Well, I took some time off after the loss on Saturday because I wanted to write a level-headed and thoughtful post vs. something driven by emotion. Since I am partisan where the Buckeyes are concerned, this seemed to be the best view. (And in a couple of Buckeye sites, fans are going absolutely nuts saying things like “fire Jim Tressel” and we’ll be lucky if we don’t lose 5 games this year.)
When times are good, they’re never as good as people claim and when times are bad, things are never as bad as people claim. In my pre-season view, I stated that the Bucks would go 10-2 with a BCS bowl win but would not play in the BCS Championship game. That prediction still stands. And while I certainly hoped the Buckeyes would beat USC, I didn’t expect it (pre-season or especially after watching USC destroy Virginia.)
The thing that is disappointing is that the team folded in the second quarter, much like happened in the BCS Championship game last year. On the verge of closing to 14-10 in the second quarter, a series of penalties called back a touchdown leading to a missed field goal attempt. The offense’s next possession resulted in a pick-six and that was the game. Give credit to USC, they played great in all phases of the game. While there is some grousing about penalties and hypothetical optimism about a different outcome if Beanie played, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t have made a difference except the score might have been a little closer.
As far as the game goes and what went wrong, I think it can be summarized in a few simple points:
- Mental errors, false starts, holds, boneheaded play calling - disappointing for a veteran team.
- When the chips were down, the play calling became predictable on both sides of the ball.
- The offensive line proved to be a mere inconvenience for the USC D-Line.
- The defensive line was not productive and could not apply pressure short of blitzes, and those didn’t work very well either.
- Once down 21-3, the team quit.
There were only a few things that went right, and could prove to be bright spots if the coaches take advantage of them. One, Terrelle Pryor is a player. Yes, he’s a freshman, yes, he will make mistakes, no he doesn’t know the playbook. Make no mistake, now that the obligatory loss is out of the way, Pryor should be starting. Two, Ray Small is a play maker on offense, he needs more touches. Three, while Beanie is out, Boom Herron should be the feature back. In addition, Tressel needs a young, aggressive, and creative offensive coordinator call the plays. He also needs a competent O line coach, the last 4 losses are at the feet of the O line. Make it an open competition and play the best 5, regardless if they are freshman or not.
While the defense did give up 28 points, I think it’s scheme that needs adjustment more than personnel. Like the offense, a new coordinator is in order. Again, young, aggressive, and creative. The defense hasn’t been the same since Mark Dantonio departed the program. It’s lacking the nasty, the killer instinct that knocked offenses (QBs in particular) into the next timezone and flew to the play. Were they infalliable? No. Were they effective? Yes.
The last bit is heart. I just don’t see it on this team. It’s got tons of senior leadership and solid citizens, but it doesn’t have “it” - as defined by what we saw in Craig Krenzel. An unstoppable will to win. Where are the leaders on this team? Where is the fire? Where’s the passion? Where’s the fun? Where’s the will to win? The will to fight? I believe in my heart of hearts that they are capable of playing with fire, but we’ve yet to see it this season.
Where do we go from here? It’s hard to tell. But if the intangible bit doesn’t get fixed, this team will be remembered like Clemson teams are routinely, great talent, but always underachieving. That would be a shame. If they don’t find “it” - this team could lose as many as five games starting this week at home to Troy.
I’m a Buckeye fan and I want them to get the fun back, to get that passion to win, to get the best 11 players on the field at any given time, and to have the freedom to play inspired football. Let’s hope this total destruction at the hands of USC is sufficient to stoke the fires of competition and revive the team in time to win an unprecedented third straight Big 10 Championship, beat Michigan, and win a bowl game.