Thursday, October 24

Buckeyes overcome sluggish first half to stay unbeaten

Last Saturday's 34-24 win over Iowa was entirely a tale of two halves. Nothing looked good from the Ohio St perspective in the first 30 minutes, as the Buckeyes trailed 17-10 after two quarters of play. The defense was abysmal, Carlos Hyde was bottled up, and the struggling D took a significant hit when Bradley Roby was ejected in the 1st quarter for targeting on a bullshit call. The problem with the defense came down to not being able to get off the ball. The Hawkeyes completely dominated the line of scrimmage, and stretched 90% of their plays to the hash marks to stay away from Ryan Shazier. There was a point in the second quarter where every series of downs went the exact same way for two straight drives – Iowa would run up the middle on first down and easily get past the OSU defensive line to gain three or four yards before Shazier would make the tackle. On second down they would do a stretch run or throw a swing pass or short button hook to the outside, which would net 6-8 yards. Rinse and repeat. It was painful to watch.

I remarked to the older gentleman sitting next to me at The Shoe that their gameplan was clearly to just get as far away from Shazier as possible, and that Meyer would have to make some sort of adjustment, or they would do this all afternoon. Well, Meyer made that adjustment at halftime, and save for one long pass play, the Buckeye D dominated Iowa for the final two quarters. The offense also came to life, particularly Hyde, who ran for 106 of his 149 yards and both of his touchdowns in the second half. The final second-half tally showed a 306-153 yardage advantage and a 23:05–6:55 time of possession tilt in favor of the Buckeyes.

The 10-point victory extended two very impressive streaks. It was Ohio St’s FBS-leading 19th straight win (undefeated in the Urbs era), and also marked my 9th consecutive victory in attendance at Ohio Stadium.

Game Recap
Iowa had to convert two third-and-ones on their opening drive, but basically made the 7-0 lead look easy. Jake Rudock hit C.J. Fiedorowicz for the short score and early Hawkeye advantage. Ohio St responded with multiple short chunks of yardage (the longest play coming on a 16-yard Braxton Miller scramble), and ultimately cut the margin to 7-3 on Drew Basil’s 27-yard chip shot. Iowa came right back to match the three-pointer and the first quarter closed with Kirk Ferentz’s bunch up 10-3.

Brax quickly tied up the score at 10-10 when he found a WIDE open streaking Philly Brown for a 58-yard touchdown. Iowa’s ensuing drive consisted of the four-yard up the middle, six-yard to the sideline back-and-forth I discussed earlier, and was handsomely rewarded with Rudock’s second TD toss of the day, making it 17-10 Hawkeyes. The Buckeyes drove down the field again in small doses, but this time instead of giving Basil another attempt, Meyer elected to go for a 4th-and-10 from the Iowa 29. I disagreed with this call vehemently at the time, calling the move “desperate.” Miller threw an incompletion, and the Hawkeyes took over. Ohio St forced the first punt of the game, and went into the half trailing after only possessing the pigskin three times.

The Bucks received the second half kickoff and continued their drive theme of lots of little plays. Hyde ran for 12, Devin Smith caught one for 13, Dontre Wilson caught one for 9, Brax ran for 6, etc. This time, however, they were able to put the ball in the end zone to tie the game once again. Hyde barely got the nose of the ball across the goal line on his one-yard score, making him the first person to score a rushing touchdown on Iowa all season.

After an Iowa punt, Brax was right back at it, dinking and dunking his way down the field. Devin Smith’s athletic run after the catch got him to paydirt and put the Bucks on top for the first time all afternoon. The Hawkeyes answered on really their only successful offensive play of the second half when Armani Reeves got beat deep by Jake Duzey for an 85-yard passing score. I said I could live with this play, seeing as how the adjustments the Buckeyes made put more focus on the run game, and our freshman simply just got beat on an island. If only we had an All-American corner that could run one-on-one with anyone in the nation…oh, wait.

With the score tied again, Miller hit Smith for 15 yards on the final play of the third to get the Buckeyes moving. Two and a half minutes into the final frame saw the game’s most exciting play. On 1st-and-10 from the Iowa 19, Carlos Hyde ran to the outside and was hit hard by Iowa safety Tanner Miller. Hyde was knocked off balance and stumbled towards the sideline, but corrected himself right before stepping out of bounds. Without a Hawkeye defender in sight to clean up the play, Hyde righted himself and made a Matta toward the endzone. (If you didn’t catch what I did there, I replaced the stupid word ‘beeline’ with the much cooler sounding ‘Matta’) With one defender closing in, Hyde leaped to the pylon and just made it regain the lead for OSU.

Iowa’s assholes were tight at this point, and the Buckeye defense stiffened even more, forcing a quick punt. Hyde and Miller were able to milk 5:20 off the clock and add to the lead with another Basil FG. Freshman Tyvis Powell sealed the Hawkeyes’ fate with his interception of Rudock’s desperation pass. Ohio St ran out the final 4+ minutes to stay perfect in Meyer’s tenure.

Game Ball
This game was all about the second half for the Buckeyes, and the second half was all about Carlos Hyde. The Buckeyes' top back finished the day with 24 carries for 149 yards and two scores. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry, and didn’t have any huge runs that inflated that stat – he was pretty much just getting six yards every time he got the rock. His go-ahead TD run was probably the team’s highlight of the year so far. I also want to give kudos here to Ryan Shazier, who made a team run an entirely different game plan to avoid him, and Braxton Miller, who didn’t really do anything flashy and hasn’t gotten much attention because of it, but actually had an outrageously efficient game. He earned an 83.9 passer rating by going 22/27 for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns with no picks. He added 102 yards on the ground.
Game balls to date: Guiton (3), Hyde (2), Miller

Big Ten
Outside of this game, it was a pretty boring week in the conference. Northwestern made us look bad when they dropped a home contest to Minnesota, Michigan St continued to win without any resemblance of an offense in a shut ut of Purdue, Wisconsin steam rolled Illinois, and devin gardner and jeremy gallon rewrote the scum record books in michigan’s 63-47 victory over Indiana. Two things to point out in that game – michigan gave up 47 points to Indiana, and 100% of quarterbacks who have ever worn the number 98 couldn’t read.

Live from The Horseshoe
As I mentioned, I was one of the 105,000 plus in attendance for this W. Apparently so was Andy’s brother-in-law, who in some outrageous coincidence sat a few seats down in the same row as me. Crazy. Too bad I wasn’t exactly in the right state of mind to remember who he was. But I do remember Gary, the kick-ass old dude I sat next to. I’ve been very lucky in the fact that every time I don’t sit next to the people I came to the game with, I’ve been fortunate enough to still be in good company. I guess that just proves that all Buckeye fans rule. Gary graduated from OSU in 1968, when Ohio St won a National Championship. He had some really cool stories.

My record now stands at 10-1 in Ohio Stadium (with another four wins against that school up north where I was on campus but not in The Shoe). Iowa is the eighth different B1G school I’ve seen, with only Minnesota, Nebraska, and michigan left on the agenda. Stupid Rutgers and Maryland are going to delay my plans further of seeing michigan last.

Up Next: vs. Penn St (4-2, 1-1), 8:00, AB
The Lions visit The Shoe this weekend in another primetime game. Penn St is coming off a bye following a thrilling 4OT win over bitchigan. They will come into Columbus fired up, where they have beaten us the last two times. Ohio St has yet to have a quick start in conference play, and will aiming to do just that on Saturday. I’m betting that they will, followed by a slower-paced, back-and-forth game.
Prediction: Ohio St 29 Penn St 17


Friday, October 4

Buckeyes ride strong first half past Wisconsin

Ohio St finally faced a worthy adversary last Saturday in The Horseshoe, and despite a poor fourth quarter, proved that they are still the class of the Big Ten with a 31-24 win over Wisconsin. Braxton Miller was back and looking as good as ever, throwing for a career-tying four touchdown passes while showing no rust from the leg injury, rushing 22 times for 83 yards. The rush defense did a terrific job containing Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon, holding him under 100 yards for the first time all season. Letting a large lead slip away in the second half is a bit concerning, but against a team like Wisconsin you take the wins when you can get them.

Game Recap
Wisconsin accomplished nothing other than shanking a punt after receiving the opening kickoff, and Brax took back the reins of the offense with good starting field position. He made quick work of it, needing just over a minute a throw a dart to Evan Spencer for a 25-yard score and early Buckeye lead. Both teams squandered decent field position on their next drives, then Badger QB Joel Stave took UW 90 yards down field to tie the game. The scoring toss went to go-to wideout Jared Abbrederis, the first of many times he would victimize All-American Bradley Roby on the evening.

With the score tied at seven and the first quarter winding down, Miller completed passes on four consecutive plays, the final being a 26-yard score to Devin Smith. The last play of the quarter was a 64-yard pass from Stave to Abbrederis. Abbrederis would finish the night with a career-high 207 yards. Roby did get a shot in at the end of the drive, when he broke up a pass attended for Abbrederis near the goal line on third down. The play become even bigger when Badger kicker Kyle French missed the 32-yard FG attempt. A few minutes later, Drew Basil put the Bucks up 17-7 when he connected on his 45-yarder. It’s always nice to have the advantage on special teams, and it’s a very rare occasion when Ohio St does not.

Stave, who had a solid game and showed me I may have underrated him a bit, responded with a good drive and his 2nd TD pass of the game, this one to Sam Arneson. Only trailing 17-14, the problem for Wisconsin was that they left 1:30 on the clock, which was evidentially just enough time for Brax. After scrambling for a first on third down near midfield, Miller’s pass to Smith was broken up with about 10 ticks remaining. Knowing this would probably be their last shot to add points before the half, Braxton launched a 40-bomb that hit Corey Brown, who somehow got behind the Badger defense, right in stride in the endzone with two seconds remaining. The sensational play gave the Buckeyes a 24-14 halftime lead.

Ohio St gained some first downs on their opening possession on the second half, but when they stalled at the Wisconsin 38, I was disappointed to see Meyer elect to punt instead of giving Basil a shot at the 55-yarder. I guess Urbs knows his players better than I do, and this must have just been out of Drew’s range. Of course it ended up working out, as OSU downed the punt at the five and Wisconsin went three-and-out. Getting the ball right back in UW territory, three straight three-yard runs set up a 4th and 1 back at the 38. This time Meyer elected to go for it, but Carlos Hyde was stood up at the line and Wisconsin took over.

The biggest play of the game possibly occurred on this series, when Roby picked off Stave deep in Badger territory. While Roby did a fine job to catch the ball, this INT belonged to Adolphus Washington, who just flattened Stave as he was releasing the ball. The result was the ball falling far short of its intended target, and into Bradley’s lap. The interception led to Braxton’s fourth touchdown of the game, and Philly’s second scoring grab gave the Buckeyes what seemed a near insurmountable 31-14 lead.

But Wisconsin had other ideas, as they shut the OSU offense down in the 4th quarter and Joel Stave went to work. The Buckeye D stifled this blazing Badger rushing attack for the majority of the game, but early in the final frame James White finally broke one and took it 17 yards to the house to cut into the advantage. With the clock running down, Abbrederis got the best of Roby a couple more times and helped set up a 42-yard field goal that French connected on to make it a one possession ball game.

Three unsuccessful runs and three UW timeouts later, Abbrederis was back to receive a punt with 1:29 on the clock. Freshman punter Cameron Johnston got a hold of a boomer and the Buckeye coverage was all over the star receiver, pinning Wisconsin back at their own 10 and forcing them to go 90 yards in less than 90 seconds to tie the game. The ending was kind of anticlimactic, as they made it only six of those yards. Doran Grant broke up the fourth down pass and Ohio St extended its win streak to 17.

Game Ball
Guess who’s back. Back again. Brax is back. Another win. No one supported Kenny G more than I did, but Braxton Miller was brought to Columbus to win a National Championship, and we cannot do it without him. He looked 100% last Saturday, not being the least bit tentative to run the ball. He wasn’t quite as effective as we’ve come accustomed to (3.8 ypc), but I can live with that far more than him only rushing two or three times for bigger yardage. This showed me that he’s still comfortable back there and will continue being Braxton Miller. Plus, you gotta love the 4/0 TD/INT ratio.
Game balls to date: Guiton (3), Miller

Big Ten
Most of the conference was off last week, as Iowa’s pounding of Minnesota was the only other intra-conference game. Illinois put up a Grant in a victory over Miami (OH), and Purdue was embarrassed at home by Northern Illinois. (Yes, I had to look up who was on the $50 bill. Does anyone actually use those? GO UNION!)

Unfamiliar territory
It’s time to be concerned about Bradley Roby. Jared Abbrederis is an All-Conference performer, so I can understand him beating Roby a few times. But 207 yards?! That is not the Bradley Roby we’ve seen the two years. Fix yourself, Bradley.

One-man show
I didn’t talk much about the OSU running backs in this piece, because frankly there wasn’t much to talk about. Hyde got nearly all of the work, rushing 17 of the 20 RB carries. He was fine but didn’t do anything spectacular, gaining 85 yards (5.0 ypc). The obvious question here - where was Jordan Hall? Hall got one touch all game long, rushing for five yards. Where was the one-two punch we’ve been hearing about? In Monday’s press conference, Meyer vowed to get his playmaker more involved this weekend. Dontre Wilson also saw a reduction in playing time, receiving two carries and catching one pass. With Braxton doing so much work on his own, there are only so many balls to go around and unfortunately Tre and explosiveness may have to wait his turn until the future.

Bryant out for season
The Buckeyes were dealt a big blow in their victory over Wisconsin, as starting strong safety Christian Bryant suffered an injury that could cost him the rest of his senior season. Bryant is a three-year starter and leader of the defense, and his presence will be greatly missed. The other Corey Brown (I refuse to call him “pitt” or “pittsburgh.” Eff that.) will most likely start in his place this weekend, but expect freshmen Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell to eventually outplay him and take over.

Up Next: @Northwestern (4-0), 8:00, ABC
After finally being challenged with a formidable opponent, the Buckeyes will come right back to see another. Northwestern has been one of the surprises in the NCAA this season, winning its first four games and jumping to a #16 ranking. They didn’t have a much tougher non-conference slate than OSU did, but they are putting up points at an alarming 41 points a game. That already high-powered offense will get a boost this week, as last season’s leading rusher and All-Big Ten performer Venric Mark returns from an injury that cost him the last three weeks. The Cats will use a two quarterback system, with dual-threat starter Kain Colter often being relieved for pocket-passer Trevor Siemian.

Especially with Bryant out, the Buckeye D may have a hard time slowing this offense down, but Brax and company shouldn’t have any trouble putting up points of their own. N’western’s pass defense ranks 117th in the nation, so expect the ball to be in the air early and often. These teams haven’t met since 2008, but Ohio St has taken 28 of the past 29 meetings overall, and have outscored the Wildcats to a staggering tune of 157-27 in the three games in the tenure of current coach Pat Fitzgerald.

The scoreboard should be lighting up in Evanston tomorrow night, but I expect most of it to be coming from the away side.
Prediction: Ohio St 53 Northwestern 31