Timing of Suspensions Affected Buckeyes

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Last updated: 09/12/2011 6:21 PM

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Football
Timing of Suspensions Affected Bucks
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It has been a grueling 10 months for the Ohio State football program.

After an off-season of twists and turns that would have left Alfred Hitchcock guessing, football was supposed to be the therapy these Buckeyes needed.

And it has been, for some of them at least.

Ohio State is 2-0 under first-time head coach Luke Fickell, and the Buckeyes looked great on both sides of the ball in their dismantling of Akron in week one. They weren’t as sharp in their week-two victory over Toledo, needing a fourth-down stop at their own 16-yard line to avoid the upset.

The Rockets appear to be a much better football team than anyone was giving them credit for, especially the odds makers, who had them as 18-point underdogs Saturday.

Or maybe that had something to do with Ohio State.

Travis Howard
Photo by Jim Davidson
Travis Howard

The Buckeyes did not seem to have the same energy as they did in week one, especially after finding out Friday that they would be without three key players—Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown—for the second straight game.

“It really sucks with a couple guys being suspended and injuries and stuff,” sophomore receiver Chris Fields said.

“It's really bad on the team. When we get everybody back 100 percent, we're going to be a good squad.”

So where does that leave them now?

The Buckeyes entered the 2011 season knowing they would have to forge through the first five weeks of the season without four of their key veterans, not to mention a three-year starter at quarterback who left for the NFL over the summer.

Jordan Hall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

“We just have to battle adversity,” said Fields, who provided the spark Saturday with his 69-yard punt return for a touchdown.

“We came in knowing that we were going to have adversities. We've got turn around and not think of them. You've got to keep moving.”

They did a good job of that in week one, even after the University waited until Thursday to announced it had suspended Hall, Howard and Brown for the season-opener. Two of them—Hall and Howard—were expected to be starters and Brown was in the two-deep at safety. 

“Coach Fickell said something when it happened to us but you can't let that affect you,” senior Tyler Moeller said.

“It's the next guy up, that's what we always say.”

That phrase—next guy up—has been Ohio State’s rallying cry this season. It has been their only sanity in a seemingly insane world where players can practice all week only to find out on Friday that they won’t be allowed to participate in the game.

“It's tough because Jordan had a really good week in practice,” senior right tackle J.B. Shugarts said.

“On defense I don't really know. I know Travis is a starter and all that. Special teams, it might have hurt that a little bit too.”

Along with being the team’s starting running back—at least while Boom Herron serves his suspension—Hall is also the team’s primary kick and punt returner. Corey Brown was expected to contribute on the coverage teams and Howard was supposed to be the team’s lockdown corner after they lost three-fourths of their starting secondary from last season.

“Those guys are great players, but what we thrive on is  ‘Next man up,’”  linebacker Etienne Sabino said, as if reciting his lines.

“We have a lot of guys who can play. While those guys are great players, we have other guys who can step up.”

Sabino was a high school teammate of Howard’s at Dr. Krop in Miami. The Buckeyes are getting ready to play the Hurricanes down in their hometown this week, but the suspended players have no idea whether they will be allowed to make the trip.

“I can only imagine,” Sabino said, shaking his head.

“I think it's tough for him to miss this game. I think it's tough for all our guys to miss all these games.”

Jordan Hall Tweeted Sunday that he is “prepared for the worst” but still “praying for the best.” Prayer is about all these guys have to fall back on right now.

Certainly they made mistakes when they accepted $200 cash for attending a charity event in Cleveland, but not knowing when they will be allowed to step on the field has been a most agonizing punishment.

“We’re a family, and we always pick each other up,” Sabino said.

“People might say it all the time, but it takes being in a family to really understand it. We just look out after each other like brothers and we're going to help anybody get through any adversity, whatever we need to do to get through anything.”

At least they have each other.

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