. But Mark Sanchez isn’t a mobile slasher like Boo Jackson or Juice Williams. Moral: Nothing has changed from last year (or 2006) – the Buckeyes continue to struggle with mobile QBs. Still, even while the Bucks struggled, they held Ohio to only one scoring drive.

Now, the offense. Here is where OSU fans should be nervous. Boeckman stuuuunnnkk for most of the game. When he did complete a pass, it was usually off-target to some extent. I was sitting on the 30 yard line, and for whatever reason, we happened to be lined up right along the line of scrimmage quite frequently. Boeckman was throwing passes to stationary receivers that were three yards off target. Throwing into double-and triple-coverage when two or three checkoff receivers were open. Pathetic.

Initially, the fumble into the end zone appeared to be center Cordle’s fault. However, replays show that Todd called the snap, and took his eyes off the ball. Boeckman was simply not into this game. The few decent passes he threw, it was the receivers that were daydreaming.

OSU’s passing game now has a reputation for inconsistency. When the QB is hot, the WRs are not, and vice versa. On occasion, the passing game has clicked (e.g., Penn State last year). But the further away we get from that great game, the more it seems like it was the aberrant example.

Finally, the coaching. The playcalling was puzzling and unimaginative. They get a decent drive together by using the pony and pistol, then switch to the I formation with a skinny tailback and the drive stalls? Again, from our vantage point, it was clear that the TE was open frequently. The first time they get the TE into the mix, it’s a 30 yard gain. Do it again? Nope. Back to the very predictable, slow-to-develop, low-percentage plays. Then, the puzzling decision to go for a PAT when down by two points. Uh, coach, do any of you even watch the game?

All in all, what does this mean for USC? Hard to say. Defensively, OSU matches up well against USC. No doubt the Trojans will have more success than the Bucks’ previous opponents, but I have full confidence that the OSU defense will perform well enough to put the team in position to win.

The offense, however, had better start clicking, or it’s going to be ugly next week. It starts with Boeckman. He’s played his worst in big games so far (with the exception of the previously-mentioned PSU). His accuracy, decision-making, and consistency have been called into question. What will he do? Without a stud QB, OSU is merely a good team. With a solid, consistent, veteran leader on the field, they have the potential to be an elite team. Which will it be?

Comments

  1. I know you’re not a Boeckman fan, so I’ll chalk your uninformed comments about the passing game up to that. You are right about inconsistency, though. That was frustrating.

    As to the two-point conversion, there are situations when going for the two-point are called for. This was not one of them. Sure, they missed the PAT, but that’s beside the point.

    About the lack of imagination for the play-calling, this was looking ahead to next week. No need to show off anything you don’t want USC seeing.

    As to the defensive front four, they were getting excellent penetration, but the ends were not keeping contain. This is something that definitely needs work on. The 5 take-aways were nice to see. Leave it up to a D-lineman to show the DBs how to intercept a ball.

  2. kaiser – “going for the two-point are called for. This was not one of them.”

    I guess I’m missing something. Down by two… what good is one extra point going to give you? Down by two, down by one is the exact same in football. Any other coach in football history gives the tying score a chance.

    As far as the passing game goes, look at it this way: OSU’s two starting WRs, one of which is touted as the best senior receiver in the country, have COMBINED for only 10 receptions this season, and only one TD. And that’s against two bottom-feeder teams.

    I agree with you about the containment issue. Yeah, I’m not worried about the defense. Just the passing game.

  3. Sanchez may not be as mobile, but he’s deadly accurate, even on the run. That means coverage has to be tight. I don’t see this happening when OSU is in zone coverage. I’d love to see the corners play tight to the line of scrimmage and jam receivers more, but this doesn’t seem to be an option. Very unfortunate that they didn’t do this in short yardage situations today. Hopefully, I’ll be pleasantly surprised this week and they’ll unveil some new coverage schemes this week specifically for USC.

    I believe the defense has to be extremely stingy for this team to succeed, and I’m not sure that’s going to be the case.

    I’m not a Boeckman fan either after watching him the last two weeks. He’s a great kid, I think he’s working hard and his effort is definitely there, but his decision was very slow today, which led to 2 sacks being his fault, IMHO. The first week he seemed to panic when a play wasn’t going exactly as drawn up in the playbook, and didn’t let a play develop long enough, and this week he seemed to be taking too long to let a play develop. Maybe I’m being too picky, but he seems to be struggling to find a balance in this regard. It’s more than just timing, it seems like he’s just trying to force things either way. It’s as if he’s trying to find the speed of the game, if that makes any sense.

    In general, I don’t think the team is playing as a cohesive unit right now. They all seem to be playing individually. The effort is there, the camaraderie on the field seems off. There didn’t seem to be anybody leading by example or otherwise, with the possible exception of Ray Small. He played very well all day.

    Perhaps the lack of cohesiveness is due to the coaching staff playing mental games with USC and not showing any tendencies.

    Well, this was somewhat therapeutic. Go Bucks.

  4. @sportsMonkey “Down by two, down by one is the exact same in football. Any other coach in football history gives the tying score a chance.”

    Down by two is not down by one. If you want to get into theoreticals, there are numerous ways being down by one is better than two. They’re all low percentage situations, but that’s why you hardly ever go for two in the third quarter. No other coach goes for it in that situation. It’s much too early. Either way, it’s a moot point.

    You mentioned the WRs. That, as far as I can tell, is the root issue of the passing game. Not Boeckman. He’s got his own issues, but dropping passes is not his fault.

    @Tom – glad we could provide some therapy. You bring up a lot of good points. The coaching staff has their work cut out for them. I expect (and really really hope) to see a different team out there next Saturday.

  5. I am so sick of this “lets not show them too much stuff” horseshit. Really. It is 2008. What exotic playcalling are we going to come up with that 1) USC hasn’t seen; or 2) couldn’t adjust to???

    There is something to be said for gaining confidence from scoring >7 times per game. We need that confidence. Second, we need practice executing these “sophisticated” plays. We simply need to work out the kinks. Now is the time to do it, not during USC.

    Worst of all, this breeds a “not for keeps” mentality. You cannot go into a game and “ration” your willingness to win. Its like a cage match to the death: you are either in it to win, or…not. There should be no holding back, and no mentality of such–play calling, play execution, or otherwise. No quarter of any shape or form should be given until at least a 40 point lead. No holding back. Even the backups need to understand what it feels like to gain 30 yards at will, and score often (putting your second or third string in, is the only acceptable conduct for when ahead–not euthanasia-inspired play calling). That, in my opinion is what is stopping us from real excellence: we hold back, and play down to teams, never really learning what it feels like to go ears back, flat out, balls to the wall.

  6. @Dan – Couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t like the “hide the plays from teh enemy!” any more than you do. I’m just saying that’s my guess to explain the boring playcalling.

    College football is about emotion. Call it “not for keeps” or call it “we’re just playing Ohio,” call it whatever you want, it’s hard to draw on the well of emotion 12-13 weeks in a row. The atmosphere will be different, the stakes higher and the emotions peaking next week in LA. It’s hard to get up like that every week, especially when you’re playing Ohio. Every MAC team that comes in are playing at the level but the Buckeyes aren’t. They can’t.

    The may not be consciously holding back, but deep down they know they can take a series off, take a play off to slack, whatever. It’s not healthy and it rests on the coaches to get them up. But we most certainly play down to teams.

  7. kaiser – your loyalty to Boeckman is clouding your objectivity. Yes, the WRs are dropping passes. But Boeckman (1) gave up two sacks today that were his fault alone (caught from behind while jogging, not feeling the pressure), and (2) gave a TD to the defense on his daydreaming busted play inside his own 10. Toss in a bajillion off-the-mark passes and repeated questionable decisions (throwing into triple coverage, etc.), and you’ve got a QB who simply has a lot of question marks.

  8. Why does it seem that Todd cannot read Defense’s………..( still ). There was clearly an extra LB on the right of one play the center ( Cordle) pointed that way, and what happens………Boom!! Sack.

    As bad as a game Todd had , he made it worse for me when he had another BATTED ball at the line of scrimmage. He is listed ( I believe at 6’5 ) but plays at 5’8. I mean Troy never had that many balls batted down. I am very curious to his stat on that.

    Special teams ( which were terrible last yr ) won this game yesterday. Cudos to them.

    But , I am very nervous going into next week , knowing Todd is gonna be our QB.

  9. Other than the aforementioned items, I have two general concerns. First, this team is loaded with seniors. My question for those of you at the game, was there any evidence of sideline leadership by the upperclassmen? I couldn’t tell from my loge seat in front of the TV up here in Buffalo, game execution indicated probably not.

    My second concern is that it appeared the Coaches also took the day off yesterday afternoon. The Buckeyes were not ready to play, or at least as not ready as the Bobcats. Their personnel decisions were iffy, at best. Seriously, Mo Wells has been in the program a long time, and coaches can’t figure out that he is not a between-the-tackles kind of runner? When Mo was lined up as tailback on the 4th and 1 play, I was hoping to God it would be a toss sweep.

    It should be an interesting week of practice.

  10. @monkey – The fumble was unfortunate, but blame does not reside solely with Boeckman. The sacks were avoidable. I’m loyal, but I can see when there are questions. And there are certainly questions, at the moment.

    @Ed – I haven’t seen a lot of Boeckman’s passes getting batted down. Yes, there was one yesterday, but they don’t seem to be happening too often.

    @Ken – The geniuses at ESPN say it’s Beanie and Laurinaitis that are the leaders. Beanie seemed to be whooping it up pretty good on the sideline, but I’m not sure much past that.

    I winced on that 4th and 1 because I almost knew it was going to be up the middle. A toss on 4th is tough to call, but Mo Wells is not built to go up the middle.

  11. Look, yesterday was “it” for me. I am as big of a bucks fan as there is and usually overestimate how good they are, but quite honestly, this group of players is the most overrated bunch in my lifetime. Lets face it, this team would easily lose 2-3 conference games each of the last three years in the bygone years of the conference (when Michigan and Penn St were still real programs). This current team has been able to hide in the VERY BAD B10 and are not nearly as good as some previous 9-3 bucks teams. I was once like many other OSU fans who took offense at the jabs at the program and the big ten, but have squarely realized now that all of it is correct. The B10 and the Bucks simply do not have the talent to play with elite teams, period. this team will be lucky to stay within 3 or 4 TDs next week. I was hoping otherwise, but seriously, what makes this year different than the last years Bowl game with these same guys. I repeat, we are starting the same guys on defense as last year – that is the scary thought

    Oh – any day now tress feel free to learn how to avoid let down games – you are the worst motivator in the business, period. How many Marshall games, San Diego State games, OU games does it take before you realize how to get a team to put the hammer to the other team every week???

    I feel a little better

  12. @Ken – I noticed two players that stood out as leaders on the field: Malcom Jenkins and Todd Boeckman. On important plays and TV time outs, both of them had the players around them and were barking out impassioned speeches. Also, Jenkins more than any other player would be the one to plead with the crowd to ‘get up & shout.’ Laurinatis did his share of barking, too.

    @Kaiser – if you watch the replay that ESPN is playing ad naseum, it’s clear that the fumble was entirely Boeckman’s fault. He called for the snap, then was distracted at a defensive player’s motion & took his eyes off it. The ball sailed right by his head, and then instead of falling on it or kicking it out of the end zone for a safety, he panicked and tried to come up with it to get it ahead of the goal line. All QBs make mistakes from time to time, but this is a mistake that a starting 83rd year senior is not supposed to make.

  13. Most of the other issues have been covered satisfactorily be earlier posts, but I do have one more thought: this business about not wanting to show anything to USC is a joke. People are seriously delusional if they think we struggled yesterday because of some larger plan to unleash the greatest, most imaginative, creative and explosive plays ever developed against USC in a week. If that is the case, Tress should not survive the weekend as coach as that would demonstrate the poorest judgment by a head coach in a long while. Look, there are probably a handful, and only a handful of plays (like 5-7) especially designed for USC … the rest is what we practice day in day out year after year as the bread and butter. You do not win games by tricking teams, but by executing your game plan. No way Tress risks losing this game and lets the outcome hang in the balance where one big play by OU (turnover, fluke big play, etc) costs them for at most 7 or so “special plays”.

    For anyone that disagrees, please count for me these superduper tricky plays you see next week and report back. I think you will be sorely disappointed

  14. @Chuck – It seems that ESPN has gotten to you. I can’t agree that this team is overrated. These kids are still elite athletes. There are issues, hopefully they can be coached, but I don’t think I would go as far as saying they were overrated. The lose by 28 points next week, like you say, and I may change my tune. But I don’t see that happening.

  15. Yeah, maybe its my heart has been broken too many times recently that I am making myself have low expectations

    But, you must admit that something is wrong with this team over the last few years. And while I used to tune out ESPN as well, eventually common sense must come into play… eventually you have to stop making excuses and accept what you see out there. Hartline’s comments are most telling: “I don’t see any other top 5 teams play like this” and it happens every year without fail under Tress. Why does this team struggle with inferior opponents and most importantly, why can’t we stay on the same field with Fl and LSU – its a legit question. We were not just beat but run out of the building the last two years.

    Either they do not have the talent we are told they do or they are the worst coached team in the Country. The recruiting gurus tell me we have elite athletes, so why do we look like OU when we played LSU and FL??? We couldn’t even make a game out of those contests? If we have the athletes to play with these teams, then Tress needs to go, right? Its one or the other

  16. P.S. I will happily eat my words if the Bucks can pull off a win on Saturday night. I am just saying I would not be surprised at all if Beanie has 90 yards at the half and Tress decides to run Mo wells between the tackles and let Todd throw up jump balls to Robo in triple coverage the entire second half – this is the worst coached elite team in the country.

  17. I am tempted to agree with chuck. I watched some preseason breakdown and normally I don’t listen to May May, but his analysis that “OSU lacks elite wide receivers” sounds spot on. The Brians pale in comparison to the WRs of the last 4-5 years (Ginn, Gonzo, Mike Jenkins, Santonio Holmes, etc). I realize that fact may statistically be untrue, but the dropped passes (by Hartline especially) demonstrate the mediocrity of these starters. Moreover When your returning starters can’t find openings/break coverage on tiny OU dbs, it might be time to try something different. Personally, I would like to see more of Sazenbacher (who looked consistent yesterday), Small (who Tom Biological mentioned played well) and Devier Posey.

  18. Chuck makes a good point that the “special” or “trick” plays lying in wait for the 13th are most likely smaller in number than most of us would believe but we would hope will be effective enough to help determine the outcome of the game in our favor. I also believe that SC will adjust to most of these unforseen wrinkles in due time which will make their early success a necessity. If I was an SC player, I am not overlooking anything for next week’s game. I am not “licking my chops” lest I suffer the same fate that waited in the wings yesterday for OSU. If I am an OSU player, I watch the Jan ’03 championship game on DVD and take that attitude to L.A. with me. Take risks, absolutely NO vanilla next week. Pressure Sanchez but I suspect we’ll see some special sets with Mustain too. Win or lose, this is my team and I’m a fan ’til I leave this life.

  19. I will happily eat your words, too, chuck, when we beat USC 🙂

    @Joe – I think one of the over arching themes here is the issue of WR. I think Ray Small is definitely coming into his own.

    @chazz – Excellent points you make — watch the 03 championship, where the Buckeyes smacked Dorsey in the mouth, something he never experienced before. Same thing has to happen to Sanchez.

  20. Joe is right in that we have, by OSU standards, substandard wideouts on this team. Again, these guys are good and deserving of schollies, but they are complimentary-type players and not nearly like Holmes, Gonzo, or Ginn … hopefully posey and/or Small become that go-to wideout by Saturday and not a moment later.

    The Good news is that Wells is better than anyone we have had we have had since Eddie … and if given that chance can single-handedly keep us in the game – as many (me included) believe would have happened against LSU had he been given the ball the whole game.

    I think we can beat USC, but I needed to see something other than yesterday’s performance to make the odds even 50-50 – right now 25% chance that this team, under that pressure, comes out of that place at night on national TV with a “W”

    those odds are better than 99% of teams in America would get mind you, but still a long shot IMHO

    GO BUCKS Prove me wrong- I hate USC as much as the SEC

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