Ohio State vs. Navy 2014 Highlights

Ohio State vs. Navy, A Look Back

Gone are 4 of last years starting offensive lineman, Carlos Hyde, Philly Brown and Braxton Miller. Early in Saturday’s game vs. Navy the subtraction of last years offensive MVP was apparent. No, I’m not talking about Braxton Miller. I’m referring to Ohio State’s offensive line, which last year was one of the best in the country. The first half was marred by missed assignments, poor line communication, penalties and flat out bad blocking. These things helped lead to a 7-6 deficit going into half time.

Ohio State pulled away late, giving people that didn’t watch the game the impression that OSU handled Navy rather easily. That wasn’t the case at all. for a better part of 3 quarters The Buckeyes struggled with The Midshipmen.

The Good:

J.T. Barrett

The redshirt freshman got his first college start and performed well, throwing for 226 yards, completing 80% of his passes, throwing for 2 touchdowns and leading Ohio State in rushing with 50 yards. He did throw a bad interception as a result of poor offensive line play that lead to pressure bursting right up the middle, forcing Barrett to scramble and make a ill conceived pass that was picked off in the red zone. Meyer could be seen yelling at Barrett to throw the ball away. This one will go down in the books as Barrett’s failure, but it was clear the pass was forced by near immediate pressure.

Barrett had 3 incompletions. The first was on a pass to Dontre Wilson who was side open in the middle of the field and simply stopped running his route and ended up dropping the ball. That play could have been a TD. The second was off pressure once again on 3rd down, forcing a wobbly pass to Curtis Samuel out of the backfield. The 3rd was the interception. All other passes were completed.

Once the offensive line settled down in the second half and Herman allowed the kid to throw the ball downfield, the offense got it’s rhythm back. I think the key play of the game was a 22 yard completion to Michael Thomas. It had Barrett rolling right on a two receiver pattern. Barrett read it perfectly and hit Thomas on a frozen rope for 22. It showed his offensive coaching staff he could make an accurate throw downfield.

The kid is solid, won’t wow anyone like Miller did but he can certainly spin the ball. Should be fun to watch him develop this year.

Darron Lee

Lee made the play of the game, returning a fumble 61 yards for a go ahead touchdown to start the 3rd quarter. He also had 7 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss and one thunderous hit on Keenan Reynolds. He seems to have that “it” factor and has a nose for the ball and for making plays.

The Defensive Line

Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa did work Saturday. Constantly having to fend off cut blocks they combined for 11 tackles and 4 tackles for loss, including a sack. Bosa also had a hand in the fumble that lead to Lee’s TD, forcing a bad pitch by Reynolds. This unit will be the key to The Buckeye defense.

Dontre Wilson

So yeah, he’s pretty good. Averaged 7.2 yards per carry, 23 yards per catch and had 168 total yards on 14 touches good for 12 yards a touch. Meyer has his Harvin. NO! Meyer has his WILSON.

The Bad

The Offensive Line (First Half)

I already touched on it, but yeah…they were terrible. Ohio State managed 2 measly field goals and barely any offense what so ever.

Incomplete

Buckeye Secondary

The Chris Ash revamped secondary was never tested Saturday as Navy threw the ball 4 times for 20 yards. I guess the good news is, Ohio States pass defense is ranked 3rd in the country! Next week will be the real test for the defense.

The Kids Table

How did the Buckeye younglings do? Curtis Samuel showed tremendous burst, rushing for 45 yards and averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Jalin Marshall flashed some promise, with a couple catches going for 19 yards. He didn’t get much action, but showed good wiggle and gets up to speed quickly. Von Bell had 7 tackles and should be the starter along Tyvis Powell at the safety spots.


Lessons To Be Learned

Lesson 1

For the love on God, stop scheduling Navy or any other school that runs the triple option. It doesn’t teach you anything about the defense you have and it’s difficult to get better as a defense because the offense you are going against is so alien to anything else they will see all year. It also puts the entire team in a bad spot in my honest opinion. It’s VERY difficult to blow this team out, because they run the ball so well against everyone they play. It makes it difficult to get into a rhythm on offense.

Lesson 2

It’s hard to replace an all world QB, amazing offensive line and bulldozer of a running back. But this is Ohio State. They will reload each and every year. This game felt like an extension of fall/summer camp in a lot of ways. Lots of running backs getting touches and lots of offensive lineman getting reps. Still seems to be looking for the right combination on the line and in the backfield.

Most of the game was frustrating to watch, for many reasons. But they got the win and did so by 17. Onto Virginia Tech.

Ohio State 34 Navy 17 Quick Recap

The Buckeyes started off the 2014 season with a 17 point victory vs. The Navy Midshipmen that felt more like a last second 4th quarter comeback win. Ohio State took control in the 2nd half, scoring 28 points after falling behind the Midshipmen 7-6 at the end of the 1st half.

Ohio State got a huge boost from linebacker Darron Lee who scooped up a Navy fumble and raced 61 yards for a go ahead TD. Navy answered a couple minutes later with a 1 yard touchdown by Keenan Reynolds. After tha Ohio State took complete control of the game, scoring 3 touchdowns to Navy’s 1 field goal.

The first half was dominated by bad offensive line play that resulted in stalled drives, penalties and constant pressure on J.T. Barrett who threw a costly interception in the red zone after getting pressure up the middle, avoiding it and carelessly throwing a bad ball.

The offensive line settled down in the second half and that allowed OSU’s offense to get back on track Barrett, in his first OSU start played well, throwing for 226 yards, 2 touchdowns and leading the Buckeyes in rushing with 50 yards. Braxton Miller, he is not, but he can clearly throw the football well when given time.

The jury is still out on the defense, who gave up 370 yards rushing to a Navy team who runs the option better than anyone. While they gave up tons of yards on the ground, they only gave up 17 points to a powerful offense and all world quarterback in Keenan Reynolds. The defensive line was outstanding, getting a few key stops in the 2nd half. Next week will be a better gauge for how far the defense has come along when they play Virginia Tech, a team that runs a normal offense.

This team is very young and very talented. They will make you want to tear out your hair one minute and make you jump out of your seat with excitement.

Buckle up Buckeye fans. It’s gonna be a fun year.

More game detail to follow.

Luke Fickell, Scapegoat

It is no secret that the Ohio State defense has not lived up to their typical dominant selves the past two years. Since Jim Heacock has left and Luke Fickell has taken over the defense the Silver Bullets have been at best inconsistent and at worst a swiss cheese like sieve.

While the OSU offense continues setting records, the defense continues to make average opposing quarterbacks look like Joe Montana riding a golden unicorn throwing lightening bolts of joy to the masses. The defense has been blamed for losses to Michigan State which cost OSU a chance at a national title and a BCS Bowl loss to Clemson.

OSU fans always seem to need a scapegoat. Whether it’s an entire unit, in this case the defense or one of the coaches that coaches the defense, in this case Luke Fickell. Before Fickell it was Jim Bollman, who in his time at Ohio State was much maligned for his ultra conservative offense, while the OSU defense was one of the highest rated defenses year in and year out.

While I agree that the defense has struggled, I don’t believe it’s all Luke Fickell’s fault. I also believe the struggles of defense started before Jim Heacock left the Buckeyes.

Ohio State’s national defensive rankings since Luke Fickell was named Co-Defensive Coordinator:

2005: 8th
2006: 2nd
2007: 1st
2008: 7th
2009: 5th
2010: 3rd

2011: 26th
2012: 31st
2013: 28th

Jim Heacock left before the start of the 2012 season. Ohio State’s issues on defense started in 2011, when Jim Heacock was still running the defense. Luke Fickell, sans his head coaching title in 2011 has had the same title since 2005. So in 2011, what changed? How did a once dominant defense go from being ranked consistently in the top ten to a mediocre 26-31st?

Most Buckeye fans would just blurt out, “FIRE LUKE FICKELL.” Or, “THAT DAMN FICKELL (inaudible grunting).”

What changed? Luke Fickell has never run the defense on his own. He’s had Jim Heacock and Everett Withers sharing the title of Co Defensive Coordinator. When OSU’s defense shined….Heacock got the glory. And in 2011, when they began to stumble….Fickell got the blame. And when the great and powerful Urban Meyer took over the team in 2012 Fickell was made the full time scape goat of the defense.

1. Defensive turnover. Ohio State lost an incredible amount of defensive talent via transfers, player injuries etc…

Players That Left By Year:

2009:

Adam Bellamy-3 star defensive lineman
Melvin Fellows-5 star defensive end
Jordan Whiting-3 star LBer
Dorian Bell-5 star LBer
Dominic Clarke-4 star DB

2010:

Christian Bryant-4 star DB
Jamel Turner-4 star LBer
David Durham-3 star LBer
Scott McVey-4 star LBer
Chad Hagan-3 star LBer

2011:

Ken Hayes-4 star defensive end
Conner Crowell-3 star LBer
Jeremy Cash-3 star safety
Derjuan Gambrell-4 star defensive back

2012:

Se’von Pittman-4 star defensive end
David Perkins-4 star LBer
Luke Roberts-3 star LBer
Devan Bogard-4 star safety
Najee Murray-4 star defensive back

2013:

Michael Hill- 4 star defensive lineman
Donavon Munger-4 star defensive lineman
Jayme Thompson-4 star safety

That is a TON of talent to not have at ones disposal. I won’t get into the reason each of these players left, but none of them have to do with Luke Fickell. It would have been nice to have that depth and talent at times the past two seasons. every team deals with turnover, but the amount of turnover on the defensive side of the ball has been tough to deal with.

2. New defensive regime. Along with Urban Meyer came a group of new defensive coaches. Kerry Coombs coached the cornerbacks and special teams, while Everett Withers was the co-defensive coordinator and coached the safety position. Coombs has been demoted from his position as cornerbacks coach and Everett Withers has accepted the head coaching position at James Madison. Both coaches have been replaced by one man, Chris Ash who has taken over the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coaching positions. He will be charged with revamping a terrible OSU pass defense.

OSU Pass Defense Ranking:

2009-13th
2010-8th
2011-14th
2012-78th
2013-112th

In the 2 years since OSU was ranked a respectable 14th in the country in pass defense, they dropped to 112th. ONE HUNDRED AND TWELFTH. Since most OSU fans think it’s Fickell’s fault, what did he change? I’d say nothing. I’d say handing the secondary over to a glorified high school coach in Coombs and an average coach in Withers was a giant mistake.

If Urban Meyer, who is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in college football demoted Coombs and let Withers go to East Bagdad Tech…while allowing Fickell to remain at a position he has held since 2005 that should be quite telling. Urban Meyer wants nothing more than to win football games. If he felt Fickell was detrimental he would have let him go. He didn’t.

3. Fickell’s bestest buddy. Mike Vrabel was brought into the fold in 2011 to coach the linebackers. In 2012 Meyer kept Vrabel on to coach the defensive line. Vrabel ended up leaving to take a job with the Houston Texans in the NFL in the offseason after the loss to Clemson. While Vrabel was a tremendous recruiter he was suspect as a position coach. Vrabel was replaced by longtime PSU coach Larry Johnson, who upon seeing the wealth of talent on the OSU defensive line said he would immediately start regularly rotating defensive linemen more often and situationally. Something Vrabel didn’t do. Vrabel, for right or wrong left his best players in the game for most of the snaps, while backups were just that…backups. This lead to players getting winded when OSU needed them the most. I remember game one of the Urban Meyer regime vs. Miami of Ohio. Late in the 4th quarter Miami of Ohio was continuing to have success throwing the football and Meyer confronted Vrabel and Fickell on the sideline in what looked like a heated chat. Meyer was upset that there was a lack of pressure…a storyline that has plagued OSU’s defense for 2 years.

I’m not saying OSU fans should give Fickell a pass. He has been the responsible party for the Buckeye defense and their results, as has Urban Meyer. To me, the buck stops with Meyer, not Fickell. Meyer has made the changes he has felt necessary to have a successful defense. We shall see how those changes transform an underperforming defense. Meyer seems to get a pass because he’s a rock star. I hate to say it but up until now Meyer hasn’t won anything at OSU except a couple division titles and 24 games that are largely meaningless. No B10 titles. No Bowl wins. #gottabefickellsfault

I’m saying as a Buckeye fan you need to stop and think about why the OSU defense is actually struggling. There is more that goes into it than “IT’S FICKELL’S FAULT!!!” It’s flat out lazy, ignorant and disrespects a former player and current coach who has given the Buckeyes 5 years as a player and 12 years as a coach, most of which have been highly successful.

Time will tell if the changes in coaching and defensive philosophy will improve the results on the field. One thing is for sure, if the Buckeyes do have greater success on the defensive side of the ball Fickell will likely never receive any of the credit. Too many OSU “fans” have already made up their minds.

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