View from Row Two
By John Porentas
The view from Row Two was great this week. The sun broke through the clouds just before kickoff giving us a panoramic view of a sun-drenched Ohio Stadium, but our story this week starts before the game.
In case you didn't already know, OSU provides food for the media at most sporting events.
For the second-straight week kickoff was at noon. I rode over to the game with Tony Gerdeman. We arrived right around 9:30, which for most people is a little too early to start eating stadium food. To that I say pshaw!, because in their infinite wisdom the Department of Athletics had scrambled eggs on hand.
There's not many better ways to start your sports reporting day on college football than a big helping of scrambled eggs in the press box, because these eggs instantaneously take you back to your college days.
These are those dorm-food kind of eggs that almost defy description. You know the kind. They come in a big pan and you can chunk off huge hunks of eggs because the eggs haven't really been scrambled, but rather baked in a pan to form a huge loaf of cooked, mixed eggs.
The eggs immediately put you in a nostalgic mood, but it's the side dishes that really make this a game-day delicacy. You wouldn't think that cole slaw, macaroni salad, pretzels and potato chips would work with scrambled eggs, but somehow in the OSU press box it's just a great way to start the day. There is nothing like that combination of eggs, pasta, mayonnaise and cabbage to put you in the mood for football. To top it off, there is always a good supply of stadium hot dogs on hand.
Tony dove right in and did a "Death by Cholesterol Special," the scrambled eggs with a good old fashion stadium hot dog on the side. I think he also had some cole slaw, or maybe it was macaroni salad. I, however, had a different strategy.
OSU has a deal with City Barbeque to provide barbeque sandwiches in the press box to those who want them. That stuff isn't usually available early, but some time after the eggs arrive. Some weeks it's pulled pork with a side of some sort, others it's brisket with a side. I waited to see what it was this week, hoping beyond hope it was my very favorite, the brisket.
It was, and the side dish was spicy baked beans with huge chunks brisket in them. The minute I saw the brisket I got a plate, chunked out a big hunk of eggs, then added enough cole slaw and macaroni salad so the eggs, slaw and macaroni covered about half the plate.
I then headed over to the table where they were serving the City Barbeque. The guy asked me if I wanted a sandwich. I declined and asked him to just put some brisket on the plate. He did, then he looked at me, and I just stared back at him. We stood there, eyes locked, staring for what was probably just a few seconds but seemed like forever. I then looked down at the plate, and so did the City Barbeque guy. It hit him immediately. The plate wasn't full, so he kept adding brisket until none of the plate was left showing. I skipped the beans, but left a happy man. Egg chunks and brisket, what a way to start the day. Thank you Ohio State press box.
On to Football
Quarterback - Braxton Miller was once again brilliant with his feet, and once again something less than stellar in the passing game. He had some good throws, but also had some plays that left you wondering. His worst play of the day was undoubtedly his flat-footed throw that resulted in an interception. I also cringed on the play that he held the ball forever without scrambling and took a sack as a result. Despite those deficiencies in the passing game, Miller was still the best player on the field for either team.
Running Backs: Carlos Hyde was OK until he got hurt, though I didn't think he was quite as effective this week as he was last week. He seemed just a step slow to the hole at times, but still looked like a good enough back to win with. Once Hyde got hurt it was Zach Boren and Bri'onte Dunn for the most part. Boren definitely brought the thunder, but doesn't bring much of a break away threat. Dunn, however, looks like a different kind of deal. He looks both quicker and faster than Hyde, but doesn't bring the power and tackle-breaking ability yet. Overall though, I was impressed with Dunn and his quickness. He looks like a good fit for this offense, but he's still a bit green. Only time can change that.
Receivers: There were no spectacular plays this week, but the receivers were solid. I don't remember any bad drops and there seemed to be open receivers most of the day. They caught everything they should have but what was missing was a big play. Maybe that's because there are only so-many big plays to go around in any one game, and Miller hogged them all in the running game.
Offensive line: The offensive line was solid. Not spectacular, but they didn't stink either. The protection in the passing game was adequate. Blocking in the running game was also acceptable. There were, however, a couple of penalties that hobbled the offense, and the failure on fourth and one near midfield in the first quarter probably has to laid at the feet of the offensive line. That same line also helped the Buckeyes convert a fourth down near the 50 later in the game.
Overall offense: There were a lot of mistakes in the form of penalties and turnovers. That is bothersome in the second game of the season. There are a lot of people wondering if OSU is too dependent on Braxton Miller. I'm not among them, and I'm not surprised that Meyer has exploited Miller.
Meyer has said all along that the point of his offense is to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers, and right now the best playmaker the Buckeyes have is Miller. What is troublesome is that with Hyde down, the OSU offense doesn't have someone to get that tough yard that at team needs from time to time in a game, and that job too has fallen to Miller.
Ideally, Meyer will have more-than one playmaker, and that will make it tough on offenses. He doesn't right now, he has just Miller, and he'll continue to use him often until someone else emerges as a playmaker. Then he'll use them both, and that will take some of the pressure off Miller. If he finds a third one, he'll use all three, and that will take even more pressure off Miller. Until then, it will be Miller as both the playmaker and short yardage guy. That's not ideal, but that's the way it is.
Defensive line: The defensive line continues to fail to live up to its preseason hype, but I'm beginning to wonder if its the players or the defensive coaching staff and scheme. Meyer was vocal in the post game about his displeasure with amount of pressure the OSU defense is getting on quarterbacks. He was also pretty plain that he would be addressing that issue with the defensive coaching staff, and that he wanted answers. This will probably not be a real comfortable week for Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel.
Linebackers: The linebacking continues solid. UCF rushed for 103 total net yards. Nearly half of those yards came on one play when Storm Johnson went 48 yards around right end early in the second half. With the exception of that play, OSU controlled what is a pretty fair running game. Much of the credit for that goes to the linebackers.
Defensive backs: The corners continue to impress, particularly Travis Howard. The player who really stood out against UCF however was Ohrian Johnson at the star position. He had a tipped ball that resulted in an interception as well as an interception of his own. Both plays thwarted long drives by UCF. UCF completed a couple of balls in the second half to receivers who got behind the OSU safeties. That is still troublesome.
Tackling: The tackling remained good, though there were one or two plays on which determined UCF runners were able to move the pile for significant yardage. That always looks bad when it's happening, but often that is a case of either the runner or his blockers getting lower than the would-be tacklers and gaining leverage. I'm pretty sure that's what happened on those plays and it wasn't a matter of missed tackles or lack of effort. It's just something that happens now and then in a football game. You also have to credit the other guys sometime, and that was probably true in this game. It was a matter of a great effort by UCF runners and blockers, not of bad plays by OSU tacklers.
Overall defense: UCF accumulated 352 total yards, 249 of them passing. Following the game, Urban Meyer said there is nothing wrong with the pass defense that some pass rush won't fix, and I agree with him. If OSU can fix the pass rush, the OSU pass defense will be much better, not that it's real terrible right now. There are still reasons for high hope for this defense if the pass rush can improve.
Last Week's View from Row Two