Wednesday, October 24

Guiton leads improbable Buckeye comeback

The worst offensive output of the season, two huge blown calls going against them, and most importantly, team leader and Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller going out with an injury at the end of the third quarter. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton overcame all of this to lead Ohio St past Purdue in overtime, 29-22.

"I'm still trying to figure that bad boy out. We won, right?” was all a stunned coach Urban Meyer could muster afterwards. It certainly didn’t seem like it was going to be a win with 29 seconds left in the third quarter and the Buckeyes trailing 20-14. Braxton took off running and after a pickup of 37 yards was slammed hard to the turf. At first it looked like it could be just another usual Miller injury where he’d come out for a couple of plays (one of which typically being a Carlos Hyde TD) then be right back in the next series, but after staying on the ground for several minutes before being carried off the field it was clear things were much more serious this time. Miller was looked at briefly in the locker room before being taken to an ambulance on a stretcher.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Buckeye offense continued to struggle with Guiton at the helm. A bogus Purdue safety had OSU trailing 22-14 and a Guiton interception gave the ball back to Purdue with under three minutes to play. "(Coach Meyer) told me I was going to be OK," Guiton said. "I told the offense, 'We need to make plays and we're going to get it. So let's go, let's keep our heads up and let's start winning this game.'" Guiton got the ball back with 0:47 on the clock, and did exactly that.

Game Recap
Things could not have started any worse for the Buckeyes, as Boilermaker QB Caleb TerBush hit a wide open Akeem Shavers in the flat on the first offensive play of the game. LB Storm Klein was attempting to cover Shavers but appeared to have slipped a bit, and with no safeties in sight Shavers strolled into the endzone for an 83-yard score. Ohio St grabbed a little momentum right back by blocking the point after.

Freshman Mike Thomas got a rare catch on the ensuing possession and had the Buckeyes in business, but when Miller fumbled a snap from the shotgun Purdue got the first big break of the game. Braxton jumped right on the ball and was clearly laying on the ground with possession, but instead of calling him down the referees inexplicably allowed a Boilermaker defender to take the ball from him and awarded Purdue the ball. To make things worse, they didn’t even review it, even though all turnovers are supposedly looked at. Although the blown call may have taken points off of the board for Ohio St, Purdue couldn’t capitalize with points of their own and was forced to punt.

With neither team gaining a first down over the next five minutes of game play, there were suddenly two scores within twelve seconds. A third down conversion pass to Philly Brown set up a Miller rushing touchdown to give Ohio St their first lead. This was very short-lived, as Akeem Hunt took the kickoff 100 yards to put Purdue back on top. What’s with this team and dudes named Akeem?

The defenses reigned supreme for the remainder of the half, as both teams combined for five punts, two turnovers and a missed field goal. The lone good drive came from Purdue, but after moving the ball 85 yards TerBush was intercepted in the end zone by Christian Bryant on a tipped ball. Miller’s Hail Mary to close the half was picked off by Josh Johnson and the Boilermakers held a 13-7 halftime lead.

Each team began the second half right where they left off, with a punt, but on their second series the Ohio St offense finally showed some life. Carlos Hyde had a long run on 3rd and 3 and WR Chris Fields was dusted off for 35-yard gain. Hyde scored from two yards out and with the Buckeyes back in front I fully expected them to take over the rest of the game.

Of course I was wrong, as TerBush quickly answered with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Gary Bush. Two plays after the TerBush-to-Bush connection regained the lead for Purdue, Miller fumbled for the second time on the afternoon, and this time the Boilers legitimately recovered. A short field set up a Paul Griggs 34-yard field goal attempt, but Ohio St was able to block this one as well when Big Jon Hankins got a piece of it. The very next play was the Miller injury, and the teams headed to the 4th quarter with OSU down by six and an inexperienced Kenny Guiton coming in at quarterback.

On 3rd and 4 from the Purdue 33, Guiton’s first pass fell incomplete and forced Drew Basil to come on and attempt a 50-yarder. His miss off the left upright gave Purdue a field position edge that would soon come in to play a huge factor. One first down allowed Purdue to punt from midfield, and Cody Webster dropped in a beauty that was downed at the one. Hyde ran for five yards on the first play to seemingly give the Bucks some room, but when Guiton dropped back on the next play Andrew Norwell was called for an illegal block in the back in the endzone, resulting in a safety. This was another huge break for the Boilermakers, as replayed showed that Norwell didn’t actually touch the defender - the Boiler simply fell on his own.

Now with the score 22-14, Ohio St was rapidly running out of time. They got the ball back, but with three minutes left in the game Guiton launched one deep and was intercepted by Landon Feichter. Thousands started to file out of The Shoe with Ohio St seemingly on their way to their first defeat of the season. At this point I said that a victory wasn’t impossible, but I’d feel much more comfortable with Miller still in there.

The Buckeye defense did its job and forced a three-and-out, giving Guiton one last chance from their own 39-yard line with 47 seconds left. On the first play he found a wide-open Devin Smith for a pickup of 39 bringing them to the doorstep of the red zone. After such a good defensive performance for 59 minutes, I have no idea how Purdue allowed Ohio St’s biggest playmaker to get so free. An eight-yarder to Evan Spencer followed by a Hyde first down run suddenly had Guiton spiking the ball at the Purdue 11 with 15 seconds remaining.

Guiton’s next two passes were incomplete, but a pass interference call on the second gave it to the Buckeyes 1st and Goal from the two. With only enough time for one or two plays, Guiton rolled to his left and found Chris Fields for the touchdown. The pass was low and close to the ground, but replay confirmed that Fields got his hands underneath and the play stood. Because of the safety earlier in the quarter, Ohio St still needed a two-point conversion to tie it. Everyone left in the stadium had to be thinking what I was thinking: Carlos Hyde has to get the rock here. Instead, Meyer trusted in his backup QB and called for a pass, and Guiton repaid him with a soft toss to freshman tight end Jeff Heuerman to send the game into overtime.

With all the momentum and the superior team, the OT was completely owned by the Buckeyes. Guiton hit Jake Stoneburner for a 17-yard gain and just like that Hyde was into the end zone for the second time as the Bucks struck first. Purdue had nothing left in them, as three of the four TerBush passes in overtime fell to the turf and Ohio St was suddenly celebrating a 29-22 victory.

Game Ball
Kenny G! This game was all but over when Braxton went down, but no one was counting on the late-game heroics of Kenny Guiton. Urban Meyer was ready to throw Guiton off the team in camp because of his lack of effort, but he turned things around and began to show an entirely different work ethic, and thankfully so. I don’t see the Buckeyes winning a ton of games with Guiton going forward and they'll obviously need their star back, but for one glorious afternoon, the game belonged to Guiton.
Game balls to date: Miller (3), Guiton, Meyer, Hankins, Roby, Howard

Big Ten
Brendan Gibbons’ last-second field goal lifted michigan past Michigan St for an ugly 12-10 win. The wolverines successfully followed Ohio St’s blueprint by putting all their focus on stopping Le’Veon Bell, and it was enough, even though the Spartans shut down can’t-tie. Taylor Martinez’s late TD pass gave Nebraska a one-point victory over Northwestern, making this weekend’s matchup between michigan and Nebraska the possible deciding game in the Leaders Division. (Or is it Legends? Why do I still not know this by now?)

Penn St stomped Iowa and will take a five-game winning into their contest with the Buckeyes this week. Wisconsin blew out Minnesota to keep their stranglehold-by-default of the other division, and Navy rallied past Indiana for their first win of the season in a game watched by no one.

Heisman Watch
With more than half of the season in the books and Braxton Miller still thoroughly entrenched in the Hesiman race, I thought I’d take some time each week to touch on his quest for the bronzed stiff-arm. Obviously, things took quite a step back this week, as Miller had subpar stats to begin with (9/20 for 113 yards with an INT and 12 carries for 47 yards and a TD), then left with the injury. However, there is still hope for Brax in the race as well as Ohio St’s chances at an undefeated season. All of Miller’s tests on his head, neck and shoulders came back negative (meaning they're good!), and he was able to practice on Tuesday. He is currently listed as questionable for this weekend’s bout with Penn St, but Meyer expects him to play.

The two candidates that I would have ranked ahead of Miller going into last week squared off against one another, and it was a completely one-sided battle. Collin Klein accounted for seven touchdowns as his Kansas St Wildcats throttled Geno Smith and West Virginia. Smith had an even worse game than Braxton did, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time all year and rushing for negative yardage. Oregon RB Kenjon Barner rushed for three touchdowns in the first half against Arizona St, and LB Manti Te’o continues to lead a devastating Notre Dame defense. My current rankings would be as follows.

1. Collin Klein, QB Kansas St
2. Kenjon Barner, RB Oregon
3. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio St
4. Manti Te’o, LB Notre Dame
5. Geno Smith, QB West Virginia

Up Next: @Penn St (5-2, 3-0), 5:30, ESPN
We all know about the horrible mess that was Penn St’s off-season. Then star running back Silas Redd and several other key players transferred and the Lions started the season with tough losses to Ohio and Virginia. Those memories now seem like an eternity ago as Penn St has looked like one of the sharpest teams in the country over the past five weeks, winning all five of their games by an average 20.2 points.

QB Matt McGloin seems to have done a complete 180 from the inefficient quarterback we’ve seen the last two seasons, and he now has a legitimate receiving threat in Allen Robinson, who has eight touchdowns grabs this year. And as always, PSU’s defense is one of the stiffest in the country.

If Miller plays as expected, I still think that Ohio St is definitely the better team, but the Happy Valley edge really evens things up. If he can’t go, Penn St is the clear favorite. Hyde should be the workhorse of the offense whether Miller’s in or not, and I expect our defense to carry the energy from last week and stifle the Nittany Lion offense. I like the Buckeyes to prevail in a close, low-scoring affair.
Prediction: Ohio St 23 Penn St 19


1 comment:

Andy said...

In the excitement of the win let's not forget an important subplot: the end of the epic Francis-Figgs losing streak! Here's to more W's going forward.