Wednesday, October 31

Defense reigns supreme as Buckeyes win Ineligi-Bowl

The Ohio St defense was the source of much criticism for the first seven weeks of the season, and rightfully so. They gave up far too many big plays, missed an exorbitant amount of tackles, and were just straight-up awful at times on their way to a 7-0 start. Then Urban Meyer really took control of the unit and the past two weeks they’ve looked like the Buckeye defense of old.

Although Matt McGloin threw for a career-high 327 yards, most of that came in the 4th quarter on two scoring drives when the game was already out of reach. Penn St was desperately missing former RB Silas Redd (especially in the red zone, where three drives stalled), as the Lion rushing attack was completely non-existent, gaining a mere 32 yards on 28 carries. Yes, that comes out to 1.1 yards per carry.

The PSU defense was just as stout in the first half, as they continued their staggering streak of being the only team in the nation to not allow a first quarter point. But eventually the Bucks wore them out and Braxton Miller got going. He looked slightly tentative to run at times, but other than that showed no signs of the neck injury suffered the previous week against Purdue. Brax threw for 143 yards and rushed for 134 more while accounting for three touchdowns.

Game Recap
The first quarter and a half was chock full of punts and missed opportunities on both sides. Penn St was the first to figuratively and literally drop the ball, when star wideout Allen Robinson beat Travis Howard like he stole something, but the pass was under-thrown by McGloin and Robinson couldn’t hang on. Had the throw hit him in stride, it would have meant an easy six and an early lead for the Nittany Lions. Just sixty seconds later, PSU lost another touchdown when a defender jumped Miller’s screen pass but was caught looking toward the endzone before actually grabbing the ball. Not long after that, it was Ohio St’s turn for a letdown when Philly Brown got wide open near the goal line but Miller’s throw wasn’t even close.

After each team punted on its first five possessions, Penn St actually did something different on their sixth - a turnover on downs. Facing a 4th and 12 from the OSU 25, Coach Bill O’Brien elected to go for it, having no faith in his kicker. McGloin completed the pass but short of the first down, and Ohio St took over. Of course they went three-and-out, and with Ben Buchanan punting deep in his own territory, Penn St finally came up with the game’s first big play of the positive variety. Mike Hull, who had a monster game, blocked The Cannon’s punt and PSU recovered in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

The Buckeyes responded with their first good drive of the game, going 75 yards on 12 plays in the final five and a half minutes of the half. Penn St and the referees both helped OSU achieve this, as they were punting yet again on this drive but a not-so-obvious holding penalty on the Lions at the line of scrimmage gave the Bucks a first down. Then Braxton’s 33-yard run set up the Carlos Hyde short TD. The teams headed to the locker rooms with the defenses dominating a 7-7 game.

The second half saw quite a bit more offense, but again it was the defense that made the first big play. Penn St received the ball and McGloin was quickly intercepted by Ryan Shazier who went untouched to the house to put the Buckeyes on top. If you weren’t paying close attention you may have been confused by the guy wearing #48 that looked an awful lot like Shazier. Ryan was donning that number instead of his usual #10 in honor of a close friend from high school that recently passed away.

McGloin had two big pass plays to bring the Lions to a 1st and Goal, but a holding penalty halted the drive and this time O’Brien sent out his much-maligned kicker, Sam Ficken, who converted the 27-yarder to cut into the Buckeye lead. Miller tried to answer by launching a pass deep downfield but his ill-advised throw into double coverage was intercepted by Adrian Amos. This was one of those times I was talking about where he seemed to be a bit hesitant to run the ball. It was a third-and-five and it looked like he had plenty of room to run for the first down after avoiding a sack but he declined and made a lousy throw instead.

Luckily the defense continued their stellar play by forcing a three-and-out and quickly gave Braxton a chance to redeem himself. He responded beautifully by taking his team right down the field, then scoring himself on a one-yard run. Although the play only covered a single yard, it will go straight to the top of the Braxton Miller highlight reel. The play was a zone read that originally looked to be going to Carlos Hyde, but as Penn St’s Sean Stanley was closing in Miller pulled it back at the last second, stutter-stepped, jumped back, then dove across the goal line. When asked about the play afterwards, Meyer had to hold back a laugh and smirked, "We work on that. We have a drill. Make seven people miss and dive across. All I heard in my headset was 'Oh my God!'"

After forcing another quick punt, Ohio St went right back to work to add to their 21-10 lead. Rod Smith had a big 28-yard run and another costly Penn St penalty had the Buckeyes knocking at the door. Braxton’s second consecutive 1-yard score involved a lot less theatrics, but basically put the game away. OSU’s 21-3 advantage in the third quarter gave them a 28-10 lead heading to the final frame.

Penn St tried to stay in it, mounting an excellent 80-yard touchdown drive, but the 18 plays took a valuable six minutes off the clock and the missed two-point conversion kept the lead at twelve. The Lions had one last chance when they had the Bucks facing a 3rd and 4 from their own 28, needing to get them off the field. Braxton wasn’t having any of that, as he found Jake Stoneburner behind the defense and ’Burner left them all in the dust on his 72-yard TD. McGloin racked up a boatload of yards on another meaningless touchdown drive in the closing minutes, leaving the final score at 35-23.

Game Ball
This game was all about the defense, and three guys in particular stood out to me. This may be unfair, but the level that LB Ryan Shazier and CB Bradley Roby played at in this game has come to be expected of them. LB Zach Boren has been doing this for a much shorter period of time than those guys, and therefore gets the nod for GB. His development in the three short weeks since switching positions from fullback has been astronomical, and never more evident than in this victory over Penn St. Hopefully the defense can keep this momentum going over the final few weeks of the season.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Boren, Guiton, Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
The six top-tier teams in the conference all went head-to-head last Saturday, making for a big weekend. Nebraska knocked can’t-tie out of the game early in the second half, and michigan could never recover (even though his stats were very weak for the second straight game even when his was in). Each placekicker knocked in three field goals, but the bookend touchdowns from Nebraska were the deciding factor in a 23-9 Cornhusker victory. This gives Nebraska essentially a two-game lead over the wolverines and a big advantage in the Legends Division, but with a tough schedule ahead they certainly don’t have their ticket to Indy punched yet. Michigan St rallied to beat Wisconsin in overtime, but the Badgers will still easily take the Leaders side with both Ohio St and Penn St ineligible.

The bottom half of the conference also played, and some points were scored and some teams won and some teams lost.

Heisman Watch
Braxton rushed for over 130 yards for the sixth time this season and continues to produce touchdowns like an 80’s rock band giving off STDs, but it wasn’t enough as Collin Klein put himself on a whole other level above the rest of the field with his four-touchdown performance over then 14th ranked Texas Tech. Klein now has ridiculous 18 TDs over the past four games.

Manti Te’o had 11 tackles and a sack to go along with his game-sealing INT to keep the Irish perfect by beating Oklahoma and moving himself into the best position to dethrone Klein. Kenjon Barner was over 100 yards again while scoring two more touchdowns and Alabama QB A.J. McCarron had a solid game in leading the Tide to victory over previously unbeaten Mississippi St and jumps into the ranks with Geno Smith on a bye week.

My Rankings
1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas St
2. Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame
3. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon
4. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio St
5. A.J. McCarron, QB Alabama

Up Next: vs. Illinois (2-6, 0-4), 3:30, ESPN
The last time Ohio St was 9-0, it was 2007 and they were ranked #1 when they welcomed Illinois into The Shoe. Juice Williams threw for four touchdowns that day, and the Illini shocked the world with a 28-21 win. Don’t expect history to repeat itself.

While Illinois went the Rose Bowl in '07, this team is absolute feces. They remain winless in the conference this year after being smoked by Big Ten doormat Indiana last week. If Miller has any chance to catch Klein in the Heisman race, he’ll have to do it this week with the opportunity for huge numbers. The defense should also be able to keep it rolling against an Illini offense ranked 111th in the nation and giving up over five sacks a game. I will be in Ohio Stadium for this one, and fully expect to improve upon my 8-1 record.
Prediction: Ohio St 43 Illinois 10


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