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Last updated: 11/14/2011 11:39 AM
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Football
The-Ozone Note and Quotebook -- Purdue Edition
By Tony Gerdeman

Slowly, But Not Surely: For the second time in as many games the Buckeyes stumbled out of the gate and found themselves in a 10-0 deficit to a team that they were favored to beat. Without an offense to make those deficits go away quickly, and a defense that starts slowly, Ohio State's formula for success has been extremely lacking of late.

Whose fault is that?

“Our coaches did a good job of preparing us for what they were going to do,” said safety C.J. Barnett.

“We were pretty prepared. It's just a problem with us of starting fast. Our coaches are preaching that a lot and we continue not to start fast. It's on us. There has to be leaders on the defense. Myself and others have to lead the defense. Get more excited. Come out swinging out of the gate instead of just being passive.”

Starting slow at home is one thing, but starting slow on the road is the main ingredient in a loss. It can't happen, and when it does, the results should never be a surprise.

Jordan Hall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

“When you come in here you've got to be ready to play from the jump,” running back Jordan Hall said.

“They've been playing good in the first quarter for the past couple of games. We didn't come out fast enough, and I think that hurt us. The games we start fast we end up winning. The games we don't start fast end up like this.”

“I think they just came out fast,” said safety Christian Bryant.

“We knew they were going to come out fast because they play well at home and they had a 92 to 3 ratio in the first quarter against their opponents at home. We knew they were going to come out fast. I just think we could’ve had a little more tempo coming out of the gate.”

If the players were prepared and they knew that Purdue was going to come out firing, what went wrong?

“We just weren't playing to our potential, me included,” said Tyler Moeller.

“We just weren't playing our game. We gathered ourselves during half time and went out there and played a lot better the second half. You can't win ball games like that. You have to start and you have to finish strong, and that's something we didn't do today.”

“I just don't think a lot of us were on the same page,” said center Mike Brewster, offering another explanation.

“Things like that that can hurt you. Three and outs aren't good. The defense is tired and that's on us.”

Running Into a Wall: The Buckeyes struggled to run the ball with any consistency against Purdue all game long. While they managed to put up a respectable 163 yards on the ground, they only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Boom Herron, who came in averaging 138.3 yards rushing per game, was held to just 62 against Purdue.

Mike Brewster survey's the defense before snapping the football to Branxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Mike Brewster

There was just nowhere to run for the Ohio State ball carriers. And when they did manage to find a hole, it was closed quickly. It was simply a matter of math—Purdue had too many guys to block. They had no respect or worry for the Buckeye passing game and sold completely out to stop the run. It worked.

“They definitely were crowding the box,” said Brewster.

“I kind of expected that [chuckle]. But they did a good job of keeping an extra guy down and we didn't have enough. We just couldn't get anything going really.

“I'm sure we can always block better, but there does come a point when they're bringing a safety down and there's just going to be one too many guys. I'll have to look at the film, but it just felt like there was always an extra guy hanging around today.”

The Buckeyes had been running well on opponents of late, but they were finally figured out on Saturday, and apparently all it took was one extra guy.

Tackling, the Issue: During Purdue's final scoring drive late in the second quarter, there was a stretch of plays that saw Buckeye after Buckeye miss tackles. They weren't near misses, either. They were bad misses. They were hopelessly flailing.

C. J. Barnett
Photo by Jim Davidson
C. J. Barnett

Prior to this season, such a poor tackling effort would not have been believed, but seeing the tackling that the Buckeyes have displayed this year, it was just another case in point.

The Ohio State defense used to thrive on one on one tackling. That appears to be gone. Now it's simply 'hold on and hope for somebody else to help you'.

“They harp on tackling,” said Barnett of his coaches.

“It's not their fault, they make it a point of emphasis during practice. We've just got to come out here and execute. Play low and wrap up.

“You always got to fly around. The big thing is that what we have to do is stay on our feet, not dive off of our feet to make tackles. Hold them up and let other guys run to the ball.”

If it's not coaching, then what is it? Is it lack of execution? Inattention to detail? Talent?

“I think we're just a little bit over-aggressive”, Barnett said. “We go for kill shots a lot. Not being fundamentally sound.”

“We practice on it, they preach it to us, it's on us, it's on me,” said Moeller. “I missed a couple of tackles today and a couple of other guys did too. You can't do that if we want to win the ball game.”

Over Underwood?

Throughout the vast majority of the first half\ the Buckeyes had trouble containing the left side of the Purdue defensive line. Braxton Miller was sacked three times and most of those sacks came from freshman right tackle Antonio Underwood's side.

Not only was the right side of the line constantly collapsing, but it also provided no running room for the Ohio State running backs.

Corey Linsley (71) blocks for Braxton Miller in the second half against Purdue.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Corey Linsley

Late in the first half, the offensive line was moved around. Right guard Jack Mewhort slid out to right tackle and Corey Linsley came in to play right guard.

The move was obviously a good one.
Ohio State trailed 17-7 when the move was made, and outscored Purdue 16-9 the rest of the way. That total doesn't even include the missed field goal attempt for the Buckeyes to end the first half.

The offense was clearly better with this lineup, and it makes you wonder how much different the game would have been with four quarters of it instead of just two.

“I felt like once Jack was at right tackle things were going a little more smoother,” said Brewster. “I wish maybe we could have seen what would have happened in the first half like that.”

After the Indiana game Underwood received deserved praise for his brief stint as the team's right tackle following J.B. Shugarts' injury. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said they would have to evaluate what they wanted from their right tackle in determining who they would ultimately go with.

Bollman prefers that his offensive linemen be able to play multiple spots for just such an occasion, unfortunately for this occasion, the Ohio State coaches chose poorly.

What was the difference when Mewhort slid over and Linsley came into the game?

“I think it was just that you've got five guys out there that all know what's going on,” explained Brewster.

“Antonio's a young guy, he'll get better, but it's hard to play sometimes when you're thinking a lot and not really sure. I thought it was a good switch for the offense.”

With Mewhort in the lineup, the Buckeyes were finally able to move the ball a bit. Not only did this provide confidence for the offense, but it also gave the defense some much needed rest. The move was a game-changer, but it just didn't happen soon enough.

Missing the Point

Having tied the game up at 20-20 with just 55 seconds remaining on a desperation pass from Braxton Miller to Jordan Hall on fourth down, the only thing standing between the Buckeyes and their first lead of the game was an extra point from kicker Drew Basil.

Unfortunately for Ohio State, the kick didn't get high enough and was blocked by Bruce Gaston's mitt, falling well short of the crossbar.

The hand of Purdue's Bruce Gaston rises up out of the scrum to block the low PAT attempt by Drew Basil.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Point after is blocked.

It was a moment of disbelief that many Buckeye players won't be over any time soon.

“It stinks,” said Brewster.

“It comes down to an extra point—maybe other things as well, we can't just say that. These guys have been through a lot. Nobody really understands the stress and pain and all of the stuff we've been through. That's not an excuse. I'm proud of how we fought back today at the end. We'll just continue to fight.

“It's just something that we can't let happen. That's poor on our part. It stinks. No one's going to point a finger at anybody. There's plenty of different opportunities during the game when we could have made things happen.”

At its simplest, the missed extra point cost the Buckeyes a chance to win the game in regulation. but looking deeper, that wasn't the only opportunity to seal the game shut.

“You can’t blame that [the loss] on the extra point,” said freshman defensive lineman Michael Bennett, speaking well beyond his years.

“It wouldn’t have been down to an extra point if they didn’t score those 20 points before. There are plays throughout the entire game that decided the game. You can’t put it on the extra point or the goal line stand. The whole game is where we need to just tighten up.”

When the blocked extra point came, however, the Buckeyes had to shift their mindsets instantly, because the game was no longer over.

“You always expect to make the field goal and the extra point,” said Bennett.

“It doesn’t usually cross your mind that’s it’s going to get blocked unless you’re the one trying to block it. When it was blocked we were like, ‘Alright well we can still win this. It’ll go into overtime and then it’s our game.'’’

The Rollercoaster Ride from Hell

It's never a surprise to see a team who thinks they just won a game come crashing back to earth when they realize there is still more game to play. Emotions are released, set loose like balloons, and players scramble to try and gather them all back up in order to release them again.

Tyler Moeller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tyler Moeller

It's just not possible. Once they're out, they're out. That's what happened to the Buckeyes on Saturday when the extra point was blocked. To make matters worse, their emotional release was then compounded by actually losing a game that they thought they had just won.

“There was a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Moeller.

“It's disappointing. We were excited at that point of the game and we were ready to get out there and win the game. When you don't get what you want you're disappointed, especially in a game like this. The season comes to an end and everything we wanted to achieve. It's a heartbreaker.”

“It’s disappointing,” Bennett said.

“I really feel bad for the seniors, but I think that they’re going to make the best of it and just finish the season strong and whatever happens happens with the Big Ten title. If we get a chance we’ll definitely make the most of it, but if we don’t then it’s unfortunate for the rest of the teams on our schedule.”

“It is kind of disappointing because the coaches were preaching all day, all week to us what happened two years ago here,” Bryant said. “We were just trying to come in and get this win.”

The loss was only 'kind of disappointing'?

A New Day Brings About New Goals

If the Buckeyes had won out, they would have played in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis next month. Instead, they lost, and with that loss, any hopes of a Big Ten championship were lost as well.

Not having a conference championship to play for is something that no current Buckeye has ever had to deal with. Their goals have never had to be so altered as to not include a Big Ten Championship. This is virgin ground for these Ohio State football players, and now they need to find something new to play for.

“You have to win the rest of them,” Mewhort said.

Jack Mewhort paves the way for Braxton Miller.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jack Mewhort

“That’s our mentality. We’re not going to work any less or give any less effort. It’s still the same for us. We have the same goals and that’s to win the rest of our games.

“I wouldn’t want to be around any other group of guys in the country. I love these guys and I love the way we work. I love the intensity we have day in and day out. We’ve been through a lot and we’re going to see a lot more. Nothing’s going to change for us. We’re going to keep playing hard day in and day out. Practice hard, lift hard, study hard. That’s how it is here.

“We have nowhere to go but up. It’s time to get better. We still have two Big Ten games we have to win.”

“It's important,” Brewster said of the Buckeyes' remaining schedule.

“I don't want to end my career with a loss at home. It would be nice to send it out on a good note. We've got two more games. We've got Senior Day and we've gotta beat Michigan.”

Despite all of the turmoil and upheaval, the thought of beating Michigan acts like the north star for these Buckeyes. When they lose their way, they can always find it again by locating that glowing fixed point in the sky.

Beat Michigan.

It's always there to guide you home.

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