Knee Jerk Reaction: Texas

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst IJanuary 8, 2009

I apologize for this being so late but I had it typed on Tuesday but work and commitments kept me from getting it up. Since I put work into I will post it now anyway.

I don’t believe in moral victories but I have to admit that Ohio State’s performance against Texas did not make me feel awful. Sure, Texas’ final drive was heart wrenching but the Buckeyes played their best game in two years. If nothing else, you had to be happy to see some fight left in this team.

On to the analysis:

Let me start with the most hyped position leading up to the game. Tressel purposefully leaked the two quarterback approach a few weeks before the game and the affirmed that information only days prior. I guess you would have to say that the approached worked (at least better than the USC game) although only once did Boeckman complete back-to-back passes. Moreover, approximately half of his passing yards game on one play at the conclusion of which Robiskie made the best reception of his career. TB promptly followed that completion up with a dangerous incompletion.

The upshot of this strategic quarterback deployment was a slightly predictable offense. Boeckman was in the game for 14 plays and threw it 11 times. One of the non-throwing plays was a 3rd and 1 play where Boeckman scooted for the first down.

Questions and concerns: What is the price for such an overt effort to pass the effectively? Possibly nothing. But there is at least a small chance that Pryor’s ego was damaged by the fact that he, the Big Ten’s highest rated passer, was essentially relegated to a second tailback. I am not saying Pryor feels slighted but the system seemed to equal parts tip of the cap to Boeckman and silent dig at Terrelle’s big game passing skills. You honestly have to question the coaches faith in Pryor’s ability to pass them out of a deficit. Of course, if Wells returns they may not need to find out.

Another thing I noticed was Pryor’s silly mistakes. Stepping out of bounds short of the marker on two occasions is bizarre and proved ultra costly on the first drive when the Buckeyes picked a penalty on the next play and subsequently failed to get a first down. There is so much to be excited about with Pryor, but sometimes I need to take off the Rose colored glasses.

Running backs
Beanie was awesome…when he played. He seemed to come out of the game often in the first half and then sustained his mystery concussion in the second half. In my mind, Wells is without question the best running back in the country when he plays. The problem is that when you have such a talent you build an offense around him and the team counts on him producing. When you pluck someone of his abilities out of the line up suddenly, it can destroy the rhythm. You see it almost immediately as the same play where Beanie gained 7 nets a loss from Herron.

Questions and concerns: I appear to be the only person concerned about the Ohio State running game if/when Beanie bolts early for the NFL. Herron is a good player, no doubt. But I have real concerns about whether he can produce for an entire season. Maybe it will not come to that because Pryor will mature enough to provide the main running threat. Still, no one wants Pryor taking dozens of hits per game because he is the only legitimate running threat. There are two quality RBs coming in that may provide a lift to the running game, but as it stands now – Herron and Saine – the loss of Beanie will be a big one.

I feel really conflicted writing this, but I think the defense played well and aggressively. I know that statement does not make a ton of sense considering McCoy had a career day and the Longhorns rolled up 490 yards. But in the first half the defense seemed to control the games and made big plays when the team really needed it. Another really great surprise was Gibson’s appropriately aggressive play. I do not care about the penalties. He set the tone for the defense – not Laurinaitis or Jenkins. Gibson was a strong all night even during the no-huddle routine of Texas. I also thought Russell had a nice game (last play not withstanding).

Questions and concerns: This is not so much a concern as a hope. Laurinaitis and Freeman have been all-star contributors to this defense and team, but it is time for new blood. Specifically, I would like to see meaner, nastier blood out there. I also thought Freeman was the more aggressive player early in their careers but by the end neither seemed to be as hard hitting as I had wanted to believe. Here’s hoping that Sabino, Rolle and Co. bring a new mean streak to the defense.

Also, Jenkins is a huge loss but I think the tandem of Chekwa and Washington can be more than adequate especially in the Big Ten.

I have seen a lot of people refer to this game as the "return of Tresselball" and mean it as a compliment.  While I agree with the sentiment - that the coaches did a nice job - I do not totally agree that Tresselball was in full bloom.  What I saw was something far more promising. 

Sure, there were elements of Tressel's patent-pending style, but there was plenty that was way outside the box.  The field position game was vintage JT but the aggressive, blitzing defense was not.  If you take a look at the majority of the defense played in the last eight years they include cover two alignments with a reliance on superb athletes making tackles.

Of course, the offense did not even come close to approximating Tressel's "preferred" methodology. Tressel and his staff put the players in the best possible position to win including nice adjustments after Beanie wimped out.

Questions and concerns: These are simply nitpicking by how in the hell did Texas almost score at the end of the first half after Ohio State got the ball at midfield with 2:25 to go? A little clock management would have gone a long way there.

Also, why did they not all a timeout while Texas was bludgeoning them late in the third quarter with the no-huddle? The players could barely make it to the line before the snap. When rested the defense played well. There would have been a chance that they could have held them to a field goal.

I am not in the business of questioning play calling as it think it is highly overrated, but I thought a few more rollout passes for Pryor would have been nice. Pryor was unstoppable when running in the open field so why not get him there sooner. A perfect time for that rollout option was either two-point conversion.

Finally, should the Buckeyes have been guarding the goal line with only 25 seconds remaining? Maybe, but it is hard to find fault with a defensive game plan that worked so well until then.

Randoms and Intangibles
How awesome was Pryor’s touchdown reception? Seriously?

I have seen some folks write that OSU should not have scored so quickly at the end and that Herron should have fallen down shortly before scoring to force Texas to burn there timeouts. That is simply the craziest thing I have ever read. Can you imagine if that did happen and the Buckeyes did not score? Herron and the coaching staff would be vilified for life.

Do you think Tressel should have gone for two after the last touchdown? I can see it both ways, but I honestly think I would have kicked he PAT. No real reason. Just gut feeling.