Tuesday, October 11

Braxton leaves with ankle injury as Buckeyes complete epic collapse

Just when you think Ohio St can’t disappoint you any more this season, they go and blow a 21-point second half lead to 14th-ranked Nebraska. Going into this game in Lincoln, I had no expectations - I was perfectly content with a loss. If they would have lost this game 38-10 like I had predicted, I would have been upset, but okay with it. Instead, they get our hopes up by straight dominating the Huskers for two-and-a-half quarters en route to a 27-6 lead. Then Braxton Miller, having an outstanding game, gets injured, Joe Bauserman enters, and everything goes to hell. Riding the legs of Rex Burkhead, Nebraska scored the game’s final 28 points to cap the biggest comeback ever for the historic program. It just seems to be one heartbreak after another for the 2011 version of our Buckeyes.

Game Recap
Ohio St got the ball first, and Braxton led a methodical 13-play drive to set up a Drew Basil FG. Brax had a couple of good runs on the drive, as well as completing a deep pass to Philly Brown, just returned from injury. A good return from Ameer Abdullah followed by a 15-yard face mask penalty set up Nebraska inside the Buckeye 40, but OSU’s defense held and forced the Huskers to a 50-yard field goal attempt. Brett Maher’s kick was true and the game was tied at three.

Miller brought the Bucks right back, hitting TE Jake Stoneburner for a 32-yard touchdown. It was good to see Stoneburner back in the action after struggling the past two games. Not unlike a fellow Big Ten foe we are quite familiar with, NU QB Taylor Martinez is a terrific runner, but isn’t the world’s most accurate passer (although still much better than that other guy), so the Buckeye game plan was simple - do not let Martinez and Burkhead beat us on the ground and force Martinez to put the ball in the air. They executed this very well in the first half. After stuffing Burkhead on 4 and 1, OSU got the ball back and took all of one play for Carlos Hyde to scamper 63 yards to open up a two-touchdown advantage.

Both teams traded punts, with Nebraska (shockingly) gaining the advantage on field position between the two, setting up a second Maher FG to cut the deficit to 17-6. With under a minute to go and the Cornmen having the ball at their own 20, I would have thought they’d consider themselves lucky to go to the half trailing only 11. Instead, Martinez was throwing and was subsequently intercepted by Orhian Johnson, giving the Bucks one last shot from midfield. Braxton broke a terrific 29-yard run, going down in time to call time out and giving Basil a shot at another field goal, which he nailed. The Buckeyes took a 20-6 two-touchdown lead into the locker room to the dismay of the shocked crowd at Memorial Stadium.

The Buckeye defense picked up right where they left off, forcing a three-and-out to start the second half. A short field to work with and another long completion to Brown set up Hyde’s second TD of the game. The whole game I was waiting for the Buckeyes to implode, but at this point, I was thinking we were actually going to win this game. Turns out I just needed to wait a bit longer for that implosion.

All-American linebacker Lavonte David stripped Braxton on the next Buckeye offensive series and Martinez made quick work of the short field, running it in himself from 18 yards out. Then with about 5 minutes to go in the third quarter came the play that changed everything. Miller rolled out, faced a couple Nebraska defenders, reversed his field, was hit and went down, twisting his leg in the process. The official report was an ankle sprain, but at the time it didn’t matter, we all knew it just didn’t look good. Then things looked worse, when we watched Joe Bauserman step onto the field.

Needless to say, Bauserman was completely inaccurate and just downright awful for the duration of this game, but I was thinking if the defense could keep up their great play and the running game could pick up just a few first downs, we should still be alright. Well, when it rains, it pours, as the defense decided this would be a good time to stop tackling people. Martinez threw a perfect pass to Quincy Enunwa for a score to end the third quarter 27-20, then the last fifteen minutes of this contest belonged to Rex Burkhead.

Burkhead caught a screen from Martinez and once he made Christian Bryant miss right at the line of scrimmage, he was off to the races to tie the game. He then ran in the game-winner on the next series from 17 yards out. When Nebraska got the ball back with four minutes to go and a chance to run out the clock, Rex carried it six out of the seven plays to seal the deal. It appeared Ohio St had the Huskers stopped on third down with a few minutes left, but a personal foul penalty moved the chains and basically ended all hope. The Buckeyes find another devastating way to lose, 34-27.

Game Ball
If Braxton Miller plays 60 minutes in this game, Ohio St isn’t winless in the Big Ten. Miller absolutely played well enough to beat a very talented Nebraska team, but the Buckeyes just fell apart when he went out. He wasn’t asked to do much through the air again, especially once they got out to a big lead, but was effective in the limited time he was passing, going 5/8 for 95 yards and a touchdown. Where he was most dangerous, though, was once again on the ground, rushing 10 times for 91 yards. And just as in the Colorado game, his decision-making was every bit as impressive as his athleticism. If Ohio St has any chance to even be halfway decent the rest of this season, they are going to need #5 on the field.
Game balls to date: Miller (2), Roby, Simon

Big Ten
With Wisconsin on a bye week, all eyes in the conference were on this Ohio St/Nebraska game. In other news, Northwestern blew a 24-14 halftime lead to that school up north, where again I didn’t see any of it so don’t have much to rip michigan for in an 18-point victory. can’t-tie actually threw for 337 yards, but also threw three picks. Too bad the Big Ten didn’t decide to stop playing at halftime this week.

Penn St’s defense completely shut down Iowa in a 13-3 win, and is quietly 5-1 (looking at 6-1 facing Purdue next week) despite looking pretty horrendous throughout most of this season. JoePa clearly doesn’t agree with the Coach Reilly philosophy. Illinois stayed among the ranks of the unbeaten with a 41-20 pounding of Indiana, and in a battle of the dregs of the Big Ten, Purdue beat Minnesota.

I’ve expressed my displeasure with how Luke Fickell and the rest of the coaching staff has been running the offense this year, but this game took it to a whole new level. Let me set the scene - there is three minutes left in the third quarter, you are winning by two touchdowns, your running back is having a career game and your defense is playing great, and your star quarterback injures his leg and is done for the game, leaving you with a QB that has shown his incredible inefficiency time and time again. I could give this scenario to any football coach at any level, and 99% of coaches would come up with the same game plan - run, run, and then run some more. I don’t care if the other team is putting nine guys in the box and daring you to throw, you still run. The staff at Ohio St apparently falls in that other 1%, as they called 11 pass plays compared to seven rushing to close out this game. Bauserman wouldn’t have dropped back one time if I was coaching this game - he might not have even entered the game. How soon can we get Urban Meyer down here?

Looking Ahead
The Buckeyes are now midway through the season, and find themselves with a .500 record and winless in the conference. It hasn’t been a very fun first half. Looking at the rest of the schedule, the next two games (@Illinois, Wisconsin) provide two tough opponents, but the last four (Indiana, @Purdue, Penn St, @michigan) present four very winnable games. The key to the rest of this season will just be getting their star players on the field. Presently, I don’t know Braxton’s future status; stay current with FCF’s twitter feed for updates. DE Nathan Williams has been out since the first game of the season, and I haven’t heard any new news on him either. Philly Brown came back against Nebraska, providing the receiving corps with a much needed boost.

Then of course there is the situation with all the suspensions. RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey, LT Mike Adams, and DE Solomon Thomas each missed the first five games, but were reinstated before last week’s contest. Adams and Thomas came back, but Herron and Posey, along with starting RG Marcus Hall, were suspended indefinitely for a separate incident. It came out this week that Posey’s suspension will last five games, but Boom's and Hall’s were only for the Nebraska game, provided they repay whatever they were “allegedly” overpaid. If that holds true (we’ve seen the NCAA un-reinstate OSU players already this season), then the team will get a huge boost this week by having the full offensive line intact for the first time all year. An already impressive run game will also benefit greatly from having 2010's top rusher, Herron, back. It’s really tough to see Posey out for basically the whole year. I was expecting an All-American type season from him. I’m not sure if he can be redshirted or not. I would doubt it because the suspensions would probably just be enforced next season, but it’s something to look into.

Up Next: @Illinois (6-0, 2-0), 3:30, ABC
The Illini come into this battle unbeaten, but relatively untested. They survived an early scare in September when they narrowly beat Arizona St at home, and needed a Dan Persa injury and a 21-point 4th quarter to edge Northwestern two weeks ago. The rest of their opponents have been as good as Sarah Jessica Parker is attractive. That being said, they certainly have some playmakers. QB Nathan Scheelhaase is putting together an All-Conference worthy season and WR A.J. Jenkins’ numbers (46 catches, 815 yards, 7 touchdowns) are unworldly. Scheelhaase, like most of the signal-callers in the Big Ten, does the majority of his damage with his legs. The key to this one will be containing him in the pocket and making him throw downfield, preferably to someone other than Jenkins. I’ll make two predictions for this one, one if Braxton is healthy and one if he’s not, as they will be drastically different. I think the defense makes enough plays and Boom’s return will be enough to help Brax leave Champaign with a W, but not enough to overcome Bauserman’s sucktitude.
Prediction (w/ Miller): Ohio St 25 Illinois 20
(w/ Bauserman): Ohio St 10 Illinois 27


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