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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 10/31/2011 1:42 PM
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Football
The-Ozone Note and Quotebook
By John Porentas

Making the Call: You know how the last couple of minutes of the Wisconsin game played out, but for those that were actually involved in the game, there were a lot of decisions that got made as the clock ticked down that lead to the dramatic finish.

Devin Smith makes the catch for the game-winning score.
Photo by Dan Harker
Devin Smith

One of the biggest calls of the game came on what turned out to be the play that resulted in the winning score. After Jordan Hall returned the ball to midfield, most of the players and coaches were thinking field goal to tie the game, not touchdown.

"I'm not going to deny it. I was on the sideline pouting, kind of angry, because I felt like we had the game in control and we gave up big plays," said defensive back Travis Howard.

"The whole time I was on the sideline and they were on the field I was just praying, hoping they would get in field goal range but luckily Braxton made a great throw scrambling outside the pocket and it was a great catch."

"When Jordan ran that thing out to about midfield, I felt really good about the chances of getting a field goal, I really did," said offensive coordinator Jim Bollman.

"With the combination of him (Miller) dropping off to the backs and and him scrambling himself, he's still a threat running the ball when he's back there to pass it."

As things unfolded and the Buckeyes moved closer to the end zone with time remaining on the clock, Bollman and the offensive staff began to think bigger, they began to think touchdown. They ran that idea past Head Coach Luke Fickell who made the call on that notion.

"We talked with Luke and said 'Do you want us to take a shot?' and he said 'Sure, if you think it's a situation where you think you have a chance,' and that's when we called that play," said Bollman.

They called for the pass play, and once they did, it was all up to Braxton Miller and the OSU offense. Out on the field, one more call got made in the OSU huddle as Miller told the offensive line what he needed out of them to have a chance.

“He was just saying give me time," said senior center Mike Brewster.

"He came up to me and said, ‘Just get the guys to give me time,’ and I thought we did and he just made a play.”

Great call.

Highs and Lows: What sticks in everyone's memory today is the euphoria that followed the final touchdown of the game and the victory when the defense got the final stop on Wisconsin. What is to a large part forgotten is just how low things were when Wisconsin scored their last touchdown. No one felt worse at that time than the members of the Ohio State defense.

"The lowest low," said linebacker Andrew Sweat to describe his feeling after Wisconsin's final score.

"We let up one touchdown, and then another, and I felt so bad because the defense let down the team."

"I was really emotional," added Travis Howard.

"I was just praying that our offense got in field goal position or just score a touchdown. I was on the sideline praying, and then luckily Braxton comes with this amazing play and throws it for a touchdown."

Jake Stoneburner celebrates the high of victory.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jake Stoneburner

Everybody saw the play, but the sense of relief was actually short-lived when the officials decide to take the play under video review.

"“Crazy!" said fullback Zach Boren.

"I didn't even know what they were replaying because I knew Devin had caught the ball, and I was like, 'What are they replaying?' And then when I found out they were seeing if Braxton had crossed the line or not, then it's just a waiting game."

“During the review, I'm not gonna lie, I was on my knees praying like, 'C'mon God, this is what we need. This is what we need,' said Howard.

Center Mike Brewster was almost sure the replay was going to go against the Buckeyes.

“At first I was like man I think he’s across the line. I saw the refs talking and I was like, ‘Please after all this please don’t let him be across the line,’" Brewster said.

After what had to seem like a lifetime the replay officials confirmed the touchdown.

"Once they said it was a touchdown, we just erupted," said Boren.

The Buckeyes were beside themselves with joy, and so were their fans. Ironically, the guy who actually threw the pass was happy, but was being careful.

“I just had to keep myself protected, I didn’t wanna get hurt throughout the process but I was happy,” said quarterback Braxton Miller

Those final minutes of play, and the highs and lows they produced, mirrored almost exactly the highs and lows of this year's football season, beginning with the low of the collapse at Nebraska and ending with the euphoria of the win over the Badgers.

"It's night and day," said Sweat contrasting how he felt after those two games.

"That's the lowest low and this is the highest high. It's crazy. I've never been a part of something like that at Nebraska, and it's just the opposite spectrum, but it feels awesome."

Brewster summed up his feelings as he finally left the field in victory.

“It was amazing. It’s about time we caught a break because I’ll tell you what, these guys have fought like hell for weeks and things haven’t been so great at times but we haven’t given up and it just kind of sums it up right there. We got hit in the stomach again at the end of the game but we just kept fighting and good things happened.”

Youngsters Getting Better. It always sounds like coach-speak when you hear it, but when you see it happen you understand the wisdom of it. Players and teams either get better or get worse. When they get better, you can see the incremental improvement each week, and the results are usually good. That is particularly true for a young team like this year's edition of the Buckeyes.

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

The Buckeyes are playing with a freshman quarterback this season as well as a very young receiver corps. To a large degree, how much that group improves in the passing game as the season progresses will determine how much the offense and overall team improves as well.

"You guys will never believe me but as I've told you, we've been getting better at that aspect of the game," said Jim Bollman after the Wisconsin game.

"I think we threw 12 passes, so we're improving,. Those guys have been working at that."

The maturation process that leads to better play can sometimes be painful as it occurs. For the Buckeyes this year, the pain of that process was magnified by the suspensions of some key veterans on the offense. Now, however, the investment in the youngsters is beginning to pay off, and the veterans are coming back at the right time.

"As players continue to get games under their belt you would expect them to continue to improve. Right about that time when some of that was happening Mike Adams comes back, then Boom comes back, and that adds to the outfit," said Bollman.

Of all those players, there is no doubt that Braxton Miller's improvement as a passer is the biggest key to improvement in the Buckeyes this year. His classmate, receiver Devin Smith, says he can see that process taking place.

“In practice he tries to make sure he gets the pass off so that we can get the timing stuff down." said Smith.

"But earlier in the season when he first got the start and was playing, once he felt pressure or felt that he needed to run, he ran."

Improvement in the decision making process is what made the game-winning score against Wisconsin possible.

"Tonight he ran the ball and kept his eyes down field and launched the ball and made a play," said Smith referring to the game winning play.

Props to Bielma: The Badgers have taken consecutive heart-rending defeats this season, first at the hands of MSU and then the Buckeyes. A season that was full of high hopes just two weeks ago has been relegated to just average.

It would have been easy, and maybe natural, for Bielma to be bitter in his post game remarks, but that didn't happen. He didn't make excuses, but he didn't throw his players under the bus either.

"Obviously another heart-breaking loss. The one point I made to our kids in the locker room was we do so many positive things, so many guys doing so many good things. To beat a quality opponent on the road at night in an environment like this, it's every play matters," said Bielma.

"The encouraging thing is our kids never quit. I've never had to get on this group about anything from that standpoint, and I don't think that will change."

Bielma was understandingly disappointed, but didn't let that stop him from praising the people who had disappointed him, the Buckeyes. First, he said this about the OSU defense.

"Ohio State is pretty good. They were defeating some blocks and it was tough to get the edge on them I thought all day. We tried to get some plays going inside and outside, they're very, very good. They're a solid football team defensively."

Then he praised OSU's running game.

"Obviously we don't want him to have success but Herron is a good running back. You could see when he came in the game against Illinois how he kind of changed things, the dynamic of what they could do offensively. He broke free on two big runs. You could definitely see his ability to have power but also his ability to burst out of there and make big plays. I give a lot of credit to Ohio State. They came in with a great game plan and were able to execute. "

Out-Badgering Bucky: Wisconsin has the reputation of being a big, tough, physical football team that will bludgeon the opposition into submission with a powerful running game and stout defense. Last year in Wisconsin's win over OSU, they used that very formula to great success. This year, however, the Buckeyes appeared to be the more physical team, especially on the defensive side of the ball where OSU was able to take away much of the Wisconsin running game by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.

"We've played them an awful lot of years since I've been here, and we've been beat up and they've run some power and pounded us a little bit maybe like last year and a couple of years ago up there they pounded us into the boundary a little bit, so yeah, it's a good feeling obviously," said OSU defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Jim Heacock.

"I'm going to have to watch the tape tomorrow but I think we got after them like we wanted to," said defensive lineman Jon Simon.

"I think we were physical and battled them, and they battled us back. We knew it was going to be fight the whole game but I think we came out on top."

Over on the offensive side of the ball the Buckeyeas were able to turn the tables on the Badgers and run the football for big time yardage.

Physical line play opened holes for OSU runners against the Badgers.
Photo by Jim Davidson

"We definitely felt like coming into this game we could run the ball.," said fullback Zach Boren.

"Our offensive line is a physical bunch and I think it showed tonight with how many yards we ran for. We thought we could definitely run the ball and that's what we've been best at all year."

"It was a heavyweight bout out there with Ohio State and Wisconsin. The two most physical teams in the Big Ten. It was a great ball game out there..”

Boren said that revenge for last year's defeat was not discussed, but that thought was lurking, at least for him.

“I would lie to you if I said I didn't have that feeling this week from last year. Last year was one of the worst feelings ever. They rushed the field on us. They were spitting on us. Coming into this game, we didn't really look at last year, but it was hard not to think about it. But then after the game, it just sinks in and you're like, 'Yes, we finally did it.'”

"We took a lot away from last year's game," added Andrew Sweat.

"They gashed us on the run and set up play-action passes. We knew we had to make them one dimensional because Russell Wilson and Montee Ball and the offensive line are just too good. Fortunately we were able to keep them in check rushing wise.”

Costly Breakdown: The OSU defense played brilliantly for about three and two thirds quarters, but in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter two mistakes in pass coverage cost them two touchdowns, and nearly cost the Buckeyes the game.

"Our safety was kind of squeezed and covered number two and left number one open, so they hit down the seam and it was wide open," explained Travis Howard.

" Basically it's the number one receiver and the number two receiver - the slot receiver - both of them run go routes and we were in cover two technique so he's supposed to split one and two, but instead he hung on two too long and one was able to sneak out and it was wide open.

Using the Bye: I am informed that a "bye" occurs only in a tournament, and what the Buckeyes had on their schedule last week is properly called an open week, not a bye week. Whatever you call it, the Buckeyes were able to use it to their advantage and get ready for the Badgers.

"Luke did a great job last week," said offensive coordinator Jim Bollman.

"He decided to make things much shorter than normal, much crisper than normal, we went about an hour and 15 or 20 minutes of pretty good go, but it was very short and very crisp.

"The guys did a great job of concentrating and doing their work, got a little bit ahead of the ball game game plan wise. That did help us to have that bye week to get ready for these guys. I think it was a very good plan and I think the guys did a very good job executing it."

That is a change from the way Jim Tressel handled bye, or if you prefer, open weeks. Whatever you call it, the way it was handled seemed to suit the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball.

"I don't think we did anything special other than I think our guys prepared real hard," said Jim Heacock of the two weeks of preparation for Wisconsin.

"We had a couple of weeks and I think they prepared hard. I think our defensive line prepared hard, the linebackers prepared hard, the back end, I think everybody went into this game very focused. I think they were focused for two solid weeks. I think they had a mission in mind and they really went out and competed."

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