Ohio State Note and Quotebook -- Colorado Edition
By Tony Gerdeman
Tackling a Tough One - Against the Miami Hurricanes the Buckeyes missed 27 tackles, and throughout practice leading up to the Colorado game, they were never allowed to forget it.
“Yeah, we mentioned it a couple of times,” Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said through a smile. “We worked at it and we got better, but we still had a couple of missed tackles.”
“I know I missed a few,” defensive end John Simon confessed.
“I think it was definitely better, but I don't know for sure. We'll have to break down the field. That's a big key point for us, we can't be missing tackles like that. I think we did do a better job today.”
John Simon sizes up a tackle against Colorado
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I think we did a better job tackling over all,” agreed Tyler Moeller.
“Last week we did a terrible job tackling. This week guys did a great job running around, and if someone missed a tackle they didn't get very far after that, so guys did a good job.”
The Buckeyes stressed gang tackling as well as a return to simple fundamentals.
"This week in practice we put a big emphasis on keeping our knees bent and staying forward,” said defensive lineman Adam Bellamy.
“We had to have a different mentality going into this week's game. We had to learn from our mistakes and move forward."
Some of the missed tackles in the past can be attributed to physical breakdowns, but based on the youth of the defense, there will be both mental and physical mistakes made from time to time. The key is to eliminate the mistakes while still getting the young players experience.
“We've got a lot of young guys running around out there,” said Heacock. “It seems like everyone just has one mistake but it's a shame they're not all on the same play.”
“I think as we go through the game we're going to find some young guy mistakes. We've got to clean up some things. We're always looking at trying to get a little bit better and eliminate a couple of those big plays and get better, but I don't think I could be happier with the preparation and the effort."
“It was bad last week, so we all knew what we had to do this week,” said cornerback Travis Howard.
“It was a big mental week for us, and we just knew that we had to go out there and perform at a high level and play with confidence. Once we play with confidence, guys know what they're doing, and they fly around the ball. It creates a lot of big plays and turnovers on defense.”
Not So Many Happy Returns - Jordan Hall came into the Colorado game with only two returns to his credit this season, and both were punt returns. He has a 27-yard return and a five-yard return this year.
Despite a lack of quantity, Colorado head coach Jon Embree had seen enough of Hall on tape to know that his team didn't want any part of the junior getting involved in the punt return game.
In fact, they were so concerned with Hall that they went to a rugby punt to eliminate the possibility of a return, and for the most part it worked—Ohio State only returned two of the Buffaloes' six punts.
"Right now our hang time is not good enough to do what we want to do from a pure coverage standpoint against a returner like that,” Embree said of Hall. “We were doing that to allow our coverage unit to get down the field and minimize the return."
“Obviously Jordan can do a lot of different things,” said OSU head coach Luke Fickell. “He can be a weapon back there. People have to be aware of where he's at, kicking the ball to him, whether it's punts or kickoff returns.”
gets free on a kick return against Colorado.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That awareness was very apparent on punt returns, but completely lacking on kickoff returns. Hall returned two kickoffs on the day—the first one went for 45 yards and the second went 90 yards.
Hall did take some grief for not getting into the endzone on the 90-yard return, and that grief will likely continue for a few more days.
“We're gonna bag on him a little bit,” said Christian Bryant. “But he hit the creases. And that's what he does. He hits the creases. He's just a really good runner.”
“I told him I would have scored, but it was a great return for us and got our momentum going,” said freshmen receiver Devin Smith.
“Our special teams were superior today,” Bryant said.
“Coach Fickell was preaching all week that we've got to have superior special teams. And I think we came out here and we showed a lot of people that our special teams are one of the best in the country.”
“I think our number one thing going into this game was special units had to make plays,” Fickell said.
“I mean, that was the top of the list. And we gotta come out with a good feeling there, that we did a good job there making some plays and trying to use that as a weapon.”
As for Hall himself, how did he feel about getting tracked down before reaching the endzone?
“I'm kind of mad about that,” he said.
Pass on Passing - With 24 seconds remaining in the first half of Saturday's game, Ben Buchanan punted to Buffs running back Rodney Stewart, who then muffed the punt and allowed Ohio State to recover it at the Colorado eleven-yard line with just 15 seconds remaining in the half.
After a first down scramble down to the one-yard line by Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes called their final timeout with just six seconds to play. The discussion between the coaches then turned to whether or not they could get another pass off and still have time for a field goal if the pass fell incomplete.
According to Jim Bollman, however, it didn't sound like much of a discussion.
“Yeah, there was talk about it,” he said of throwing into the endzone, “and thinking about the situation we thought it would be better to take the points.”
Did they feel like they wouldn't be able to get two plays off in just six seconds?
“Well,” Bollman said, smiling a bit, “had you seen our passing game to that point? We thought it was a better decision to get the points.”
Getting Out of the Gate - If special teams was the number one focus going into the Colorado game, then starting fast couldn't have been very far behind. After falling down 14-0 to Miami the week before, the Buckeyes were beyond intent upon making sure that didn't happen on Saturday.
“What we emphasized this week was starting fast and the guys did a great job of that,” Tyler Moeller said.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“This was really crucial for us, to start fast,” said Christian Bryant.
“That's what the coaches were preaching, and that's what the players were preaching in the locker room. We had to start fast, and that's what we did today.”
Ohio State got out on Colorado early and led 17-0 after just a quarter and a half of play. It was exactly what the Buckeye coaches wanted to see.
“One thing that Coach Fick mentioned this week was that we've got to play with a lot of emotion,” said Travis Howard.
“That's what guys were doing. Guys were excited, making plays and chest bumping. That's what it's all about. Once you start getting your emotions going, your confidence goes up, it allows you to make plays and the game slows down.”
"We came out really physical and we were well prepared. Last weekend we left with a bad taste in our mouth and we jumped out to a great start today."
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Every week I guarantee you we're going to come out fighting,” said fullback Zach Boren.
“This week was the first week we've had that mentality and we're going to keep it up. Every week at practice it's going to be stressed by me and the older guys that we're going to come out and fight. I knew we'd take care of business today and we did it well.”
“That was the biggest thing that I stressed to the team this week that we come out and play with heart right from the beginning. Our attitude is going to change from here on out. We're going to come out fighting from the kickoff. We're going to come out of the locker room charging and come out fighting. It was nice to see our attitude finally change and we finally had that fighting mentality from the get go.”
“We had to play with some emotion,” Fickell said.
“I think that's what we wanted, to get back home and get that feel of emotion, get those guys on the sideline, get the students into it. And I think that's what we saw out there today from the beginning of the game all the way to the end.”
But how much of that early success was attributable to Ohio State and how much was attributable to Colorado?
"We have been awful starting games,” said Jon Embree.
“We script plays and we go through it and we give them the looks and we practice it. We do everything. But, for whatever reason, when the lights go on, whether it's a drop, whether it's a missed block, whether it's a fumble, we continually struggle starting games."
For Tyler Moeller, the fast start was nice, but the mentality was what set the tone.
“The feeling was just like every other game when we get out there—just whip the crap out of them,” he said.
“Guys weren't thinking about last week or what the media was saying. Or how the game was going to go. Just get out there and from play one, we're gonna go hard.”
Colorado Vs. The Field - The Buckeyes had twelve possessions on Saturday, and only two of them started out from further than their own 40-yard line. In fact, seven of them started at the 50-yard line or closer. Two of the drives even started in the Buffs' redzone.
Colorado, on the other hand, had no such advantage. They started inside their own 20-yard line on eight of their eleven legitimate possessions. Five times they started from their own eleven-yard line and in. Obviously, it was one of the significant differences in the game.
“Whenever you can start a drive in their territory it's a huge confidence booster for the offense, just to see that you're past the 50,” said Jack Mewhort. “Our special teams were great today.”
“It's a major boost for the defense and the offense,” Tyler Moeller agreed.
“Jordan Hall did a great job all day. Guys like Nate Ebner and Jamie Wood did a great job of coming after the ball and making sure they didn't get very far. It's huge for the defense to start off on their ten rather than on the 30 or 40. The offense definitely plays differently. They run the ball a little bit more, they can't do as many things as they want because they're so far backed up.”
“The field position helps a lot,” Travis Howard said. “It gives the defense more confidence. It allows us to go out there and get a stop and make some plays.”
“Whenever you can get field position like we had today, it will change the game,” said Mike Brewster.
“Our defense did a great job, and so did special teams. I know we're not going to be that lucky every week, but I think the way that we were rushing the ball, we would've been able to keep grinding it out.”
Things Are About To Get Really Real - The Buckeyes made it through their non-conference schedule with a 3-1 record, but now the season truly begins as we make our way into Big Ten conference play. These four tune ups were nice, but it's time to get serious now.
“The non-conference is over,” said Travis Howard immediately after the Colorado win.
“It's all about the Big Ten now. This is where it counts. We really have to be mentally and physically prepared. Any time you're at Ohio State, the goal is to win the Big Ten. And that's where our mind is set now, to win the Big Ten.”
“We know the Big Ten is going to be a grind and we're excited for the challenge,” said Jack Mewhort.
“We're going to do all we can to get better in practice this week and prepare for Michigan State and hope we can come out with some good intensity and show them what we've got.”
Clearly it didn't take long for talk to turn to the Spartans, and the Buckeyes know that Michigan State has the talent to make them pay for any mistakes they make.
"I think we are ready for conference games,” John Simon said.
“There are a few things we have to correct, like the big plays at the end of the game. We know Michigan State will capitalize on those opportunities, but today we had a good day."
“We're excited,” Zach Boren said. “Michigan State is a great team and we haven't played them in I don't know how long, so we're excited about it.”
"We have a tough schedule ahead of us,” Simon added. “But we had some good early preparation against some good teams. We know we can make plays and we are ready for next Saturday."
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