The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Buckeyes Buckeye Archive The Week That Was: Explosion in Columbus
Written by Jesse Lamovsky

Jesse Lamovsky

Good teams know how to win games in a variety of ways. Two weeks ago, Ohio State went up to East Lansing and edged Michigan State in a classic Big Ten defensive slugfest. Last Saturday, in front of a nighttime crowd in Columbus, the Buckeyes blasted Nebraska with volleys of firepower from every angle. Scoring touchdowns in all three phases, Ohio State blew away the Cornhuskers 63-38 to move to a perfect 6-0 on the season. And after back-to-back impressive performances against solid conference opposition, it’s safe to say this is a good team.

Long Time Coming: Ohio State’s 63 points are the most scored against a Big Ten opponent since November 14th, 1981 when Earle Bruce’s Buckeyes annihilated hapless Northwestern, 70-6. Jim Tressel’s single-game high score against the conference was 58, also scored against Northwestern on September 22nd, 2007. The Vest, normally the picture of sportsmanship, seemed to like running it up on the Wildcats, particularly after losing to them in 2004; his teams averaged an even 50 in the next four meetings with the Purple, all lopsided wins. We’ll get back to issues of sportsmanship in a minute.

Bad Start: Slow starts are not a new development with the Buckeyes. They trailed after the first period against the O.G. Miami and Alabama-Birmingham, and trailed after the first quarter on Saturday as well. Other than Bradley Roby’s interception return for a touchdown- admittedly a big “other than”- Ohio State accomplished nothing positive in the opening stages against Nebraska. Offensively their first four possessions resulted in no first downs, three punts and one failed fake punt. Defensively they were shredded by two touchdowns- one capping a 92-yard Cornhusker drive- and picked up right where they left off last year in their inability to collar Taylor Martinez or Rex Burkhead. On special teams they gave up a long punt return by Ameer Abdullah that set up one of Abdullah’s two first-quarter touchdowns.

Three minutes into the second quarter it was 17-7 in favor of Nebraska and the Buckeyes hadn’t even gotten a first down. Then, the explosion started. And it didn’t end until there were all zeros on the fourth-quarter clock.

Second Quarter from Heaven: The explosion began on the first play of Ohio State’s first possession of the second quarter. The ignition source was- who else- Braxton Miller. On first down the wunderkind from Huber Heights kept on the read-option, went up the middle, cut right, got a great block from Philly Brown and was off down the near sideline for a 72-yard gain all the way to the Nebraska three. Carlos Hyde then bowled over for the first of his four touchdowns to make it 17-14.

About Time: Bradley Roby finally got what he was looking for- twice over. The redshirt sophomore from suburban Atlanta has played solid football all season, but hadn’t crowned his efforts with an interception until Nebraska came into town. Roby’s 41-yard pick-six staked the Buckeyes to a 7-0 lead early in the first period and kept them in the game early when the Cornhuskers were otherwise dominating play. His second pick came three plays after Hyde’s first touchdown when he stepped in front of a Taylor Martinez pass at the Nebraska 20. Miller promptly hit Jeff Heuerman with an 18-yard scoring toss and it was 21-17, the two Buckeye touchdowns taking place in a span of less than two minutes.

Right Back at You: After Nebraska struck back to re-take the lead 24-21 on Martinez’s nine-yard broken-field run, Ohio State’s offense again rolled down the field for the third touchdown of the second period. With Miller hitting Philly Brown and Nick Vannett for crucial gains and combining with Hyde to gash the Cornhuskers on the ground, the Buckeyes moved 75 yards in ten plays and took a 28-24 lead on Hyde’s seven-yard run around right end. With 3:11 left in the first half the lead had changed hands for the fifth time. It would not change hands again.

Not the same as the Old Boss: With 31 seconds left in the half, still holding a four-point lead, the Buckeyes faced fourth and a long one at the Nebraska 31. Obviously it’s impossible to state this as a fact, but Jim Tressel probably would have sent out his field-goal team at this point. It is a fact that Urban Meyer kept his offense on the field- and the ball in the hands of his best playmaker. Rolling right, Sweet Baby Braxton got a nice kick-out block from Hyde, cut up-field and was out the gate for the fourth Buckeye touchdown of the quarter and a 35-24 halftime lead.

Crippling Blow: Nebraska may have been down double digits at the half, but anyone who remembered the meltdown in Lincoln last year knew this one was far from over. Sure enough, the Huskers took the second-half kickoff and steamrolled 77 yards in seven plays, scoring on Martinez’s three-yard strike to Ben Cotton. Barely three minutes into the third period the score was 35-31 with Ohio State’s defense still struggling to come to grips with the Nebraska attack.

But Nebraska was already doomed even as Cotton hauled in Martinez’s short shot. Rex Burkhead, who hammered the Buckeyes for 119 yards last year in Lincoln and already had 119 more in this one (including a 73-yard gallop that set up Nebraska’s first touchdown) left the game with a knee injury incurred on a 25-yard run that preceded the Martinez-to-Cotton connection. Burkhead spent the rest of the night peddling furiously on an exercise bike. With him, the Huskers scored 31 points in barely a half; without him, they scored just seven.

Obviously I don’t wish any ill upon Rex Burkhead. I enjoy watching him run (except against the Buckeyes) and I’m glad his injury wasn’t serious. (He’s expected to be back when Nebraska resumes play against Northwestern in two weeks.) But remember, Ohio State’s second-half collapse in Lincoln was triggered by a game-ending injury to Braxton Miller. Not to be insensitive or anything, but it certainly didn’t kill me as a Buckeye fan to see the shoe on the other foot.  

Keep On Rolling: That’s what Ohio State did after Nebraska’s touchdown made it 35-31. Once again it was the Miller and Hyde Show, with Braxton hitting Heuerman with a 35-yard strike to the Cornhusker one and Hyde bulling it over from there to make it 42-31.

Knockout Punch: Ohio State’s defense scored to open the night. Ohio State’s offense scored- repeatedly- to establish basic control. Ohio State’s special teams scored to put it away. After a Storm Klein sack set up Nebraska’s first three-and-out of the half, Philly Brown took the punt at his 24, zigzagged through the first wave of defenders, faked out the punter and was gone for the touchdown that made it 49-31 with 5:50 left the third quarter. That pretty much did it for Nebraska.

Getting in on the Fun: With the way Ohio State was moving the ball- and the way the Cornhuskers were playing defense- there were plenty of yards for the taking, and redshirt sophomore Rod Smith took a bundle in one fell swoop. With 10:38 remaining to play Smith went up the middle, broke five feeble tackle attempts and dove into the end zone to complete the 33-yard jaunt and make it 56-31 in favor of the Buckeyes.

Mercy is for the Weak: With the fourth-quarter clock running down toward a minute the Buckeyes, leading 56-38, had the ball at the Nebraska 16-yard line. Again, we’re speculating here, but it’s likely that Coach Tressel would have simply fallen on the ball a few times and taken his victory into the locker room. Urban Meyer, on the other hand, called a running play to his number-one tailback Carlos Hyde who swept the right side and rolled untouched to his fourth touchdown of the night and the coup de grace.  

Now, one could interpret the gratuitous touchdown as an unsportsmanlike act, and maybe it was. But I liked it. I like the message it sent, the message being: Urban Meyer isn’t here to make friends. He’s here to dominate, and if some feelings get hurt along the way, well, so be it. I have all the respect in the world for what Jim Tressel did in Columbus, but there’s a new sheriff in town- and the change is refreshing.

Besides, it wasn’t as if Ohio State was piling on the points against one of the Sisters of the Poor. This was a ranked Nebraska team, not Prairie View. If I’m a Cornhusker fan I’m not upset about Urban Meyer running it up- I’m upset that a defense that was once known as the Blackshirts could get steamrolled the way it did in the Horseshoe Saturday night. Nebraska is supposed to be the team running it up, not the other way around.  

Running and Running Some More: From the start of the second period until the end of the game, Ohio State ran the ball almost at will. The Buckeyes pounded out a whopping 371 rushing yards on the night, averaging 7.7 per carry. Braxton Miller broke his own single-game quarterback rushing record with 186 yards on 16 carries; Carlos Hyde (who gashed Nebraska for 104 yards and two scores last season) weighed in with career highs in carries (28), yards (140) and touchdowns (four.) The Huskers must be glad they won’t face Hyde again- half of his twelve career touchdowns are against them. Not especially fast, Hyde just seems to have a nose for the sticks, and his tough running has been huge in Ohio State’s two conference victories.

Time for a Cool Change: Here’s an amazing statistic, courtesy of our own Mike Furlan: thus far, Ohio State’s offense has scored 29 touchdowns and attempted- not just made, attempted- two field goals. Gone are the days when drive after drive would end with the kicking team trotting onto the field. When the 2012 Buckeyes score, they score touchdowns. Wouldn’t it have been nice to say that against USC in 2009 or against Texas in 2005?

A Bit of Good, a Bit of Bad: It was a strange night for the Ohio State defense. On one hand they played perhaps their worst game of the season, giving up 38 points, 437 yards, touchdown drives of 67, 75, 77 and 92 yards and six plays of twenty yards or more. There was also the requisite poor tackling, particularly on Taylor Martinez’s second-quarter touchdown run.

On the other hand the defense made several big plays that aided immeasurably in the winning effort. They forced four turnovers, three of which led directly to Buckeye touchdowns. They sacked Martinez four times and intercepted him three times. Ohio State did a lot of little things wrong defensively, but did some big things right.

They also got standout performances from several individuals. Bradley Roby scored a touchdown off his first interception and set up a touchdown with his second. Storm Klein, playing perhaps his best game as a Buckeye, had seven tackles and a sack. Big Jonathan Hankins was a load up front, as usual. And inspirational leader John Simon had two sacks and a forced fumble while living in the Nebraska backfield all night.

Tough Loss: The defense did lose a very important member on Saturday when fifth-year senior linebacker Etienne Sabino broke his right fibula, an injury that will likely sideline him for a month. While not a great player, Sabino is one of the few experienced members of a young and erratic linebacker corps. And with only 76 players on the roster- nine fewer than the NCAA limit of 85- this team can ill afford any type of injury to one of its veterans.   

Around the Nation

Game of the Week- North Carolina State/Florida State: One of college football’s biggest teases just did it again. Third-ranked Florida State, the team thought to be back among the elite after its big win over Clemson two weeks ago, jilted its glory-starved fans at the altar again with a 17-16 loss to N.C. State in Raleigh Saturday night. After dominating every facet on their way to a 16-0 halftime lead, the Seminoles turtled up and watched their BCS title dreams go up in smoke in a heartbreaking second half.

It took a lot for the Seminoles to lose this game. It took fifth-year senior E.J. Manuel making freshman plays, throwing an interception deep in Wolfpack territory and taking a 15-yard sack to push Florida State out of range of what would have been the clinching field goal. It took the Seminole running game gaining a measly 21 yards in the second half. It took a blocked punt that set up N.C. State at the Seminole 43 with 2:27 left. It took Florida State’s defense yielding three fourth-down conversions on N.C. State’s final drive, the last being Mike Glennon’s winning touchdown toss to Bryan Underwood with 19 seconds left.

The loss doesn’t end everything for the Seminoles. The ACC is still very much there for the taking. But this was supposed to be the team that brought Florida State back to the pantheon. It isn’t, and that team has only itself to blame. The great teams find ways to win. Saturday night, the Seminoles found ways to lose. Better luck next year.

Massacre in the Top Five: Top-ranked Alabama didn’t play; second-ranked Oregon routed Washington. For everyone else in the top five of the polls, last weekend was a fiasco. Third-ranked Florida State fell to N.C. State. Fourth-ranked LSU was shut down in Gainesville, gaining just 200 total yards and failing to score a touchdown a 14-6 loss to Florida. And fifth-ranked Georgia was blown out by South Carolina, 35-7.

The most surprising new entry in the top five has to be Florida. The Gators have struggled the last two seasons, going 15-11 while making the transition from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp. But they’re 5-0 thus far in 2012, rising high in the polls behind a rugged defense and the tough running of senior Mike Gillislee.   

Beasts of the East: South Carolina’s rout of Georgia and Florida’s upset of LSU set up a clear-cut clash of the titans in the SEC East. It’s a top-heavy division, with Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky sporting a combined 1-10 conference record so far. Even at this early date it seems obvious that the East title comes down to the winner of Florida-South Carolina in two weeks.

So, who rates the edge? Both teams have played excellent defense thus far- indeed, South Carolina and Florida are currently 11th and 12th in the nation, respectively, in total defense. Both teams have bell-cow running backs- Florida with Gillislee, South Carolina with Marcus Lattimore. Neither team ranks terribly high in total offense- South Carolina is 64th, Florida 89th.

The real difference lies in each team’s schedule moving forward. After a trip to Vanderbilt next Saturday, Florida doesn’t leave Gainesville again until the season’s final week, when they play at Florida State (a non-conference game, of course.) South Carolina, on the other hand, plays at LSU next Saturday before taking on Florida in the Swamp on October 20th. Personally, I think the ‘Cocks are probably a better team than the Gators. But the schedules could be decisive here.

The 6-0’s: Although a bushel full of 5-0 teams still remain, only four have reached the true midway point of the season with a perfect 6-0 record. A quick rundown of the four, as well as the biggest hurdles they face on the way to an undefeated regular season:

Ohio: The Bobcats are off to their best start since 1968. Their wins include an opening-day domination of Penn State, but there have been some close calls as well- a 27-24 come-from-behind win at Marshall, another come-from-behind win at UMass (the nation’s only 0-6 team) and last Saturday’s 38-31 conquest of Buffalo. With tough road tests at the O.G. Miami, at Ball State and at Kent State remaining, you almost have to assume the boys from Athens will get dinged at some point.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes are the only team of the four not eligible for postseason play, which actually gives them the best chance of going undefeated. After all, there won’t be a conference championship game or bowl game to lose. The feeble nature of the Big Ten gives them a pretty good chance as well. Only two tough road games remain- at Penn State on October 27th and at Wisconsin on the second-to-last week of the season. Then again, with a young team and an erratic defense, you really can’t take any game for granted, home or road.

Oregon: The nation’s second-ranked team (and fourth-highest scoring) still has miles to go before it sleeps. Several difficult road tests await; next week at revitalized Arizona State, at USC on November 3rd and at Oregon State on November 24th. The Ducks also face Stanford at home on November 17th and have a possible rematch with the Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Of the four 6-0 teams, Oregon’s remaining schedule looks the toughest.

South Carolina: Of course, South Carolina’s remaining slate isn’t exactly a cakewalk either. The ‘Cocks go on the road to LSU and Florida the next two weeks, finish the regular season at Clemson and, provided they get that far, will likely have to face Alabama- the best team in the country- in the SEC Championship Game. That’s a tough row to hoe for a program with a long history of gagging in high-pressure situations.

The Chizik Question: The question being this- how much leeway does a BCS Championship buy a head coach? Two years ago Auburn’s Gene Chizik rode the supernatural talents of Cam Newton to a 14-0 record and the crystal football. The historic season seemed to be vindication for a coach whose hiring at Auburn, fresh off a 5-19 two-year run at Iowa State, generated a good deal of skepticism among the Tiger faithful.

Two years later the skepticism is back with a vengeance. In 2011 the Tigers slumped to an 8-5 record and a negative point differential. This season they’re 1-4, their worst start since 1998. The only win for Auburn thus far is an overtime squeaker over Louisiana-Monroe. Last week the Tigers hit rock-bottom, getting thrashed at home- off a bye week- by an Arkansas team that was in disarray before getting healthy on the Plains. With games remaining against Georgia and Alabama, it appears that the best-case scenario for Chizik’s team is a 6-6 record and a lower-tier bowl berth.

Take away 2010 and Chizik’s tenure at Auburn isn’t impressive. In the two-plus seasons in which Cam Newton wasn’t his quarterback, his team is 17-14, all average for a program with elite-power pretensions. And while Chizik boasts an impressive resume as a defensive mind- he’s a head coach because of that resume- his defense finished 100th in the nation last year and are 115th so far this year.

Regardless of what happens down the stretch, Chizik probably won’t be fired this season at least according to former Tiger coach Pat Dye. But if Auburn keeps losing at this rate, what happened in 2010 won’t help him- particularly since that championship is more often attributed to Newton’s brilliance than to any buttons Chizek pushed. How much leeway does a BCS title buy a head coach? In the case of Gene Chizek, it won’t buy a whole heck of a lot.  

Winners of the Week

Temple: Seven years ago Temple was booted out of the Big East. Saturday, once again a member in good standing, the Owls kicked off conference play with a 37-28 victory over South Florida in Philadelphia. Other teams had more decisive and crucial victories this weekend, but Temple’s may have been the most satisfying.

New Mexico: Going into 2012 the Lobos had three victories in the last three seasons combined. They’ve already matched that win total after six games, moving to 3-3 with a 35-14 victory over Texas State in Albuquerque. Bob Davie may have failed in his last stint at Notre Dame, but he ought to be a coach-of-the-year candidate for the job he’s done so far at UNM.

Idaho: The Vandals got their first win of the season by defeating New Mexico State 26-18 at the Kibbie Dome on Saturday. Although outgained 407-386, Idaho’s defense forced four Aggie turnovers leading to 17 Vandal points. Senior kicker Trey Farquhar chipped in with four field goals, two of them from fifty-plus yards out.

Army: The Black Knights got into the win column for the first time this season by stunning Boston College, 34-31. Quarterback Trent Steelman gave Army the lead for good on a 29-yard touchdown run (his third of the afternoon) with 45 seconds to play. Army pounded out 516 rushing yards on the day, with three men eclipsing the 100-yard barrier.

Kent State: The Golden Flashes moved to 4-1- their best start since 1977- with a 41-14 rout of winless Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti. Kent pounded out 321 rushing yards while Dri “Lightning” Archer added 299 all-purpose yards- including his third kick-return touchdown of the season- to his nation-leading total. When he was first hired, Darrell Hazell ordered up gold helmets to be worn when the Flashes finally go bowling again. Three more wins or so and they might just be wearing them.

Losers of the Week

TCU: It wasn’t a good week for the Horned Frogs. First quarterback Casey Pachall, one of the nation’s leading passers, was suspended from the team following his DWI arrest. Two days later, Iowa State came into Fort Worth and snapped TCU’s 12-game losing streak with a 37-23 upset. Trevone Boykin, Pachall’s understudy, threw three interceptions in the defeat, one of which was returned for Iowa State’s clinching touchdown midway through the fourth period.

Miami: For the second time this season the Hurricanes went on the road against a ranked opponent- and got annihilated. Wearing bizarre two-tone helmets, Notre Dame trampled its old “Catholics versus Convicts” opponent for 376 rushing yards in a 41-3 victory at Soldier Field in Chicago. Despite its 4-2 record, Miami has actually been outscored by 27 points this season. 

Northwestern: The previously undefeated Wildcats led Penn State 28-17 going into the fourth period on Saturday afternoon, and then fell apart. Putting together drives of 82 and 85 yards, the Lions surged into the lead and then clinched their 39-28 victory after Northwestern failed on a fourth-down attempt deep in their own territory.

Arizona: After their surprising 3-0 start the Wildcats have now lost three straight, all to Pac-12 opponents. The latest, a 54-48 loss to Stanford, was the most agonizing of the three. Arizona led 48-34 midway through the fourth period before the Cardinal drove to two late touchdowns, the second with 45 seconds to play. 

Tulane: The Green Wave is now 0-5 after their latest one-sided loss, this time at the hands of Louisiana-Lafayette, 41-13. In the last two weeks Tulane has lost to in-state mid-major opponents (the other being Louisiana-Monroe) by a combined score of 104-23. The only bright spot is that they aren’t playing LSU this season.

Next: Saturday night at 8:00, when the Buckeyes head to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers.

The TCF Forums