Thursday, January 7

Buckeyes Feeling Rosey

Terrelle Pryor finally had his breakout game on a big stage, as Ohio St and the Big Ten in general finally got the proverbial monkey off their back as they won their first BCS bowl game in four tries since 2005. Pryor had career highs in attempts, completions, and yards en route to leading the Buckeyes past Oregon in the Rose Bowl, 26-17.

Before this game, I agreed with most commentators that yes, Ohio St hasn't seen an offense quite like Oregon's, but what people failed to see is that Oregon hasn't seen a defense even close to as good as this Buckeye unit. The OSU defense did a phenomenal job, and Pryor and the offense executed the game plan to perfection, completely controlling the ball. Ohio St had a Rose Bowl record 41:47 time of possession. I'll save you that mental math, that's compared to only 18:23 by the Ducks. Let's talk more about how great this game was.

Game Recap

Ohio St got the ball first and surprised everyone by coming out throwing, and throwing effectively. In the 10-play, 74-yard drive, coach Jim Tressel called 9 pass plays, one of which Pryor took off running. The drive ended when TP connected with Brandon Saine for 13 yards and the score, putting the Buckeyes up early. I didn't want to get too excited, because as we all know Ohio St has been known to score quick in big games, then just fall apart after that. However, that was not the case in this one.

The Buckeyes got the explosive Oregon offense off of the field quickly, but had to punt themselves after moving the ball pretty well. A holding penalty on the return pinned the Ducks inside their own 10, and after a three-and-out the Bucks got the ball back with great field position near midfield. On the first play of the drive, Pryor hit Saine again, this time for 46 yards down inside the 5. The drive stalled after Pryor fumbled but recovered himself and got stuffed twice, and OSU had to settle for a Devin Barclay field goal, putting them up 10-0.

Oregon moved the ball to begin the second quarter, but likewise was held to three, cutting Ohio St's lead to seven. After an OSU three-and-out, Jeremiah Masoli took the Ducks right down the field to set up a LeGarrette Blount short TD run to tie the game at 10. No punches were thrown in the celebration.

On their next possession, the Buckeyes continued to put the ball in the air, but they were short, safe passes, as they took 8 minutes off of the clock. Unfortunately, they were unable to put it in the end zone, and again were forced to attempt a field goal. Barclay was good from 30 yards out and the Buckeyes were back on top. Ross Homan picked off Masoli with 25 seconds left in the half, and Pryor hit Dane Sanzenbacher to set up a long field attempt as time expired. Back from a leg injury that sidelined him the second half of the season, big-legged kicker Aaron Pettrey came on and nailed the 45-yarder to end the half with Ohio St on top, 16-10.

We saw vintage "zone read" offense by Oregon on the first drive of the half, and they marched right down the field, taking their first lead of the game when Masoli ran it in himself. Ohio St got the lead right back when a DeVier Posey 38 yard catch set up another field goal. This time OSU went back to Barclay, and he was true from 38 yards. Minutes later, Oregon appeared to be lined up to get back on top, but Blount fumbled at the goal line and Ohio St recovered for a touchback. Both defenses tightened up, and we headed to the 4th quarter with Ohio St leading, 19-17.

The Buckeyes got the ball with 13 minutes to go in the game, and we all may have witnessed Terrelle Pryor mature in front of our eyes. Pryor led the Fighting Brutus' on a 13 play, 81 yard drive, eating up over six minutes of the clock. The key play of the drive, and in my opinion the play of the game, saw TE Jake Ballard made an incredible catch for 24 yards on a 3rd and 13 to keep the drive going. Posey capped it off by making a very difficult catch himself in the corner of the end zone, and Ohio St had a nine-point lead with under seven minutes to go. Things were looking good, but with Oregon's quick-strike offense, this game wasn't over yet.

A big return for the Ducks gave them the ball on the OSU 35, but they were unable to move the ball from there, and attempted a 45 yard field goal to bring the game within one possession. Morgan Flint missed the kick, and the Bucks got the ball back with 5 minutes left to play and a chance to run out the clock. That is precisely what Pryor and Ohio St did, picking up four first downs and never giving Oregon a chance to get the ball back. Final score, 26-17. The Buckeyes are Rose Bowl champs for the first time since 1997!

Game Notes

Game Ball
Terrelle Pryor was the Rose Bowl MVP, but more importantly, recipient of his season-leading third irrelevant Jason Figurski game ball. As I mentioned before, Pryor's 37 attempts, 23 completions, and 266 yards were all career highs. He also was the team's leading rusher with 20 carries 72 yards. Sanzenbacher was his main target, grabbing 9 balls for 64 yards, but the two often appeared to be out of sync. Posey was the big playmaker in this one, catching 8 passes for 101 yards and a score. Let's hope he can carry this momentum into next season.
Game Balls to date: Pryor (3), Defense (2), Saine, Coleman, Posey, Heyward, O-Line, Tressel

Dominating Defense
As great as Pryor was, Ohio St's defense carried this team yet again. All you heard about going into this game was how great Masoli, LaMichael James, Blount, and this Duck offense was. Let's just say that the defenses in the Pac 10 aren't quite up to par with this Buckeye unit. Let's take a look at Oregon's regular season averages compared to their Rose Bowl stats (regular season listed first).

PPG - 37.7 (17); YPG - 424.7 (260); T.O.P. - 28:12 (18:23)

What's this again about Big Ten defenses not being able to hang with Pac 10 and SEC offenses?

Go Big Ten!
With michigan being one of the four Big Ten teams that didn't make a bowl (hahahaha) I was free to root all out for the conference (although I still had a hard time even mouthing the words "Go Wisconsin/Iowa"). The Big Ten finished with a good but not spectacular 4-3 record, but if you look deeper into these games, you have to be impressed. The only disappointment was Minnesota losing to Iowa St, as they were the conference's only favorite. The other six teams were all underdogs, and many people were expecting several double-digit losses and another embarrassing post season. The Big Ten had other ideas.

The conference's four best teams all faced very tough opponents, but all came out on top. I was very happy to see Penn St beat LSU, because I hate how everyone is always on their knees for the SEC. Wisconsin dicked all over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl, Iowa surprised me controlling the entire game and beating Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, and of course Ohio St's Rose Bowl victory. The other two teams, Michigan St and Northwestern, were not given a chance to win, but Texas Tech needed a late rally to beat MSU and it took overtime for Auburn to get past Northwestern in one of the most exciting Bowl games of the season. Hopefully this will shut up some Big Ten haters, at least for the time being.

Senior Class
At the end of each season, I like to give a shout out to all the seniors that will be moving on who played a significant role for the Buckeyes. Fortunately, there are not many this year. The biggest loss will certainly be captain and team MVP Kurt Coleman. He has been a force the past three seasons, and will surely be missed. Departing along with him will be seven other starters, but LB Austin Spitler and DT Doug Worthington are the only ones who had a big impact on this team. The others are SS Anderson Russell, RT Jim Cordle, TE Jake Ballard, K Aaron Pettrey, and P Jon Thoma. Russell made some big plays at times, but was benched on more than one occasion this season for his inconsistency. Cordle and Pettrey were pretty good, but were injured much of this season and we didn't seem to miss them all that much. Ballard was solid but certainly replaceable, and Thoma was fucking terrible.

Other than Coleman, the biggest loss for the team will be DE Thaddeus Gibson, who announced he will be turning pro. I don't know where he's projected to go, but it would have been nice to see him come back. On a good note, fellow defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said he was coming back. Either way, congrats to these guys on very successful careers, and hopefully we'll see a few of them playing on Sundays.

2010 Outlook
I assume Ohio St will end up in the top 5 along with Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Boise St when the final polls come out. Put that top 5 finish along with 9 returning starters on offense (including all skill position players), 7 on defense, a great coaching staff, and the expectations of a seemingly maturing Terrelle Pryor, and you have to expect Ohio St to be one of the favorites for the National Title yet again. Thankfully, USC is off the schedule, but replaced with another tough challenge in Heisman candidate Jacory Harris and Miami. But that game will be in Columbus, the other non-conference games are gimmies, and both Penn St and michigan come to The Shoe, so the schedule certainly sets up for a title run. The key, just as it was the past two seasons, will be the development of Terrelle Pryor.


1 comment:

Nick said...

I told you I was super confident in the Bucks. I hope this quiets idiot fans who bang on Tressel. I love OSU fans, but some have gotten awfully spoiled this decade. Maybe this group of fans doesn't pull for the Browns on Sundays?