Tuesday, September 8

Buckeyes Survive Opening Day Scare

Unfortunately, I had to work during Ohio St's season opener this past Saturday against Navy. So imagine my surprise when my text updates said that this one came down to the wire. Originally I was pretty worried that the game was this close, especially going into next weekend's showdown against USC. However, after I watched the game in its entirety, I feel much better. Ohio St drastically outplayed Navy for 54 minutes. A couple of mistakes from the Buckeyes and big plays from Navy in the game's closing minutes led the Midshipmen to within a two-point conversion from tying the game. Thanks to LB Brian Rolle's pick-two the Bucks won their 31st straight home opener.

Game Recap
Ohio St dominated the first half, outgaining Navy 226-120 and taking a 13-point lead into the break. On the game's first possession, OSU drove right down the field, ending in a 38 yard touchdown pass from Terrelle Pryor to Dane Sanzenbacher. Ohio St's defense looked confused against Navy's rare triple-option attack on their first drive. Navy responded by going 80 yards on a seven minute drive, resulting in a Ricky Dobbs 16-yard TD run to tie the game at 7. That would be about all the Middies would do in the first half, as the next 20 minutes were dominated by the Buckeyes.

Pryor led the Bucks on another good drive, this one capped off by an Aaron Pettrey FG. After a couple of punts, Thaddeus Gibson sacked Dobbs and forced a fumble. With a short field to work with, OSU had another good drive and TP ran it in the end zone to give Ohio St a 17-7 lead. Joe Bauserman gave Pryor a break on the next series and led Ohio St to another FG, making the halftime score 20-7.

The third quarter was basically only one series, that being Navy's 15 play, 99 yard drive that lasted over eight and a half minutes. Anderson Russell made a great play to down a punt at the Midshipmen 1 yard line, but Ricky Dobbs had a great drive running and throwing the ball, and hit Marcus Curry for a TD to cut the lead to 20-14. Russell got beat in a big way by Curry on the touchdown.

Pettrey showed off his incredible range by drilling a 52 yard FG to begin the 4th quarter, putting the Bucks up by nine. Two plays later, Buckeye defensive captain Kurt Coleman forced a fumble in Navy territory, leading to a touchdown run by Boom Herron. Pettrey, who minutes ago was good from over 50, missed the extra point, 29-14 Buckeyes. With under 10 minutes to play in the game, Coleman made an extraordinary interception that seemingly sealed the victory. Not quite.

On a 4th and 2 from inside the 20, Ohio St elected to go for it and Herron was stuffed, turning the ball over on downs. The very next play, Anderson Russell fell victim to Marcus Curry yet again, this one to the tune of 85 yards to put the Academy right back in the game, 29-21. With four minutes to play, Pryor made his first mistake of the game, overthrowing Sanzenbacher and leading to an INT. Starting at the OSU 32, Dobbs only needed three plays to rush into the end zone and come within a two-point conversion from tying the game. In a completely unexpected move, Navy got away from the triple option, and instead decided to spread it out four-wide for the conversion try. Dobbs looked far more confused than the Buckeye defense did, as he threw it to no one in particular and was picked off by Brian Rolle. Thaddeus Gibson landed an excellent block on the only guy that had a shot at getting Rolle, and he took it back 101 yards to the house for two points the other way. Ohio St runs out the clock and survives an early scare, winning 31-27.

Game Notes

Game Ball
Goes to Terrelle Pryor. TP looked good running and throwing the ball, going 14-21 for 174 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT through the air, and rushing it 6 times for 30 yards and another touchdown. His best plays might not look so good in the stat sheet: a 4 yard run, a 6 yard run, a 7 yard pass, and an incomplete pass, but on these four plays he showed excellent elusiveness to escape multiple Midshipmen defenders and avoid the sack. Seven different Buckeyes caught a pass, with the running backs being the favorite targets (4 grabs for 29 yards for Herron and 2 for 21 for Brandon Saine). Duron Carter, true freshman and son of Buckeye great Cris Carter, grabbed 3 balls for 21 yards. He was also open two more times where Pryor missed him. It's great to see him getting a lot of reps early on.

On a Rolle
As I mentioned in my Buckeye Preview, the OSU linebackers were very inexperienced, especially when Tyler Moeller went down for the year. Moeller's injury moved Austin Spitler from middle to strong side, and opened the door for Brian Rolle to start in the middle. After week one that looks like a blessing in disguise. Rolle seemed to be all over the field against Navy, especially in the first half. Then of course he came up with the big play that may have saved the Buckeye season with his interception and return for two points.

The Joe Bauserman Experiment
In a very odd move, Tressel sat an un-injured Pryor for the last drive of the first half in favor of Joe Bauserman. Bauserman is a redshirt sophomore with virtually no experience. The only thing I can come up with is that Tressell wanted to get the young QB some reps just in case (knock on wood) anything should happen to TP. It seemed like a strange time to do it, but Bauserman led a good drive that resulted in three points. He never really looked down field, but did a good job throwing swing passes to his running backs and finished 3/5 for 36 yards.

Offensive Line Struggles
The OL didn't look awful against Navy, but it was certainly the team's weakest link in the game. Dan Herron looked mediocre (17 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD, 4.2 YPC), and I think it was mostly due to the poor play of the o-line. Brandon Saine looked more explosive than Herron, with 9 carries for 53 yards, racking up 5.9 per carry. While these stats look pretty solid, most of their yards came on the option where Navy defenders we're more worried about focusing on Pryor. When OSU tried to slam it up the gut, they were often stuffed. In my opinion this is the biggest concern heading into next week's matchup with SC.

Speaking of the Option...
Ohio St used the option offense quite a few times in this game, and it was effective. Pryor looked as if he might have been a little worried about getting hit and pitching the ball a little too early, but in his defense Navy was focusing almost solely on him so the RB's had some room to work with. I really like this look as Pryor and Saine can both fly and could give defenses fits. Last year this play probably wouldn't have worked against the Trojans, but Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews aren't back there this year. Expect to see a lot of this next week.

Mika Vick
That is what was written on the eye black of Terrelle Pryor. Michael Vick was a favorite of Pryor's growing up, and TP recently openly expressed his happiness for Vick being back in the league at a press conference. That's all well and good, but the eye black? Really? Could you at least write smaller and get his full name on there? I hope these don't stick around all year.

Pre-game Respect
With the controversy surrounding the pre-game ritual of opponents shaking hands, Jim Tressel showed a lot of class last week when not only did the Buckeyes and Midshipmen meet at mid field to shake hands, but for the first time in Horseshoe history both teams ran out of the same tunnel at the same time. Brutus led the way with an OSU flag with a Navy player right by his side with the American flag. A classy move by Tressel and Ohio St.

Next Game: vs. USC, 8:00, ESPN
One of the best games of the year comes in the middle of September this year. Last year in Los Angeles, USC won in a rout; this year the game is in Columbus. True freshman Matt Barkley will lead the Trojans into the Shoe for the first test in his young career. The key to the game will be limiting mistakes. Even though Pryor had a good game against Navy, he made one big mistake that almost cost his team the game. It may only take one against SC. Scorchers will be rocking, as Nick and I will join our fellow blogger Andy in Cleveland for this one as we prepare for the Browns' home opener. I could see the game going either way, and I really hope I'm wrong with this pick.
Prediction: USC 36 Ohio St 31


(AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)


Andy said...

The Bauserman move was announced before the game, so the move and its timing weren't so odd. You correctly guessed the motivation.

I agree that Saine looked a lot quicker than Herron.

A lot of people criticized Tressel for going for it on 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter deep in Navy territory. I say absolutely yes, go for it and put the game away. You simply have to be able to get a yard there.

USC will put up 100 on the Bucks if Russell doesn't stop getting beat deep. That's like the first thing they teach defensive backs in high school. Especially when you're up two touchdowns, come on.

Figgs said...

I didn't hear that about Bauserman. I think it was kinda strange but I guess it sort of makes sense.

I agree, you go for that 4th down. You trust that your offense can get 1 yard and end the game.

I'm not too worried about Russell. I agree that he has to play much better but I think he will. That triple option offense is just tricky to defend, you won't see Russell going 1-on-1 nearly as often this week.