10 Things We Learned from Historic Letdown
By Brandon Castel
LINCOLN, Neb. — This one was tough to handle, even after fans had initially resigned themselves to the fact Ohio State was probably going to lose.
With how good they looked in the first half, it was almost tragic to watch the Buckeyes find a way to give this game to Nebraska—a team that had no business getting a victory Saturday night.
We take a look at the 10 Things We Learned from OSU’s 34-27 loss at Memorial Stadium.
1. Momentum is a hell of a drug. How many times during this game did you say to yourself, or someone else watching nearby, “this thing is over with one or two more first downs?” For 35 minutes, this game was as one-sided as any in recent history. It was equally as one-sided in the opposite directions for the final 25 minutes. One fumble should not cost a team a 27-6 lead. That is called a meltdown, but the change in momentum really was palpable Saturday, especially after Nebraska turned Braxton Miller’s fumble into a touchdown. All of a sudden the crowd Ohio State hard worked so hard to silence was alive, and there is little question that it had an impact on the outcome of the game.
2. Braxton Miller had better find a way stay healthy. Watching Braxton Miller lead the offense up and down the field in the first half was reminder of all the once was great in Columbus. After being yanked late in the game last week against Michigan State, Miller looked like a new and improved version of himself out there against Nebraska. He was running, he was passing and he was picking up third downs all over the place. It was a lot of fun, while it lasted. This could be the start of something fun. This could be the beginning of another special time in Ohio State history, or it could be a tease, a glimpse at something the fans could have but never will because Miller can’t manage to stay on the field long enough to be truly great. Without him Saturday, the Buckeyes managed just 31 yards of offense.
3. Shame on the coaches for not thinking ahead. The fact Joe Bauserman’s lame duck performance was Ohio State’s only backup plan for Miller if he gets hurt is a complete testament to the cluelessness of this coaching staff. The freshman quarterback has a history of injury issues and has a propensity for throwing his body around with little regard for his health. Furthermore, they were the ones that put together a game plan that featured Miller as a runner as much as a passer. If they couldn’t comprehend that he might get hurt, then it probably explains a lot about why they are 3-3 right now.
4. There is a reason Guiton was warming up. It only took them six games too long, but the OSU coaches finally realized they couldn’t win with Joe Bauserman. It is a harsh, cold reality, but an obvious one to anyone that has watched a single quarter of football since the opener against Akron. The Zips might be the only team in the country that can make Bauserman look like a Division I quarterback. It didn’t seem possible, but somehow Bauserman managed to look worse than he had against Miami (Fla.) a few weeks back. He has completely lost any confidence he once had, and there is no reason to believe any of his teammates have much confidence in him either. How could they? The guy can’t compete a pass. His only one in 10 tries Saturday was a sliding catch by Philly Brown. Other than that, he was 0-for-9 with a pick and about five balls thrown into the stands. He somehow managed to make a 14-point lead look like a 14-point deficit. Time to move on. Ohio State can do better, they should do better, and fans should demand better.
5. Philly Brown is a difference-maker. For the first time five games, the Buckeyes had a playmaking wide receiver on the field Saturday night. He finished with three catches for 61 yards in his return from an ankle injury, but more importantly, Philly Brown just looked like a guy who defenses need to pay attention to. He can turn a short completion into a big gain, and we also saw how he can stretch the field vertically. Brown had a step on both his defenders late in the game, but Bauserman underthrew him by a yard, which happened to be the outstretched arms of defensive back Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
6. Mike Adams also provided a big boost. We kept hearing at the start of the year how this offensive line had a chance to be one of the best in the last 10-12 years. Now we know why. The return of Mike Adams has allowed the Buckeyes to substitute their best offensive lineman at the most critical position while also upgrading two other spots. Adams played lights out in his return from a five-game suspension, locking up defensive end Carmon Meredith all night. J.B. Shugarts also did a pretty good job against Jared Crick on the other side (when he wasn’t false starting), but the return of Adams also upgraded OSU’s two guard spots. Andrew Norwell’s move to left guard gives the Buckeyes two starting left tackles on that side of the line and Jack Mewhort is bit of a upgrade from their other options on the right side of the line. And that was their first game playing together with this new look.
7. This coaching staff can’t get out of its own way. They were so close to turning the corner Saturday and then they reminded us of who they really are at heart. The only reason the Buckeyes came out with all that fancy shmancy offense in the first half was the fact that absolutely nothing they like to do was working. As soon as they got the lead, however, they went right back to the junk they were trying to force-feed us before. It was like Jim Bollman showed us a glimpse of what this team could look like and then took it away and punished us for looking. There is a reason Oklahoma beat Texas 55-17 Saturday, and it is not because they went into a shell as soon as they got a lead on their archrivals.
8. Tresselball still doesn’t work without Tressel. Frustrating as it was, Jim Tressel was a master at milking out a win—and almost certainly would have gotten out of Lincoln with one this weekend. But Tressel is no longer around, and this was yet another example of how his formula for success only works when mixed with a strong does of Jim Tressel. Does anyone think Tressel would have settled for a punt when a field goal would have put his team up by two scores? Of course not! Instead of passing on 2nd and 3rd down, Tressel would have pounded the ball up the middle for 6-7 yards and set his kicker up for a much more makeable 42-yard field goal. There is a HUGE difference between seven and 10 points at that stage of the game. That’s something it takes years to perfect, but only one game to screw up. Maybe if Fickell really did things his way with a staff he had picked, things might work a lot better. Right now, he’s trying to do things his way with a staff that only knows how to do things Tressel’s way. It’s a bad combination.
9. The defense finally broke. A lot of the blame for this loss is going to go to Miller for his fumble or Bauserman for whatever he calls that showing, but it’s time for the OSU defense to shoulder some of the blame. This team blew a 21-point lead in the second half, and only one of those scores was the direct result of an offensive turnover. After looking poised and disciplined in the first half, the defense started to come apart in the second half. Nebraska could sense it and they optioned the Buckeyes right into oblivion. This OSU defense is young, but that’s not the only reason they lost Saturday’s game. This defense is also slow, at least in the front seven. Unlike great Silver Bullet defenses of the past, this team has been gashed on the outside runs this season and when one guy misses a tackle, it’s off to the races. It also doesn’t help when a sophomore safety gives up two touchdowns the way Christian Bryant did.
10. Better times are ahead, we think. All that being said, there is actually a lot of reason to be optimistic following this game. There’s a chance the coaches will just go back to their archaic way of thinking and the offense will struggle the rest of the way. There is also a chance that what we saw in the first half is only a glimpse of what this team will look like, especially when they get Boom Herron back next week.
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