USC came, saw and conquered.
Instead of being crowned with the wreath of victory, Jim Tressel now finds himself on trial before the Buckeye Nation more than he has ever been before in his tenure in Columbus. The Ohio State head coach is charged with conservative play-calling in the first degree better known as "Tressel-ball".
On the night of Saturday September 12, Tressel made a couple conservative calls during the matchup against the USC Trojans, particularly on fourth down and short. The first call came in the first half of the game where the Buckeye offense faced a fourth and goal scenario at the USC 1 yard line. True to his fashion,Tressel went for kicks instead of six.
The second Tressel ball violation happened in the fourth quarter. After the Trojans sacked Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Tressel had another tough decision. Try and kick a 53 yard field goal snapped from the 36 yard line or punt for field position.
Though Tressel's choice did in fact pin the USC offense close to their own endzone, USC put together one final push leading to a touchdown ultimately putting them ahead 18-15 more or less sealing the deal.
The ever growing lynch mob is calling for Tressel's head because they're tired of losing big games and his conservative style. They hate what he calls on fourth down. He plays it safe instead of going in for the kill, etc,.
However, I find all this to be a bit hypocritical. To Tressel's defense, his haters really need to get a handle on exactly why they're calling for his pink slip.
Let's be honest. Being conservative isn't the issue here. Pete Carroll is conservative. He runs nothing fancy. His teams just play the best fundamentals in all of college football.
If we're going to drag Tressel into court, we better get the list of indictments correct.
The problem that I have with this is not so much what Tressel calls on fourth down but with what he calls on downs one, two and three. Herron up the middle, through the tackles, wasn't working. Was the execution the reason for its failure? Yes, maybe. Therefore, if your players cannot execute the play, why on earth are you still calling for it? Why don't you try for something that they can execute?
This was a game, not practice. It wasn't the place to run it over and over again until they get it right. Every play matters.
I'm not asking for the triple option. I'm not asking for Urban Meyer's Florida offense. Trick plays are not the answer. I'm looking for a coach who will make adjustments; to move away from plays that don't work and implement ones that do and to do it on demand. Its not about being creative or inventive. Its about having sound fundamentals, something that we've not seen from coach Tressel in quite some time.
Bad clock management
Tressel said this week that he has no intentions on changing his coaching philosophy which revolves around controlling the football, preventing turnovers, good defense and winning the field position.
So where does clock management fit in there, Jimbo?
When a game is close, the team holding the ball with two or more minutes remaining often walks away as the victor or at least holds the advantage. It not only allows them the opportunity to score, but they eat up the clock in the process.
Now, I don't care how good your defense is, you do not want to give your opponent such an opportunity. Yet this is what Tressel has done in Ohio State's last three big game losses, Penn State, Texas and now USC.
This, if anything, is what upsets me regarding Tressel's decision to punt in the fourth quarter. By punting with six minutes left in the game, he gave USC quite a long field of 86 yards to score a touchdown which at first appears to be more desirable than 64 yards if Aaron Pettrey misses the field goal from the 36.
My point here is that the longer the field you give your opponent, the more time they take off the clock which then leaves you little-to-no time to respond if they indeed take the lead.
If Pettrey misses the field goal, USC has a shorter field but Ohio State could have had significantly more time to tie or even win the game. But the long drive that USC put together left the Buckeyes with little over a minute to retaliate and no timeouts.
It has nothing to do with being conservative. Being conservative is fine, but you need to manage the clock and keep an eye on how you are using your timeouts which Tressel has repeatedly failed to accomplish. Maybe he has a difficult time multi-tasking as he simultaneously mishandles the insipid offensive playbook, something that everybody knows he needs to give up.
Brandon Saine was the team's most impressive rusher at the Navy game averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He also caught a couple of passes for 21 yards and ran a nice reverse on the game's opening kickoff.
So why did he only get one carry against USC?
Not only does Tressel abandoned plays that work for ones that stall at the line of scrimmage, he neglects players that make things happen.
"Good job against Navy, son. Have a seat."
Not conservative enough???
I think it is appropriate for coach Tressel to be catching some serious heat, but find it completely ironic that fans are siting his conservative nature as the reason. In fact, I don't think he was conservative enough against USC.
At the end of the first half, he needed to run the ball, slowly gain yardage and grind the clock down so that Ohio State could enjoy a 10-7 lead at the half. But he decided to be aggressive and throw the ball which didn't work. It ultimately allowed USC just enough time for a drive resulting in the tying field goal.
Tressel did it again towards the end of the game. With the Buckeyes in possession at USC's 31 and seven or so minutes remaining, Tressel should have opted to grind away with some solid running plays, eat the clock and at least get closer for a more manageable field goal attempt.
What is it with the drop-back passing?
Pryor gets sacked back at the 36.
The rest sounds a lot like the directions for use on the back of a shampoo bottle:
I know it's late in the week and I'm sure the Buckeye faithful are tired of analyzing what went wrong last Saturday, but I just wanted to clarify that while Jim Tressel deserves the heat, the reasons are not because his playbook is unimaginative, but because he has exhibited an insufficient understanding of the fundamentals. For further evidence, I direct the jury to the article "Deconstructing: The Grizzly Demise of Tressel Ball" by Chris Brown.