Ohio State vs. UCF Game Thoughts
Things I Think I Saw/ Things I Thought I’d See
By Ken Pryor
While I don’t have the luxury of attending every game, I do have a pretty nice television with a DVR thingy that allows me to watch and re-watch Ohio State games throughout the season.
When I watch the games, I always have some thoughts about what I saw, what I thought I saw and what I thought I would see. The following musings are some of those thoughts.
OHIO STATE OFFENSE
Photo by Jim Davidson
Clearly, to anyone watching the games, the Ohio State offense is a work in progress. Early on in the game there were a couple of blown plays where guys didn’t seem to know what they were doing. Fortunately for Urban Meyer, he has a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. On the botched plays, Braxton Miller typically saved the offense with his feet.
Right now, blocking execution in the Ohio State run game bothers me. It bothered me last week and it continued to do so against Central Florida on Saturday. Carlos Hyde has yet to really get rolling the way I thought he would as a junior. While there have been flashes of what this offense may be able to do on the ground, it hasn’t really been consistent. The one constant in the OSU run game has been Braxton Miller.
Not only am I unsure how long that can last, I’m not so sure how long the Ohio State coaching staff wants it to last. Sure, there are some designed runs for Braxton, but the conventional rushing attack needs to start taking over. Two weeks in a row the offense has been stopped short in very short yardage situations.
Last week Meyer elected to go for the touchdown just before the half rather than kicking a chip-shot field goal and Hyde was flat denied at the goal line. That defensive front was Miami of Ohio, not Florida, for goodness sake. This week Meyer went for it on 4th-and-1 from the 47 yard line in the first quarter. Again the Buckeyes were denied – this time by Central Florida. I don’t get a warm fuzzy about the consistency of the run blocking with Michigan State on the horizon.
Because the run game has been somewhat iffy (absent Miller of course), the play-action passing game is not what it could/should be. Miller is still developing his ability to read a defense, and we all know his passes are not always the stuff of legend. A shaky power run game does nothing to help the cause when it comes to trying get the play-action pass game in sync.
With that having been said, the truly bright shining star on this team has been Braxton Miller. The kid is tough as nails and his running ability/escapability in the pocket has allowed for the Buckeyes to maybe look more impressive than they actually are in the offensive statistical ledger.
In two games Miller has 302 rushing yards, good for fourth best in the country, but that’s coupled with 44 carries. We knew Braxton would have plenty designed runs called for him, but many of these are NOT called runs at all. Some are the result of his inability to properly read what the defense is trying to do, which typically ends in his having to tuck and run. I ain’t complaining (yet), but I’m just sayin’…this is something the Buckeye coaching staff will want to shore up.
One important thing we should also note, the Ohio State receiving corps is not the chopped liver Urban Meyer portrayed them to be during the off-season. Devin Smith, Corey Brown and Jake Stoneburner have shown themselves to be more than capable when the passes are catchable. If Miller can shore up his accuracy and his ability to diagnose the coverages he is facing, this offense might really be able to take off.
OHIO STATE DEFENSE
Photo by Jim Davidson
Not sure where to even begin with this unit other than by simply stating that I am disappointed. I know Michael Bennett did not play the first two games, but John Simon did and so did Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, Noah Spence, Garrett Goebel, and Big John Hankins. Even Nathan Williams logged some serious minutes in the opener.
This line was much ballyhooed and their abilities were well-chronicled during the entire off-season. Based on what we heard, I was expecting to see utter dominance. Instead, I have seen UCF amass more than 100 yards on the ground against this group. Miami (Ohio) didn’t come close to this mark, but they were a pass-happy team. The Redhawks ran the ball a total of eight times, but they threw it a 53 times for 303 yards. UCF threw the ball 41 times for 249 yards.
Unfortunately, the sack totals for these games is not commensurate with the number of passes being thrown in relation to how highly-touted this defensive front has been. In plain speak…they need to be better. Much better.
The same can be said of the secondary. Two weeks in a row we have seen this unit victimized by deep passes to receivers who found themselves wide open down the field. The secondary unit has defended themselves by playing the good ‘ol “miscommunication card.” Indeed, there will sometimes be breakdowns in communications, however, repeated breakdowns two weeks into the season against lesser foes, no less, is becoming frustrating already.
The good news is the tackling from this unit has improved, drastically – especially from Travis Howard and Orhian Johnson, both of whom came strapped up and ready to rock against UCF. There is still work to be done, however. C.J. Barnett can certainly attest to this fact, as can the entire defensive line which was taken for some long distance rides by UCF backs after initial contact.
I will bet Everett Withers and Kerry Coombs will be hard at work, alongside Mike Vrabel and Luke Fickell this week. The film session between players and their position coaches may not be too pleasant after that last game.
OHIO STATE SPECIAL TEAMS
Not a lot to say in this department, other than the Buckeyes need to find a return guy and stick with him, at least until Jordan Hall returns. Devin Smith is a quality receiver, but I’m thinking he’s not a return guy. I’m sure Meyer is looking for someone explosive back there to return, but Devin didn’t look very sure of himself against UCF.
Last week Armani Reeves was the guy, but it appears he didn’t impress much. The deep kick-off seemed to be in good working order, though.
In closing, here is a point to ponder… If the Ohio State offense and defense are vastly improved (which we all agree), how bad were they really last year? What does that say about the teams who beat them, though the Bucks were in every game? What does it say about the teams they beat? Whatever the case may be, I have full confidence this coaching staff will get these problems fixed. But then what will become of my column?
Two More Points to Ponder
- Why all the hate on female announcers? Beth Mowins wasn’t all that bad during the Ohio State game. Her voice is a tad gruff for my taste in a woman, but I’m not looking to marry her. She didn’t seem to be lacking in knowledge, nor did she turn the game into a powder puff piece. The few times they actually showed her on air, I wasn’t turned away in disgust. All in all, I thought she did a good job. I fear some of the doubters and detractors are actually haters. Come on, fellas. Female game announcers are here to stay. Time to get over it.
- I have no problem with the new helmet rule that states if a player loses his helmet, he cannot continue in the game action. The man in me says “play on,” but the human in me says the spirit of the rule is the correct and it is the safe thing to do. The game of football is very fast and very high impact. I’m not interested in seeing somebody get his melon split open perhaps resulting in death just because he’s trying to show me how tough he is. This game is a livelihood (or potentially so for those in college) and most of these guys have wives and families. Try consoling a new widow by telling her that her husband was “tough.” Besides, the NFL is currently embattled in a class-action lawsuit pertaining to headaches resulting from concussions supposedly sustained by players during their tenure in the league. And we want the NCAA to let them play on without their helmets? Yeah…OK.