Wednesday, September 28

Buckeyes Regroup, Rout Colorado

Last Saturday, things looked to be back to normal in Columbus, for one week at least, as the Buckeyes easily disposed of an inferior Colorado team, 37-17. Luke Fickell must be an avid FCF reader, because he took my advice and played Braxton Miller at QB for essentially the game’s entirety. Braxton’s passing stat line of 5/13 for 83 yards certainly will not wow anyone, but I liked what I saw overall from the true freshman, in particular his decision making. His 2 TDs to 0 INTs reflects this to some degree, but to be impressed you had to watch him play. He stayed in the pocket when he needed to, threw the ball away when nothing was there, and showed his ability to tuck the ball and run whenever he got the chance, rushing 17 times for 83 yards. After one of the worst performances in recent memory down in Miami, it was good to see Ohio St back to its winning ways.

Game Recap
Jordan Hall returned the opening kickoff 45 yards to get near midfield, giving the Buckeyes an instant field position advantage. Each team started with a three-and-out, but thanks to the initial Hall return the Buckeyes began their second drive in Buffalo territory. Hall and Miller took turns rushing the ball effectively and eventually it was Hall who broke the plane to put the Bucks up 7-0. DT Adam Bellamy forced and recovered a Colorado fumble on the next possession, setting up a Drew Basil field goal and quickly putting Ohio St on top by ten.

The Buffs just couldn’t move the ball a lick as they were forced into two more three-and-outs, again setting up the Buckeyes across the 50. On a third and long from the Colorado 32-yard line, Brax looked downfield for the first time all game and found Devin Smith, who had about three steps on his defender, for a score. Colorado QB Tyler Hansen completed seven passes on the ensuing drive, including a TD pass on 4th and 1 to put the Buffs back in it at 17-7. We appeared to be headed into the half at that score until Ben Buchanan punted from midfield with under a minute to go. CU returner Rodney Stewart was bumped into by his own man and muffed the kick, giving it back to OSU at the 11 with time for one shot at the end zone and a FG attempt. With no one open, Braxton took off looking for pay dirt, but was tackled at the one. Basil tacked on another three and the Buckeyes went to the break up 20-7.

A penalty on the second half kickoff pinned the Buffaloes deep in their own territory, and yet another three-and-out gave Ohio St great starting field position again. Miller made quick work of it, connecting with Smith for another score, basically putting the game out of reach at 27-7. WR Verlon Reed was nowhere to be found for the second straight game after a hot start, and if this game was any indication it looks like Smith, also a true freshman, is Braxton’s go-to guy. After a Colorado field goal, Jordan Hall had another fantastic return and was brought down from behind at the five. Carlos Hyde took a sweep on the next play into the end zone and the rout was on. OSU just grinded the rest of this one out on the ground, with Basil hitting a third FG and Colorado scoring a late, insignificant TD to close the contest at 37-17.

Game Ball
Welcome to Columbus, OH, Mr. Braxton Miller. As I stated at the opening of this piece, he didn’t have the greatest stats, but the 18-year old looked like a seasoned vet out there. He showed poise and confidence, and his team looked to him as their leader. I don’t want to make the same mistake I did with Joe Bauserman after the Akron game, because Colorado is far from a good football team, but I was pleased with what I saw from Braxton last week. He’ll be facing a much tougher Michigan St defense next week, let’s hope he can keep the momentum going.
Game balls to date: Miller, Simon

Big Ten
It was my town’s Wine Festival this past weekend (for those not from North East, PA, trust me - it’s a huge deal) so other than going to a bar for the OSU game, I didn’t catch much college football. Every Big Ten team played weak opponents, and most won in convincing fashion. The exceptions were Illinois, who narrowly escaped Western Michigan, and Indiana and Minnesota, who were beat by North Texas and North Dakota St, respectively. Wow, there are some bad teams in this conference.

I didn’t even see a single "highlight" of michigan’s 28-7 win over San Diego St, but I did check out cant-tie's stat line - 8/17, 93 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs. On the other hand, he ran for 200 yards and 3 scores. I’m certainly not denying his tremendous running ability, but doesn’t anyone else see how bad of a passer he is? It’s like if the Titans just put Chris Johnson in the wildcat every single play. Yeah, he’ll break some big runs, but the team is not going to be successful. I feel like their best option is to use him permanently at tailback and find anyone else who can sort of maybe throw the ball a little. Fortunately, everyone at michigan is stupid.

Ground Attack
As much praise as I’m giving Braxton for this W, the hogmollies up front deserve just as much. Mike Brewster and his fellow O-linemen, as well as FB Zach Boren, opened up holes for the Buckeye running game all day long. In addition to his two stellar kick returns, Jordan Hall led the way with 18 carries for 84 yards and a score. Three others (Miller, Hyde, and Rod Smith) all averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry as well, with Hyde’s 6.7 tops among the group. Jaamal Berry was scarcely seen again, and before this turns into a Brandon Saine issue where I complain all year long, I’ll just let go of it here. For some reason or another (possibly an undisclosed injury or off-field problem?), the Ohio St coaching staff does not want him on the field, and I guess I’ll just trust their judgment and move on (although the man did average over eight yards a carry last season!).

Kicking It Up a Notch
Ohio St’s kicking game against Colorado was…dare I say, flawless? I am officially onboard the Ben Buchanan bandwagon. He has been great all year, continuing in this game by landing three of his four punts inside the 20, including one at the 5. Drew Basil has not been great all year. In this game, however, he was a perfect 4/4 on PATs and 3/3 on FGs, including a 47-yard bomb. This game was a very good sign - let’s see if these guys can keep it up when we need them in close games.

Up Next: vs Michigan St (3-1), 3:30, ABC
Ohio St will open conference play this weekend as the Spartans travel to Columbus. They won’t be the only ones, as I will be in The Shoe as well. Michigan St looks like the Buckeyes’ toughest opponent in their 2011 campaign thus far, on paper. Kirk Cousins may be the best QB in the conference, RBs Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker are one of the best duos in the country, and WR B.J. Cunningham is All-Big Ten caliber. However, MSU has only played one halfway-decent team this year, when they got smoked by Notre Dame. Braxton Miller will have to be on his game again, and the defense will have to step up against this high-powered offense. I could see this game going either way, and feel that my presence will push the Bucks over the edge.
Prediction: Ohio St 33 Michigan St 27


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