Second Thoughts: Illinois

What a strange game that was.

This second look post is going to concentrate mostly on the offense but let me just state that the defense is mostly fine (the loss of Moeller SUCKS but with Nate Oliver’s return, I think we’ll be okay) and let me state the obvious and say Jonathan Hankins is going to be a manimal for years to come. He is a space eater and manhandles opposing linemen. It’s a joy to watch the boy play.

Also, something not many people seem to be talking about is how the wind affected the passing game. Why is that? Doesn’t fit the narrative? Anyway…

(Once I looked at my notes, this was a hot mess. Hopefully I can sum up the situations and that they’ll still make sense).

Let’s talk about the running game (and the offense in general).

I tried to concentrate a couple things watching the game a second time — line push, line assignments and backs finding the hole. During the first quarter, I thought the line was able to get movement up front and actually opened holes for both Saine and Herron which were both missed. This is going to be a common theme for Saine but Boom’s vision got better as the game progressed.

During the second drive of the second quarter, the line opens a HUGE hole that Saine hits but then stutter steps just before the line of scrimmage, right before contact that never actually comes and is subsequently tripped. It’s little things like this that have been plaguing Saine. The pass blocking was mostly okay but near the end of the half, Shugarts whiffs on 3rd and ten block that could have sprung Pryor for a decent run, possibly picking up the first instead of surrending a sack. This came after two missed passes (a poorly thrown ball to Sanz and a Posey drop) that set some bad joojoo in motion.

On the next possession, after the two drops and a sack on the preceding three plays, Pryor needed to calm down. Unfortunately, he tries to force a pass on the very next play into triple coverage and throws an INT. This is a coaching issue here. If there is one serious knock against Pryor, it’s that he presses too much and then makes boneheaded decisions like this. This fact is amplified on the very next possesion to close out the half. The possession starts out with a designed QB run that Pryor gets big yardage, setting up a TD. This comes about 3 minutes too late. When Pryor allowed to use his athleticism, it usually results in a big play and usually calms him down.

The second half was strange and kind of a blur. Losing Pryor was scary, but it was amazing how quickly Tressel went into turtle mode. It’s a credit to Herron that he was able to carry the load. As monkey pointed out, Herron carried the ball 19 times for 89 yards. 4.7 yards a carry is exactly what Tresslball calls for when a lead needs protecting and your superstar is unavailable.

I would have said the offensive line, on a scale of 1 to 5 played at about 3.5. The outside blitzing that Illinois did was troublesome, with both tackles missing pick-ups while helping inside on the defensive ends. This is easily correctable and when the tackles did recognize the blitz, they were mostly able to neutralize it. I’d also like to point out some more obviousness: Boren doesn’t miss blocks and he is really good at pushing people out of the way. I think I saw maybe one missed assignment by Boren.

So what to do about these running backs. Saine is not seeing any running lanes. He isn’t playing to his strengths. He had multiple times to beat defenders to the corners and inexplicably cut things back to the middle of the field. It’s almost as if he’s lost confidence. Boom is still playing like Boom and a 4+ yard per carry average is solid but it isn’t flashy. It is what fans want to see.

So what do you want to see? Who would you rather see in the backfield on Saturday?

[poll id=”6″]


  1. 1. Herron should start
    2. Hall should get the bulk of the TB carries after that.
    3. Saine should be the 3rd down and medium/long back and play receiver in spots.

  2. No choice for Pryor? heh.

    Herron – Saine – Hall.

    Let’s not have short memories… Saine has had two bad games out of five this season. He destroyed Marshall (11.4 ypc, 2tds), had a great overall game against Ohio (4.0 ypc, rushing and receiving, w/ a TD), and might have had a great game against Eastern Michigan but only got three carries before being pulled with the rest of the starters.

    Note that Indiana has a far, far worse rush defense than Marshall (Indiana’s currently 108th, and they haven’t even played OSU yet).

    Last year he averaged over 5 yards a carry. Sometimes players get into slumps… or are injured and it’s not being reported. Either way, one of the worst things you can do is overreact and be hasty and replace a 4-yr veteran with a freshman. When you have no choice, e.g., when Boeckman was literally _causing_ losses, sometimes you’ve got to do it.

    But Tressel should continue to play the percentages and go with experience until he’s positive it isn’t working. And two poor showings out of five aren’t enough to know right now.

    If he continues to struggle, I wonder if the problem may lie in his dual-role… e.g., I wonder if switching back and forth from slot receiver to RB might be too confusing for him. Against Miami, he had bad rushing numbers but good receiving. Maybe he’ll vascillate from one to the other. Either way OSU’s better off.

  3. Start Herron ……. Jordan Hall is my favorite but I trust Herron more not to cough it up.

  4. In his last 4 games Brandon Saine has 80 yards rushing and is averaging 2.3 YPC.

    This is a great read:

    Note about halfway down, he talks about the running backs.

  5. Yeah, JU, I’ve been disappointed in Saine also. But I think that “in the last 4 games” paints an unrealistic picture, though. It cherrypicks out his best game (the one where all of us at MotSaG were ranting and raving over his performance), includes one where he was primarily used as a receiver, and another where he only got three carries.

    Having said that, at this point in game 6, I still think you give him another chance or two to shake loose his slump. You have a higher likelihood of success doing that than by placing that load on a true freshman in a competitive Big 10.

    I think we’ll see a bit more of Hall this weekend. Indiana’s rushing D is TRBL, their passing game is intense, so we already know that Tressel’s game plan will be to stay on the ground and chew the clock. Assuming the Bucks get a sizable lead, I expect to see Tressel experiment with Hall more, both as a way to get him experience and as competitive motivation for Saine.

    Tressel did the same thing for Pittman and Maurice Wells when Beanie was a freshman. Ended up working… Pittman got his act together and Maurice faded away into #3 land.

  6. Who is a true freshman?

  7. Can we please never say the name Maurice Wells ever again I think he is my least favorite Buckeye of all time lol.

    Also I fear that El Kaiser is voting multiple times for Jamaal Berry 😉

  8. @Rambo-

    This is the truthiest thing ever said:

    “Can we please never say the name Maurice Wells ever again I think he is my least favorite Buckeye of all time lol.”

    That’s right…I said truthiest.

    I have no doubt that El Kaiser has been going from CPU to CPU here at work voting for Berry. I believe he is now at the library computer hopping.

    I think he thinks Tressel has this poll on auto refresh and is making a game time decision based on this poll.

  9. @JU – Tressel is sneakier than that. He has multiple moles infiltrating various Indiana message boards spreading rumors that he is going to the pistol formation exclusively, with Joe Bauserman.

    Also, Bauserman has been granted a grey shirt, red shirt, scarlet shirt and banana shirt to break Boeckman’s record for years of eligibility.

  10. I swear to all that is holy on Gods green Earth…

    If Joe “The Evil Ginger” Bauserman comes out running the option out of the pistol, I’ll murder every single kitten in Ohio with other dead kittens.

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