10 Things We Learned from Typhoon in Miami
By Brandon Castel
MIAMI — There was nothing pretty about Ohio State’s 24-6 loss to Miami (Fla.) Saturday night.
It was Luke Fickell’s first loss as head coach, and the team’s first regular season loss to an unranked nonconference opponent since the 1988 season. The Buckeyes looked lost offensively and gave up 240 yards on the ground to the Hurricanes.
It’s the kind of game film that should be burned, but there was still plenty to learn in defeat.
1. The odds are stacked against Luke Fickell. It’s impossible to know what Jim Tressel would have done in this game, but Fickell was outcoached by Al Golden in his first big test. While Tressel always seemed like he was secretly in control of every game, Fickell seemed to be in over his head Saturday. That’s not really unheard of considering he had exactly two games of head coaching experience to rely on. Even Tressel struggled in his first year at Ohio State, and he had already won four national titles with Youngstown State. There is so much that has gone wrong this off-season, it's really is unfair to expect this team to be an 11 or 12-win team. Tressel set the bar so high that it might end up costing Fickell his job too.
2. Expectations must return to realistic. After watching this team against Miami—a very average football team—we now know this is not a national title contending Ohio State squad. It may not even be a Big Ten title contender, although a lot could change over the next month. This team is going to get better. They are going to get some guys back and they have got to get this quarterback situation figured out, but for now fans need to recognize that this program is in a serious state of transition. Teams don’t go through what OSU did this off-season and continue right along as though nothing’s changed. A lot has changed and it was bound to have an effect on the Buckeyes at some point.
3. Quarterback is the most important position in football. That being said, they still could have won this game with even the most average of performances from the quarterback position. Put Terrelle Pryor on that field against Miami, and the Buckeyes win by 10+ points. That’s how important the quarterback position is, and hopefully we’re finally getting the point. There is a huge difference between having a third or fourth year starter out there and a guy making the third start of his career. Everything comes back to the quarterback.
4. Joe Bauserman is not the answer. It is unfair to make sweeping judgments about a player after one football game, but Bauserman has had four years to prepare for this moment. Maybe he never expected to be in this position, but if that’s the case, do you really want a guy like that out there anyway? He was beyond bad Saturday, and it really seemed to effect everyone around him. His receivers did nothing to bail him out, but this Ohio State team needs a playmaker at the quarterback position, not a game manager. They don’t have enough developed talent around him to overcome a performance like this. They never will. He has a strong arm and does a good job not turning the ball over, but that’s where it starts and stops. The rest of his game is just not cut out to play quarterback on this stage.
5. Braxton Miller is a playmaker, not a savior. When the coaching staff finally cut Braxton loose late in the fourth quarter, it became obvious why everyone has been raving about this kid. He is fast and shifty and has some power when he hits a hole. It’s obvious he can be a playmaker for the Buckeyes, but he is not going to step out there next week and save the season. This is still a young kid who is going to make mistakes (remember Pryor against Penn State his freshman year?). Putting the ball on the ground three times in one game is not the best way to earn the trust of the coaches. Neither is forcing a ball into coverage over the middle. With the right amount of experience, Miller could become one of the greats, but best-case scenario for this season would be a repeat of 2008.
6. Jordan Hall is a difference maker. Without a doubt, the biggest bright spot for the Buckeyes Saturday night was the return of Jordan Hall. The junior tailback missed the first two games due to suspension, but he instantly provided a spark for Ohio State Saturday night. It looks like Hall has made that leap from last year that Boom Herron made from his sophomore to junior year, and all of a sudden Hall looks like the most elusive player on the field. Teaming him with Carlos Hyde could be a dynamic combination until Herron gets back.
7. Corey Linsley and offensive line held its own. One of the reasons Ohio State had success running the ball against Miami was the return of guard Corey Linsley. The redshirt sophomore made a noticeable difference when he stepped in at right guard for Marcus Hall, but the offensive line as a whole performed at a high level. Normally when a quarterback struggles as bad as Bauserman did, it’s because he is under pressure, but the offensive line kept him pretty upright all evening. The Buckeyes also ran for 174 yards, while averaging nearly five yards per carry.
8. Young wide receivers struggled. As bad as Bauserman was Saturday, and he wasn’t good, the receivers really showed their youthfulness. Already without DeVier Posey, the team also played without Corey “Philly” Brown Saturday and they didn’t catch a single pass. They struggled to get open against Miami’s secondary and when they did, they didn’t hold on to the catchable balls Bauserman did throw. Evan Spencer had a drop. Verlon Reed got his hands on two balls that he didn’t haul in. Chris Fields let one get away. Devin Smith almost made a big play and even Jake Stoneburner let a catchable ball bounce off his hand, although it was thrown behind him.
9. So did the linebackers. It wasn’t just the linebackers, a lot of players at a lot of positions missed tackles Saturday, but it was especially noticeable at the most obvious position. Etienne Sabino seemed to do a good job flying around to the football. He finished with eight tackles and Andrew Sweat had nine, but both of them missed a number of opportunities to bring down ball carriers on first contact. Outside of Sabino, there was also a noticeable lack of speed at the linebacker position. It often looked like Sweat and Storm Klein were running in mud as they tried to chase down Lamar Miller or even Jacory Harris.
10. Ben Buchanan is a weapon. One guy who won’t get much publicity after a loss like that is the punter, but Buchanan had one of his best games against Miami. One week after having another punt blocked, Buchanan single-handedly helped Ohio State win the field position battle in the second half. He hit a couple of booming punts Saturday, including a 60-yarder, but the ones that really helped were the three he pinned inside the 20. At one point, he pinned Miami inside the 10, had the play called back for illegal formation and then proceeded to pin them inside the five.
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