The-Ozone Note and Quotebook - UAB Edition
By Tony Gerdeman
You Break It, You Bought It: The Buckeye defense gave up 403 yards and 22 first downs to a UAB offense that ran 80 plays on Saturday. However, the only yard that counts on the scoreboard is the one that reaches the goal line.
Despite a rough outing between the 20-yard lines, the OSU defense did keep the Blazers out of the endzone, and that's apparently what co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers is most concerned about.
"I think we gave up 15 points, that's all I give a shit about," he said after the game, somewhat jokingly.
Colorful language or not, he's right. As long as this defense continues to keep the opposing offense out of the endzone, then they have done their job.
Sometimes, however, watching a bend-but-don't-break defense can be a little like watching how bacon is made – you tend to lose your appetite during the process.
Withers doesn't like that description, but admits that when a team spreads the defense out, that's just how it is.
"I don't think it's a 'bend, don't break' philosophy, but when they spread you from sideline to sideline and they dink and dunk, you've eventually got to say that that's not going to beat you, and it didn't," he said.
"All you've got to do is tackle. We've got to keep improving the tackling."
Tackling the Issue: The poor tackling of the Ohio State defense remained a hot button issue again this week following another lackluster performance in that area.
After working on tackling two days last week, there were still mistakes made, but apparently things are getting better.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"We had better tackling in this game than last game," said defensive back Corey Brown.
"It was an improvement, but there's a lot more improvement to be made."
"We missed some," admitted Withers.
"But any time you play a team and you have to play in space, there's going to be an opportunity to miss some tackles. The key is getting the second and third guy there to the tackle, and that's what we've got to continue to improve."
Obviously, every defense wants to tackle better. Nobody goes an entire game without missing a tackle. The key is to not let those missed tackles build.
"We have to do whatever we can to stop them, and if they get a big play, then the next play is the most important," John Simon said.
"Whenever they put that ball down, that's an opportunity for us to go play football."
Lulled to Sleep: As has been the case all season, the Buckeye offense had a couple of periods of non-productivity. They were scoreless in the first and third quarter, and for most of the fourth quarter as well.
The most frustrating aspect of these lulls is the fact that the offense can seemingly flick a switch and pour on the points like its Happy Hour at times.
The hard part of limiting these lulls is the fact that it's not just one area, and it's not always just the offense's fault.
"My first comment would be that UAB had a good plan, they played hard, so I give them credit for that," said offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
"And then part of it is execution. Part of it is adjusting, and that's a process in a new system with a young quarterback and a new offensive staff and players. That process has got to speed up and we've got to keep moving in that direction.
"Until you watch the film it's hard to say for sure what the number one reason would be. But I would say that it's not one position or one individual."
However, one thing that you don't need to see the film to realize is that this is a brand new offense, with brand new coaches, run by players who ran a completely different offense for the entirety of their careers.
"Certain adjustments you make and certain things that happen out there are all part of the growth process in this offense," Warinner said.
"Some of us guys that have been in the spread know that 'this is what you've gotta do, this is what you've gotta do', but it hasn't really happened in a game and our guys haven't seen it. So it takes a little bit of time, but once they see it and adjust, they do pretty well."
You can't grow without going through a few growing pains along the way, and generally those pains are worth it. As such, Warinner can certainly see a positive future for this Ohio State offense.
"I'm very confident because we have a dynamic quarterback, we have good offensive line, skill players are very good, we have a good coaching staff, so we're all growing together," he said.
"I'm very confident that we have a high ceiling and that we can continue to grow and that great things will come here in the spread. I wouldn't say that I'm happy about today, but I am happy that we're 4-0 in a new system with new players and a young quarterback.
"We're making progress and our kids are engaged and they work hard. They're committed to the system, and it's gonna be good because this can really be dynamic offense with the players that we have."
A Couple of Horses Short of a Full Stable: Jordan Hall enjoyed his second week back by rushing for a career-high 105 yards. After being labeled rusty the week before, and admitting that he should have rushed for upward of 70 yards more than he did against Cal, Hall felt much better about his performance against UAB.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"After last week, I knew that I didn't play as good as I could have played or wanted to play," he said.
"This week, I feel a little bit better, I felt a little more comfortable. I'm seeing some of the cuts that I didn't see last week, so right now I feel alright."
"That was huge," Warinner said of Hall's performance.
"It's nice to have him back. I think there was a little rust last week, I think this week he took another step. I like his progress, so we've got to keep using him. He caught a nice swing pass out of the backfield too, and that was nice.
"He's a multidimensional guy. It's good to have him back and we've got to keep utilizing him for quality carries and yards."
With Carlos Hyde still injured, Rod Smith got a few carries as a reward for his performance in practice last week, including a touchdown. It was a good sight to see according to Hall.
"He's like my brother, my little big brother," Hall laughed.
"Yeah, it's good to see Rod," Warinner said of the redshirt sophomore.
"He's starting to pick it up. He runs hard. I thought he made a couple plays. He's had great energy in practice, so we're really thinking that he can take over for Carlos (Hyde) and being the next guy in until Carlos gets healthy."
Photo by Dan Harker
And when Hyde gets healthy, can Warinner see both he and Hall in the backfield together?
"Yeah, some day," he said.
"Whenever that day comes, that would be pretty nice. But right now we've got to move forward. Hopefully it'll be this week, but we'll just have to see how time heals."
Checks Please: Urban Meyer said last week that they were going to give Braxton Miller the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage, and he ended up doing it quite often on Saturday.
"He did a great job of that," Jack Mewhort said of Miller's new-found freedom.
"That's a sign of maturity. That's great to see him out there really taking over and making the calls, and he did great getting us into the right stuff every time. It was awesome.
"We knew that this team was gonna come in and blitz us a lot. Braxton knew that and he did a great job of checking that stuff for us based on what he saw. It was good to see from him."
"I'd say about 20 times," Miller said, estimating how many times he actually checked out of a play. The vast majority of those turned into positive plays for the Buckeyes.
With the checks being so productive, expect this freedom to continue, which Miller believes will only make the offense tougher to defend.
“I feel a lot better than just calling one play and having no check to go along with it, and then they play a different type of defense and I'm like, 'Oh man, we're stuck in this play.' So I've got the ability to get us out of that situation and make it better."
Now the Real Season Begins: After four up and down non-conference games for the Buckeyes, things are only going to get more difficult on Saturday with the start of conference play.
Traveling to Michigan State will get the Big Ten schedule kicked off with a bang, and the Buckeyes know that they need to shore some things up before they kick off in East Lansing.
Photo by Dan Harker
"I know we're ready," said receiver Corey Brown.
"I play with these guys everyday. I know as a team we're ready, and I know how we're going to approach this week, especially with the way some of the guys were talking in the locker room. So this week when we come out to practice on Tuesday, we're going to have a whole different mindset."
"The Big Ten Conference is very physical, and we're gonna have to match that physicality," said Simon.
"I think we've got a tough group of guys on the defensive side of the ball. We're gonna have to have a good week in practice and make sure we're ready for Saturday."
This week's practices will set the tone for the Buckeyes, but ultimately it will come down to how they play on Saturday. A bad week of practice, however, will doom them before they even get on the bus.
"We know that we can't come out and play like this," said Jordan Hall.
"We know we can't do that. Michigan State, they're a tough team. We know that we've got to have a good week of practice. You win the game during the practice week."
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