Carrying On: The Worst 45-Point Win in Ohio State History?
Ohio State-New Mexico State summary, glass half-full edition:
"They had 310 rushing yards, so that's pretty fair."—Jim Tressel, describing his offense's performance against NMSU.
Ohio State-New Mexico State summary, glass half-empty edition:
"This is the worst 45-point win I've ever seen."—Ohio State fan on postgame radio call-in show.
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: OHIO STATE 45, NEW MEXICO STATE 0
Just in case the previous two quotes didn't tell you everything there is to know about Saturday's Buckeyes-Aggies game, allow me to add five things I learned from my first trip to the Ohio Stadium press box.
1. If defense wins championships, the Buckeyes are a serious Big Ten title contender.
New Mexico State gained a grand total of 62 yards Saturday afternoon in Columbus. (If you're scoring at home, that means the Aggies pocketed just over $13,709 for each yard of total offense they piled up. And I thought my job paid well.)
While much has been made the past couple years of the disparity in speed between Big Ten players and their SEC counterparts, the difference seemed even greater between the Big Ten and WAC representatives Saturday afternoon at the Horseshoe.
New Mexico State tried all kinds of misdirection plays in a futile effort to slow down the Buckeyes' vaunted "Silver Bullet" defense, but nothing worked. Shovel passes, option looks, you name it: the Aggies' skill position players simply couldn't outrun the home team to the corner.
One sequence in the second quarter perfectly sums up the domination that occurred every time New Mexico State had the ball.
First down: end-around pitch to Donyae Coleman. The freshman wide receiver tried to get outside and turn upfield, only to be smothered by a wall of Buckeye defenders. Result: five-yard loss.
Second down: screen pass to Tonny Glynn. (Conventional wisdom says to beat an aggressive defense by getting them headed upfield, then sneaking in a screen pass, right?) Well, the NMSU senior running back got blown up as soon as he caught the ball, nowhere close to the line of scrimmage. Result: three-yard loss.
Third down: rush for no gain by Jeff Fleming. The Aggies' quarterback was pressured nearly as soon as he got his hands on the snap, had no time to throw, and barely made it back to the line of scrimmage to narrowly avoid a sack and a third straight negative play.
These weren't typical three-and-outs. Instead, they were "no time to throw," "no room to run," "hope it's not a turnover," "run for your life," "at least our punting game's getting work" type of three-and-outs.
Buckeye safety Kurt Coleman even confessed to a bit of boredom during the one-sided game. "There were times I found myself jumping on piles just to jump on piles," Coleman said with a chuckle. "This was a game for me to really sit back and let the front seven do all the work."
Not that the senior was complaining. "Anytime we get a zero on the board and our defense is dominant, I'm fine with being back there and not doing anything. As long as we continue to get Ws..."
With defensive efforts like this one, Coleman's Ohio State squad should have a few more Ws in store before season's end.
2. This game felt a lot like a tune-up scrimmage for next Saturday's showdown at Penn State. Except, well, when it didn't.
It was really a bizarre afternoon all the way around in front of a crowd of 104,71...sorry, I can't even type that number with a straight face. If anyone really thinks there were 104,000 people in the stadium Saturday, I have some Ohio oceanfront property to sell you.
Anyway, Terrelle Pryor was out of uniform by halftime, which came as no small surprise with Ohio State possessing a solid (but not ridiculous or out-of-hand) 28-0 lead. According to his coach, Pryor "probably had more runs in the first half than you might have designed for this game; we felt he'd had enough of that."
Play him or don't play him, it doesn't bother me either way...but did Pryor really need to go "casual attire" for the final 30 minutes? The only way the sophomore could have been more relaxed would have been to bring out a leather recliner to the sideline so he could kick back and watch the second-half proceedings in style.
Okay, where was I? Oh yes, the tune-up for Happy Valley.
Thaddeus Gibson wasn't the only Buckeye talking more about Penn State than New Mexico State after the game, saying he started thinking about the Nittany Lions "as soon as that last second ticked off the clock". So, all in all, this non-conference game really just provided a glorified scrimmage for the Scarlet and Gray to work out the kinks and give their remaining Big Ten opponents something to think about, right?
I guess not. In fact, Tressel downright scoffed at the idea that anything he used against the Aggies was simply inserted to make next week's opponent wonder.
"Penn State is different than they are," he told reporters.
(Another runaway winner for Understatement of the Week.)
And that brings us to the onside kick. Yes, you read that correctly. Ohio State attempted an onside kick...against a 3-5 WAC team...in the second quarter...with the lead. In fairness to Tressel and company, the Buckeyes recovered the perfectly executed attempt, gained some momentum, and went on to blow the Aggies out of Columbus. So I'm not second-guessing the decision.
Let's just say it felt odd. That's the only way to describe it. I mean, come on, Buckeye fan, what would you have thought if I told you going into the game that Ohio State would use an onside kick AND a wide-receiver pass against one of the worst teams in their schedule?
It's just strange...seems like the Yankees busting out the hidden-ball trick to take care of the University of Miami in a spring-training game. Do you really need that?
Again, I'm not going to criticize Tressel for something that worked...it just left a funny taste watching the four-time defending Big Ten champions pull out gadget plays to dispose of Cupcake U.
3. The Ohio State offense still lacks consistency .
I hesitate to even write this section, because the last thing I want to do is sound like the impossible-to-please fan I quoted at the top, who considered Saturday "the worst 45-point win I've ever seen."
There's simply no getting around the fact that the Buckeyes' offensive attack is still a work in progress. Terrelle Pryor missed on more than half of his passes, including almost every deep throw.
The OSU offensive line looks below-average, failing to open many significant holes. And most notably, the first quarter finished with a score of 0-0, shocking fans all over America as the early update came scrolling across their television tickers.
Tressel attributed the slow start to the New Mexico State game plan, which consistently put eight men in the box.
"Offensively, we're always going to have something a little bit different thrown at us because we're a little bit unique in what we do. It takes a couple series to try to uncover what it is someone's designed for you," the coach said.
Valid points, and the Buckeyes did improve as the afternoon wore on. I guess I just expect a Big Ten team to be able to grind out five yards a carry from the get-go against a defense that allows 200 rushing yards a game.
Make no mistake, OSU will definitely benefit from the return of Daniel "Boom" Herron, who missed the past few weeks with an ankle injury. Herron broke off a 53-yard touchdown run in the third quarter against New Mexico State, and his contributions (combined with those of backfield mates Brandon Saine and Jordan Hall) should help move the chains and provide a potent rushing attack.
The balance that a solid running game provides would, in this humble writer's opinion, make a big difference for the streaky Terrelle Pryor, allowing him a few extra valuable seconds to set up for downfield throws.
The only other option is for Ohio State to try and recruit Usain Bolt to play wide receiver, because he's the only guy on the planet who could have caught up to a couple of the Pryor first-half overthrows.
And I'm guessing Bolt is out of eligibility...or too busy taking care of his new cheetah...or both.
4. Placekicking could be a big storyline in the Buckeyes' chase for the Big Ten title.
I'll write more about this later in the week, but the loss of kicker Aaron Pettrey to a torn MCL could have a huge impact on the remainder of Ohio State's season. With a monster three-game stretch looming (at Penn State, Iowa, at Michigan), the Buckeyes will have to play Tressel-ball without a veteran field-goal kicker for the first time in recent memory.
To put things in perspective, Pettrey and replacement Devin Barclay combined to make one field goal in five attempts Saturday afternoon. That's 20 percent.
No big deal against the out-manned Aggies.
However, try to beat the Lions, the Hawkeyes, and arch rival Michigan while missing 80 percent of field goal attempts, and OSU's Rose Bowl hopes could fall apart in a hurry.
5. DeVier Posey is the best wide receiver and at least the second-best quarterback on the Ohio State roster.
Posey seemed unguardable Saturday afternoon, tallying five catches for 79 yards to help spearhead the Buckeyes' attack.
On one possession, he caught a 16-yard out route, came back with a 7-yard slant reception the next play, and then drew a pass-interference penalty one snap later. ("One-man wrecking crew," as I wrote in my notes.)
Despite No. 8's big numbers as a receiver, though, the play everyone was talking about afterwards was his touchdown pass, a beautiful 39-yard spiral to Dane Sanzenbacher.
If only the play had been drawn up that way.
"We really were looking to throw it back to the quarterback," Tressel said afterward, "but their corner did a good job staying home, so DeVier found the flanker over and threw a good ball in there.
"Wasn't such a great idea, but he found his second receiver."
Anytime a non-quarterback completes a pass, even to a wide-open man, it's impressive. Throwing a perfect spiral...40 yards downfield...to a not-so-wide-open target...who isn't the primary receiver...that's incredibly impressive.
Posey's final stat line for the game: 1-for-1 passing for 39 yards and a touchdown. That adds up to a pretty decent quarterback rating, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, Terrelle Pryor finished the day 11-for-23 through the air, while Joe Bauserman was a disappointing 2-for-9. From the pass Posey threw, he would fit nicely into that depth chart, definitely ahead of Bauserman, and...well...
(Because who really wants a quarterback controversy heading into Whiteout Week, anyway?)
MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
I'm not sure if it was because of Halloween weekend or what, but we had an all-time record for most crazy, hilarious, or downright strange quotes. Without further ado...
"Eight's not half of 29, but it is half of 16, which is half of 29." -- Craig James
"Phillips is a tough guy, he's battled through just about every injured body part but your uvula in his Northwestern career." -- Carter Blackburn
"You're not professing larceny, are you? Stealing candy?" -- Wayne Larrivee
"That must be jelly, because jam doesn't shake like that." -- Mark Jones
"That's tough, when you get whooped by air." -- Ray Bentley
"He was a cricket player. He did jolly well on that series." -- Mike Patrick
"Willis, the redshirt Frenchman you mentioned a few moments ago..." -- Mark Jones
"TerBush needs to go to the Salt and Pepper League for a little more seasoning." -- Ray Bentley (reader submission from @FunnelFiasco )
"It may make the stock market go up Monday, that's how good that play was." -- Mike Patrick
"I'll bet he leaves a bigger tip than you did last night." -- Wayne Larrivee
"Indiana under the leadership of Bill Lynch, pardon me, Ben Lynch, in his third season as head coach..." -- Mark Jones
"[The penalty] was not on Keyshawn Johnson, that's for sure." -- Wayne Larrivee (well, technically, that's true, since he's retired...for the record, it wasn't against MSU's Keshawn Martin either!)
"I guarantee you that he told his guys, "If you guys ever want to play again, you'd better not give this shut-up out. Shut-out out. Shut-up out. Shut. Out. Up." -- Glen Mason (reader submission from Brent)
MAYBE COACHING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Three quick tips to coaches everywhere...
#1 Don't ever let your players anywhere near the other team's punter when you have a chance to get the ball back and drive to win the game.
Trying to block a punt isn't worth the risk, as Michigan State's Mark Dantonio can certainly attest to. His Spartans would have taken over with more than two minutes to play in a one-possession game at Minnesota Saturday night, but a stupid, idiotic, un-intelligent, dim-witted...(excuse me while I turn the page in my thesaurus) dumb, mindless penalty for running into the punter allowed the Gophers to run out the clock and salt away a 42-34 win.
I've never understood why your defense would work so hard to try and get the ball back and then the coach allows his players to get even remotely close to a punter at that point in the game...especially seeing as some kickers are right up there with Italy's finest soccer players and Vlade Divac in the "Academy Award for flopping" category.
Give your offense a chance. Stay away from the punter.
#2 When you're down 18 points with 8:24 to go and faced with a decision on 4th-and-6 at the opponent's 10-yard line...hypothetically speaking, of course...kick the field goal!
If it's a 4th-and-1 play, maybe that's different, but don't outsmart yourself. Take the three points, cut the lead to two possessions, and give yourself a chance to pull within one score with your next touchdown.
Or, as Rich Rodriguez might choose to do, throw an incomplete pass and end up losing by 25 to a team that hadn't beaten an FBS school all year.
Hypothetically speaking, that is.
#3 Don't ever call a timeout down 37-0 with 2:13 to play so your team can get the ball back.
Bad form, Danny Hope.
MAYBE OFFICIATING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Indiana's Terrance Turner caught a touchdown pass.
The referees called it a touchdown pass on the field.
The play was reviewed.
The replay appeared to show Turner's foot drag across the Kinnick Stadium turf.
Whether conclusive or not, the announcers (and most of America) agreed that the video evidence seemed to support the call on the field.
So, of course, our friendly neighborhood officials overturned the call due to "indisputable video evidence."
Stop me if you've heard this one before .
"Indisputable" is defined by good ole' Mr. Webster as "unquestionable".
I've got questions.
Let's just leave it at that.
(Translation: I think Indiana might have gotten - - - - - , but I can't really afford to get fined by the conference or anything.)
Next topic, please.
THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
What an amazing tightrope-walk by Minnesota's Duane Bennett on his way to a 62-yard touchdown catch...
Incredible footwork and awareness by Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins to spin around the line of scrimmage, back up, and throw a touchdown pass to Brian Linthicum...
How about the deflection from Nick Tow-Arnett to Bennett for another long touchdown? Tow-Arnett took a monster hit, but Bennett was in the right place at the right time to grab the ball out of the air and take it to the house...
I loved the Arrelious Benn twisting touchdown leap in the first quarter against Michigan...
Speaking of Illinois, wide receiver Chris James might have made the catch of the day over his shoulder down the right sideline...
Bone-crushing block from Northwestern's Demetrius Fields on Penn State's Josh Hull. Love the hard hits...
And last, but certainly not least, great hustle from Penn State's Graham Zug to come from nowhere and escort Evan Royster to the end zone on his 69-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. Royster's breaking free, past the secondary...nobody's going to catch him...and then here comes Zug, his teammate, from out of the picture, chasing him down and helping him to a Nittany Lion touchdown. That's blazing speed...
(Maybe you can help me with the thought-provoking questions that keep me awake at night? )
Which is more absurd, Iowa winning despite five Ricky Stanzi interceptions (and more remarkably, four in a single quarter!) or Minnesota shrugging off 17 penalties for 157 yards in a victory over Michigan State? Discuss.
Was there a more aptly named player on Halloween than New Mexico State junior safety Stephon Hatchett? Explain.
How sad is it that the Wisconsin student section applauded Purdue's Caleb TerBush for completing a fourth-quarter pass to Kyle Adams? It took the Boilermakers over 18 minutes in the second half to throw and catch a pass attempt successfully. That's what you call "dropping" a game.
Carrying On is a weekly series featured on FirstandBigTen.com , a Bleacher Report blog dedicated to Big Ten football. If you hear a goofy announcer quote, see an amazing highlight, or are dumbfounded by a strange officiating decision Saturday, send it to me at @TimCary . You could make it into next week's column!
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