Saturday, November 14, 2009

Buckeyes 27, Hawkeyes 24 (OT)

[photo of Dan Herron by Marvin Fong of the Plain Dealer]

This installment of the weekly Buckeyes wrap-up is brought to you by pigs eating ham.

I'll just say it. If you believed all along that this team was going to a BCS game, your faith in the Buckeyes is much more profound than mine. Of course, they tried everything they could think of to give that game away, but the bottom line is that this is a conference championship team. That seemed like a pipe dream after the loss to Purdue. I'll admit it. To me, it seemed like a pipe dream after Barclay missed the field goal. To me, that had the earmarks of another Ohio State tank job. One thing is for sure: this was an odd game. With that in mind, I am going to break from the traditional format.

*Someone answer me this. Why is a QB even necessary on a team that almost never throws the ball further than 5 yards? Everywhere else, the QB is described as a critical position. At OSU, the QB is nothing more than a conduit to get the ball to the tailback. Why don't the Buckeyes just go with the Nebraska-style triple option?
*I will never (and I mean ever) understand why you throw a pass behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd and short, as the Buckeyes did on the first drive.
*Is there no better cornerback on the roster than Chimdi Chekwa? Did you notice the highlights of Vandenberg? In every last one of them, Chekwa appeared on the losing end.
*If Brandon Saine is the running back averaging 9+ yards per carry, why does Dan Herron get three times as many carries?
*How can a defense as good as the Buckeyes intercept the opposing QB thrice and still allow that QB a chance to win the game in overtime?
*Wouldn't it be great if the offense ever put together a solid performance for 4 quarters? Wouldn't it also be great if the offense could stay on the field for more than 2 minutes at a time?
*Why on earth didn't Iowa take a shot downfield against Chekwa when they got the ball with a little less than a minute to play?
*Is it any wonder why the Big Ten is a laughingstock when you have not one, but both coaches playing for overtime.
OK, now that I've got that out of the way, let's move on.

The Good
For the second consecutive week, the Bucks had a successful day running the ball. Frankly, they'd better considering how negligible the passing game is. Brandon Saine looked great and I can't imagine why he didn't get more carries. Herron had some good runs too, but it's hard to argue with 103 yards on only 11 carries.
The defense was great in the 1st half and in overtime. It did slip in the 2nd half mostly because Vandenberg seemed (rightly) to target Chekwa on every play. Homan had a great game. Spitler played really well. Heck, Anderson Russell had 2 of the 3 interceptions.
Since this was such an odd game, I am going to skip directly to...

The Ugly
It's the same old story. Ohio State gets a lead, then the offense becomes predictable and stagnant. Hey, at least the Buckeyes didn't break from precedent.
I just have to ask: What was the deal with that 2-minute offense at the end of the 4th quarter? 2:42 left in the game, all three time-outs and the Buckeyes showed no urgency. Not only that, they refused to run a play of greater than 2 yards. Who plays for overtime with nearly 3 minutes to play and all 3 timeouts? Ridiculous!
Nathan Williams jumping offside and negating a pick-6 by Thad Gibson was really disappointing. Although I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. AFter all, that touchdown would have sealed the game for the Buckeyes.
Special Teams
You might have thought that the game was sealed once the Buckeyes took a 24-10 lead. Did you honestly believe that the Buckeyes would salt the game away? HAHAHA! Not so fast, my friend! The scarlet and gray couldn't wait to give some of that lead back. Pretty terrible when only one defender gets a hand on the kick returner on a 99-yard return.

Under the Radar player of the game
As mentioned, a lot of guys had good games. Still, it isn't a real easy choice this week. Perhaps if somebody had done something spectacular in overtime, this would be an easier selection. But, the Buckeyes might as well have kicked the field goal on 1st down in overtime. So, who is worthy of the award? Well, Zach Boren and Dane Sanzenbacher both had good blocks to spring Herron for the TD that made it 17-10. And let's face it, would anyone have been surprised if the Buckeyes wound up with a FG attempt there? So, those two guys seem like as good an option as anyone else.


tthomp9737 said...

*Why do the Bucks insist on running 3 plays on every first drive of the game when they could just punt on 1st?
*Missed INT -Iowa catch was almost a killer too.
*Penalty on great INT return by Homan took them out of good FG range too.
*Bucks struggling and winning will probably mean USC will still be ranked ahead of them.

neslagle said...

Hi Gary,
Nice write up - I saw things a little differently but you have to remember I grew up in Woody's era and Woody made Tressel look middle of the road rather than ultra conservative!
I still think Pryor is hurt worse than anyone is saying and is one wrong hit from being out for a few weeks.
Tressel had the same game plan (in my opinion) as last week - protect Pryor from hits at all costs! The Penn State game was amazing. Your leading runner (Pryor) and most sacked QB in Big Ten (Pryor) vs a 5 point favorite on the road and 2nd best defense in league next to OSU with a game plan perfectly executed by Pryor. Result:
PRYOR WAS NEVER TACKLED while beating the spread by 22 points. Tressel called one running play for his best runner (Pryor) and he quickly pitched it forward to Saine on an option play. Pryor did scramble five times always breaking up the middle and ran out of bounds 4 times and dove into the endzone once while averaging 10 yards a carry. As a comparison 5 other QB's I have tracked all year (Pete Carroll's favorite 2 of Locker & Barkley along with Tebow, McCoy and Clark) ran a combined 85 times for 114 yards the same week (1.34 yards a carry) and were probably tackled 50 times (about 10 times per QB). And Pryor gains 10 yards per carry on a flat tire and is NEVER TACKLED. That is still most amazing stat of the season to me.
Tressel had same game plan vs Iowa with less success as I believe Pryor was tackled 3 times including a sack. He ran 8 times for a season low 29 times. I believe he was tackled 3 times, ran out of bounds 4 times and did the QB slide once (first time is his career that I recall). That part worked pretty well
when your best rusher and QB is only tackled 3 times. And they got the win as ugly as it was.
With Pryor having his best accuracy game of his career (14 of 17 or 81%) I would have like to see him throw down field more. Don't believe they tried one long pass. You pointed out the 3rd and short early in the game where they tried a shot pass that was completed short of the first down marker. They repeated the play with same results in last series of regulation. I can see the call as you expect or hope the receiver (Saine or Herron) to be able to get by one tackler and it is a safe pass.
You are correct about Tressel being driven by turnovers. As you pointed out in 11 games this season OSU won the turnover battle 9 times and won all 9. They tied once (USC) and lost turnover battle with Purdue (5-3) and those two games were their only losses. Guess Tress is correct but it does lead to some ultra conservative play calls (even for Woody bred Slag at times)! On the last possession I liked running down the clock on first few plays to give Iowa less time if drive stalled. If they would have got another first down they still had a minute left and a couple of time outs so they certainly had enough time to get in field goal range.
To be continued!

neslagle said...

2nf part of my answer to your questions:

As for Iowa I would have thought from the 35 yard line a couple of pass plays downfield would have been called. But I guess Iowa coach thought a turnover was more likely than an Iowa score. As good as Vandenberg played early he faded as game progressed. He started out 8 of 11 with 3 drops but finished 12 of 22 with 2 TD's and 3 INT. That may have figured into Iowa's coaches decision to run out clock in regulation.
As for why does OSU need a QB when they mostly run, let me give you a stat that surprised me. The front runner for the Heisman for the #1 team (Tebow) has passed 198 times for 1720 yards in 10 games. Pryor has thrown 240 times for for 1754 yards in 11 games. Hard to believe Pryor passes more often than Tebow even taking into the account the extra game Pryor has played. Tebow has ran 179 time for 636 yards vs Pryor 124 times for 633 yards. This comparison even amazed me. In addition, Pryors ability to run when healthy helps the Saine/Herron running game.
I have called for Saine to be used more often from day one. But I thought Herron ran very well vs Iowa even though he only averaged 3 yards per carry. For the season Saine has averaged 5.1 yards a game vs Herron's 3.8, a huge difference. Do believe Herron has had less fumbles than Saine on more carries which would certainly be a factor for Tress.
So much for writing a book to respond to some of your questions.

neslagle said...

And now for part 3, my web site write up:

Tressel Ball barely prevailed as OSU defeated Iowa 27-24 in Overtime to clinch at least a share of their 5th consecutive Big Ten title. OSU took a 24-10 lead with 11 minutes to go on Saine’s 49 yard TD run. But Iowa returned the ensuing kick-off 99 yards for a TD and after a Buckeye 3 and out Iowa drove 70 yards for a TD with the benefit of two big breaks. Rolle took an interception 51 yards for a TD but an OSU offside nullified the play. Then QB James Vandenbeg threw a ball up for grabs. Two Buckeyes collided knocking the ball in the air and the Iowa receiver caught for a 30 yard gain.
The ensuing two possessions will have both coaches taking a lot of heat for their conservative calls with the game tied and the Big Ten title on the line. OSU got the ball first and after a first down with 2 minutes left and on about the 30 yard line, Tressel called two running plays and a short pass that forced a short punt. Iowa got the ball back at the 32 with a minute left and ran one play then let the clock run out forcing an overtime.
Iowa started the OT period with an incomplete pass, 6 yard loss on a run on a Spitler tackle followed by OSU’s only sack of the game by Worthington. On 4th and 26, Vandenberg threw into the end zone with OSU’s Russell the only player in the vicinity. Tressel then ran Herron three times for 3 yards and Barclay calmly kicked a 39 yard field goal for the win.
Pryor completed 14 of 17 passes for 93 yards with no TD’s or Interceptions. The 81% completion rate was a career best. The 5.47 yards per pass attempt and his 29 yards in 8 rushing attempts were season lows.
Saine rushed for 103 yards and 2 TD’s on 11 carries while Herron rushed for 97 yards and a TD on 32 carries. OSU rushed for 229 yards on 51 carries for their 4th straight 200 yard rushing game. Pryor still leads team in rushing with 633 yards on 128 carries followed by Saine with 610 yards on 119 carries and Herron with 462 yards on 120 carries.
OSU has interceptions in all 11 games this year for a total of 18. Last season they had only 10 interceptions in 13 games and none in 5 different games.
With the win, Ohio State clinches its fifth-consecutive Big Ten championship. Ohio State won six in a row from 1972-77. Michigan is only other team to win 5 in a row (in the 1990’s)
Jim Tressel is 25-4 in November games at Ohio State.
Jim Tressel is 4-1 in overtime games. The last home overtime game was vs. No. 24 NC State Sept. 13, 2003, a 44-38 triple overtime win. The last away overtime game was at Northwestern, a 27-23 loss, Sept. 18, 2004.
Jim Tressel's record with the Buckeyes is 92-21 and his career record is 227-78-2. Tressel's 227 victories rank fourth among active FBS coaches.
The Buckeyes are 431-131-14 all-time as a Top 25 team.
Jim Tressel is now 80-6 when leading/tied at the half and 85-6 when leading/tied going into the fourth quarter in his Ohio State career.
The Buckeyes have won 85 games since the start of the 2002 season, the fourth best among FBS schools during that span.

Gone with the Schwind said...

Tim, I have no idea why the Bucks insist on running 3 plays on the first drive. They'd save a lot of time just punting on 1st down.
Nelson, the Pryor-Tebow comparison surprises me too. Watching the Bama-MSU game, they showed a comparison that Tebow's passing stats are almost identical to Greg McElroy of Alabama. I'm sure McElroy will get no mention for the Heisman. As for Saine, if he's averaging 1.3 yards per carry more than Herron, why not give him the ball more? Weird.

Gone with the Schwind said...

This is a pretty good outsider's perspective on Ohio State and the victory over Iowa.

Trane said...

I've given up asking why. We will never be an offensive juggernaut. When we are, we will lose to unranked Michigan State. Happy to have won, hoping to beat TSUN, and please God, let us win our bowl game.

Gone with the Schwind said...

Trane, It probably is best to stop asking why. As for the bowl game, I can't say I'm thrilled about any potential matchup. After all, teams from the Pac-10 like to score points, not win games 13-7.