College Football Comprehensive: Breaking Down the Highs and Lows of Week 1
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: OHIO STATE 45, MARSHALL 7
In-depth spotlight and analysis of a game that deserves a closer look…
COLUMBUS – There’s a Hurricane Watch around Ohio Stadium right now.
And this particular alert doesn’t have anything to do with the storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ohio State Buckeyes disposed of Marshall 45-7 in their season opener here Thursday night, and by the time the final whistle had sounded, Jim Tressel’s ballclub had already turned their attention to a much more intimidating foe: the soon-to-visit Miami Hurricanes.
Jacory Harris and company invade Columbus next weekend, and from all appearances, the Buckeyes treated the opener against the Thundering Herd as merely a tune-up for the main event on September 11th.
“I wouldn’t get too happy yet,” star quarterback Terrelle Pryor said after a business-like 38-point win in front of a crowd of 105,040. “Let’s see what we can do next week. I’m looking forward to that chance to play against Miami because I really want to see how good we really are.”
Okay, Terrelle, that’s fine…but from what I saw Thursday, this team is pretty good already.
It starts with the defense, which didn’t allow the Herd any offensive points (the only touchdown for the visitors came on a blocked field goal return). OSU’s Brian Rolle and Jermale Hines made statements early with massive hits, and the Buckeye defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage throughout. Most impressive was the Ohio State speed, as Marshall skill position players erroneously thought they could outrace defenders to the sideline…and lost multiple yards each time they tried.
“I’m not sure they were ready for our defense,” Tressel said.
“It’s going to be a different world…a more difficult world next week,” he added.
You’re two for two on the understatements, Coach.
Buckeye fans have never had to worry about their defense, but it’s the offense that seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of this time last year. Pryor has matured, the backfield is deeper, and the 2010 Buckeyes actually look like…gasp…a quick-strike team.
Time of possession on OSU’s first three scoring drives: 69 seconds, 64 seconds, and 52 seconds.
I feel sorry for the fans that got stuck in traffic, because with Ohio State’s high-powered attack against the way-way-way-below average Marshall defensive backfield, this one was over before the latecomers ever found a seat.
“It’s obviously a step in the right direction,” wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said of his team’s offensive explosion. “We wanted to be able to come out here and prove as an offense that we could deliver on all those things we said we’ve been working on in the offseason.”
But here come the Hurricanes.
“The reality is, we've got a tremendous challenge next weekend,” Tressel agreed. “If we're willing to learn a little bit from this weekend and get rested and get healthy, it will be a lot of fun.”
Maybe for you, Coach.
But if Ohio State plays as well as they did here Thursday, it won’t be fun for the ‘Canes.
Extra points from this week’s Microscope game:
-I could spend another whole column on how bad the Marshall DBs were. The first touchdown, a 6-yard pass to DeVier Posey, honestly looked like a half-speed drill. The defender was so far out of position that Posey stood flat-footed in the end zone, checked his watch, ordered a pretzel, and then caught the ball. Pryor put up big numbers (17-25 for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns), but we’ll get a better read on how far he’s really come as an upperclassman quarterback once his receivers are…well…you know…
-Play that won’t show up in the stat sheet: Tyler Moeller jumped into the end zone and perfectly batted a punt back to be downed at the one-yard line. The play was ultimately ruled a touchback since the ball had crossed the plane of the goal line, but it was still a nice piece of athleticism by a guy who missed all of last season recovering from an assault and subsequent brain trauma. “Tyler did a heck of a job today,” Cameron Heyward said of the inspiring senior linebacker. “Just seeing him flying around- he didn’t make the greatest plays, but he was always there when we needed him. It was great seeing him out there: he’s been waiting around a long time for this.”
-Marshall’s featured running back, Andre Booker, gained three yards on his seven first-half carries. At some point, don’t you quit giving him the ball? Running seven quarterback sneaks would have been more effective: at least that should top half a yard per carry.
-Brandon Saine’s second touchdown, a 45-yard burst late in the second quarter, might have come through the biggest hole I’ve ever seen on a football field. Saine could have driven a truck, semi-trailer, and motorcade escort through that gap with room to spare.
-Speaking of running backs, Ohio State is literally five deep at the position. Co-starters Saine and “Boom” Herron will get the lion’s share of the carries, but don’t forget about Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, and Carlos Hyde as well. OSU averaged 6.8 yards per carry in rolling up 280 rushing yards against Marshall, and Saine loves the help he’s getting from the rest of the backfield contributors: “I think it’s a great thing, definitely for myself and for the other running backs,” he told me. “You get winded out there at times, so knowing that somebody else can come in and step up and make the same plays that you’re making and be able to fill that role is huge.”
-Sophomore tight end Jake Stoneburner could develop into a favorite target for Pryor. “I told you he’s gonna be a good one,” Pryor said with a chuckle. “I’m very hard on Jake because I want him to be great, I don’t want to talk him up too high to get his head big or talk him too low to get him down…I know how good he can be.”
-I’ll be honest, the third-quarter “Let’s Go Bucks” chant amused me. Whatever happened to the good old days when cheerleaders held up signs and fans yelled back? The Ohio State version has a scoreboard graphic with color-coded arrows, flashing diagrams and pictures of the different stadium sections, and a rotating “North Stands”, “Sidelines”, and “South Stands” reminder. Is it that complicated, folks?
-Marshall put together a nice drive in the second half, but as I wrote in my notes, “You can almost visibly see Buckeyes’ pride pick up as ball moves into red zone. They take touchdowns personally around here.”
The stiffened defense did its job. Next play after the Herd earned a first-and-goal ? Fumble, recovered by the Buckeyes.
MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
This week’s wacky and weird announcer quotes…
“There’s an old saying, you gotta kill a fly with an axe.” –Chris Martin
“I think it works to Hawaii’s advantage. Granted, they lost four points there, maybe, but the bottom line is the tempo is set right now…” –Bob Davie explaining why losing a touchdown is a good thing
“That was pathetic.” –Matt Millen describing a Connecticut punt that barely got past the first down line.
“Alameda looks like he never met a cheeseburger he didn’t like.” –Aaron Taylor referring to Washington’s 6’3, 330 Alameda Ta’amu
“Willamette knew going into this game that it was going to be like climbing a cactus.”- Craig Spivey on FullAccessSports.com NCAA Division 3 broadcast
“The worst offensive team, arguably, in college football. And they weren’t much better on defense.” – Dave Pasch describing the 2009 Miami RedHawks
“Let’s go back to Olivia Newton-John and let’s get physical.” – Chris Spielman on the Florida offense
“ Notre Dame is starting to destruct that pocket. Is that a word, destruct?” – Mike Mayock
"It is now.” – Tom Hammond
“How about destroy?” – Mike Mayock
“Marvin, get yourself a sign that says ‘Don’t drink and Twitter.” – Brent Musburger
“That’s not what he wanted. He didn’t want his running back to run out of bounds and stop the clock.” – Todd Blackledge with over eight minutes left in the game (Um, Todd, the clock doesn’t stop when a player goes out of bounds except in the final two minutes of each half.)
“The only thing Stanzi could use on the sideline is an American flag.” – Tom Hart
“You’d have to have Deion Sanders out there to catch him.” – Brent Musburger after a punt return touchdown. (Yeah, Brent, because adding a 43-year-old to your team would be the difference in running down someone half his age?)
“It’s not a bad thing to get your backside humbled.” – Chris Spielman
“They gave me some toys here, I Just don’t know how to work ‘em.” – Matt Millen (Sound familiar, Lions fans?)
“When you talk about Penn State, they’re playing for the right now. Joe Paterno, at the age of 83, he doesn’t even buy green bananas. You play for the day…he wants to win right now.” – Eric Collins
“From the waist down, he’s a man. He’s a quarterhorse out there.” – Dave Lapham on Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase
THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT
The ridiculous stat lines, improbable scores, and ticker typos that cause double-takes everywhere…
What’s with all the safeties? Seemed like an abnormally large number of teams scored defensive two-pointers this weekend: Arkansas, BYU, Central Michigan, LSU, Purdue, TCU, and Toledo, to name a few. I’ve always thought of the safety as a relatively rare occurrence, but hey, baseball’s in the “Year Of The No-Hitter”…maybe college football is kicking off “The Year Of The Safety.” Stay tuned…
Speaking of safeties… How’s this for an ugly score? Montana 73, Western State 2.
But at least Western State scored… New Mexico couldn’t even do that. The Lobos got absolutely tattooed in Eugene this weekend, suffering a 72-0 beatdown that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Oregon took a 59-0 lead to the locker room behind Kenjon Barner’s five first-half touchdowns. Good thing Chip Kelly wasn’t in the mood to score 100.
More big-time numbers… Florida State’s Christian Ponder was 12-14 for 167 yards and four touchdowns in his one half of action. Not much season-opener rust there. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter piled up 257 rushing yards…and four touchdowns, to boot. Extra credit to Hunter for getting his stats against a BCS program. (Oops, never mind, the Cowboys played Washington State. My mistake.)
There’s a reason they call it the “forward pass”… Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder started his afternoon 1 of 2 passing for minus-8 yards.
Paging Mr. Tebow… Florida’s offense looked ugly in the Swamp, mustering only 25 yards of total offense through three quarters against a Miami (OH) squad that was 1-11 last year. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many bad snaps, either. Memo to Urban Meyer: try putting Brantley under center if every other shotgun snap is going to bounce or sail over the quarterback’s head. Sincerely, Captain Obvious.
Is it baseball season already? The Kansas Jayhawks dropped a 6-3 decision to North Dakota State in Turner Gill’s coaching debut. Doesn’t sound like a football score to me…I say blame the bullpen.
But how many great-grandfather/great-grandson combinations? From a Big Ten Network graphic: Joe Paterno has coached 26 father/son combinations in his 45 years as head coach at Penn State.
THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
The jaw-dropping highlights that were worth rewinding for…
Not sure how it got there, but Mississippi State’s Brandon Heavens caught a first-half touchdown pass that went right through the hands of DB Marcus Ball, one of four Memphis defenders that could have come up with the interception.
How about the amazing one-handed touchdown catch by Alabama’s Julio Jones? Who needs Mark Ingram anyway?
Connecticut’s Michael Smith may have a future career as a juggler: he tapped, bobbled, and bounced the football a good 15 or 20 yards in a second-quarter highlight. The play was good for 44 yards and set up a score for the Huskies.
Florida running back Jeffery Demps showed off his track speed with a 72-yard sprint down the right sideline. Watching the referee (that had a 50-yard head start) try in vain to keep up as Demps crossed the goal line was comical.
There were a bunch of nice hits this weekend that were worth rewinding for (including the ones I mentioned earlier by Brian Rolle and Jermale Hines in Columbus), but my favorite might have been the hurting North Carolina’s Bruce Carter put on LSU’s Russell Shepard to force an incompletion. Ouch.
Good vertical leap by Michigan State wide receiver Keith Nichol, who out-jumped two defenders for his first career touchdown catch.
Juron Criner had himself a game for the Arizona Wildcats Friday night, piling up 11 catches for 187 yards. Most impressive, by far: the 45-yard one-handed grab he made while falling down to the ground. Criner snared the ball with his right hand, brought it down to his knee, and pulled it in to help the ‘Cats roll, 41-2.
Last but not least, the play of the weekend had to be East Carolina’s Hail Mary pass from Dominique Davis to Justin Jones: the 33-yard connection on the game’s final play gave the Pirates an unbelievable 51-49 win.
*Editorial note: thanks to CFC correspondents Tim Continenza, Timothy Doenges, Raphielle Johnson, and Kevin Selesky for their help rounding up the quotes, highlights, and stats above. Want to be a correspondent next week? Send me an e-mail!*
SINCE I DO LIVE IN OHIO
News from around the Big Ten…
Michigan “re-opened” their renovated stadium in style Saturday afternoon, knocking off Connecticut 30-10 in front of 113,090 people (the largest crowd to ever see a college football game). Actually, it turns out the announced attendance was really 113,000 fans and 90 scouts from mid-major college football programs hoping to talk to Tate Forcier about his transfer plans after the game. But I digress.
MAYBE COACHING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Did somebody’s seat just get hotter?
Youngstown State’s Eric Wolford managed to waste two timeouts on the same play in Happy Valley Saturday. After his team surprisingly went to halftime only trailing Penn State 16-7, things took a significant turn for the worse when Chaz Powell raced the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a score. To add insult to injury, Wolford was forced to burn a timeout before the extra point attempt because the Penguins (yes, that really is the YSU mascot!) didn’t have the right personnel on the field.
To add embarrassment to insult to injury, Wolford decided to challenge the play in case Powell had stepped out of bounds while running oh-so-close to the sideline. The play was upheld after review, meaning Youngstown State was – you guessed it – charged with a timeout, their second of the half (which was only 12 seconds old at that point).
And we can’t talk about back-to-back timeouts without mentioning Utah… With his team leading Pittsburgh 24-21, Kyle Whittingham wanted to do everything in his power to make sure Panthers kicker Dan Hutchins missed a potential game-tying 30-yard field goal. So as many coaches do nowadays, Whittingham called timeout to ice the kicker right before Pittsburgh snapped the ball, negating Hutchins’ apparently successful kick.
Not to be outdone (by himself), Whittingham then did the same thing before Hutchins’ next attempt. The strategy wasn’t quite as successful this time, as Hutchins MISSED the second try…but of course, the play didn’t count because of Whittingham’s timeout.
It was hilarious watching all the Panthers celebrate after the first kick, only to find out it didn’t count…and then seeing all the Utes and their fans celebrating the second (missed) kick…only to discover it didn’t count either.
Whittingham chose not to use his third timeout (thank goodness for those of us in the Eastern time zone with bedtimes and curfews), and the final attempt by Hutchins bounced off the upright and in to force overtime. Utah, of course, ended up prevailing in the extra session, but don’t expect Whittingham to ice the kicker again anytime soon.
MAYBE OFFICIATING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Throwing the flag on the guys in stripes…
(Reason #206 why I love football: no matter how many years I write this column, there’s always something new that I’ve never seen before. Special thanks to faithful readers @kohenari and @gregfairbanks for sending in this particular gaffe.)
Western Michigan scored a second-half touchdown Saturday on a two-yard pass from Alex Carder to Blake Hammond. There was a penalty flag on the play, which the referee explained was for an “illegal substitution, 12 men on the field”). WMU declined the penalty and lined up to attempt the extra point...
…but before they could get the kick off, the whistle blew. Mr. Referee announced that the previous play was under review. After a nice long delay, we discover that the play was being reviewed not to see if the tight end’s foot came down in bounds (which it obviously did), but to look at the penalty (which don’t forget, had already been declined). The official kindly explains the result to the crowd, “That’s a substitution penalty- that is not reviewable.”
Um, who cares? The foul was declined…why do we even need to look at whether there were really 11 or 12 defenders on the field when the touchdown was scored? It doesn’t matter!
Just in case you’re thoroughly confused (as I was the first three times I watched the play), here is the way announcers Bob Wischusen and Brian Griese wrapped up the strange instant replay episode:
“It’s a call that’s not reviewable for a penalty that would have been declined anyway even if they had enforced it, because it was a touchdown.” – Wischusen
“And it was reviewed.” – Griese
Maybe officiating is easier than I thought.
(P.S. If you need more examples of horrible officiating, check out the free three points Rutgers was given at the end of their first half against Norfolk State. This article lays out all the details perfectly from yet another crazy sequence for America’s favorite zebras.)
EVEN THOUGH SEVENTEEN IS A RANDOM NUMBER
I’m a voter in this website’s Top 17 college football poll. Here’s my latest ballot:
1. Alabama (1-0)
2. Ohio State (1-0)
3. Boise State (0-0)
4. TCU (1-0)
5. Texas (1-0)
6. Oregon (1-0)
7. Iowa (1-0)
8. Virginia Tech (0-0)
9. Penn State (1-0)
10. Nebraska (1-0)
11. Florida (1-0)
12. Miami (1-0)
13. Wisconsin (1-0)
14. Arkansas (1-0)
15. Florida State (1-0)
16. LSU (1-0)
17. Georgia Tech (1-0)
Because CFC isn't really done until the fat lady sings…
Two of the weekend’s most thrilling finishes came from two of the least likely games, long after I had initially flipped the channel and thrown in the towel on the underdog.
Kudos to North Carolina for taking LSU to the final snap after trailing 30-10 at halftime and leaving a good portion of their team in Chapel Hill due to eligibility issues. The Tar Heels had two chances to win from the LSU 6-yard line in the final seconds, and both pass attempts hit the receiver’s hands in the end zone before bouncing harmlessly away to give LSU a hard-fought 30-24 win.
On paper, UNC’s decimated squad didn’t belong on the same field as the Tigers. But, as we all know, they don’t play the games on paper.
The other exciting ending came in Mississippi, where Jeremiah Masoli’s debut was overshadowed by Jacksonville State’s never-say-die attitude. The Gamecocks erased a 31-10 deficit in the second half, forced overtime with less than 19 seconds to go, and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-15 in the second overtime to pull within 48-47. JSU decided to go for two, converted the winner-take-all play, and escaped Oxford with what will surely be one of the season’s most dramatic victories.
Going for two is the perfect move in that situation, and I was surprised by how many analysts and commentators didn’t expect Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe to roll the dice. Playing on the road as the underdog, a two-point conversion instantly becomes more appealing…and with the choice coming at the end of the second overtime, there’s no better time to take that gamble, because Crowe’s team would have been forced to go for two the rest of the way anyway.
In other words, if the Gamecocks kick the extra point to go to overtime number three tied at 48-all, they’ll still have to most likely win or lose the game on two-point conversions in the future…but a lot of other variables come into play. If JSU (who would have gotten the ball first in the third extra session, were to go up 56-48, they don’t necessarily win (despite a successful two-pointer), because Ole Miss has the chance to equalize. Or if they were to miss on the conversion and only lead 54-48, then the Rebels have a chance to win the game with their best play from three yards out.
My best play I’ve spent all offseason drawing up against your best play? I’ll take my chances with what I know, rather than what I don’t.
And who’s to say Jacksonville State would even find the end zone again? Turnovers and penalties could deal either team a crushing blow (see Pittsburgh’s overtime interception at Utah that basically finished off the Panthers).
Knowing that he would probably be forced to try a two-point conversion in the next overtime anyway – and having the chance to eliminate the uncertainty of the third (and maybe fourth, fifth, who knows?) overtimes by guaranteeing his team a win if they could crack the end zone from three yards out now –Crowe absolutely made the right move.
And it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody.
Did I leave out the wackiest announcer quote, dumbest coaching decision, or most amazing highlight? Does your favorite team's next game deserve a look "Under the Microscope?" I want to hear from you! The best submissions each week are always included and recognized: the more interactive CFC is, the better.
After all, I can't watch 40 games every single weekend.
Although I sure love to try.
Tim Cary is a resident of Springfield, Ohio and a die-hard college football fan (especially when it comes to the Purdue Boilermakers). To submit thoughts, ideas, questions, arguments, highlights, quotes, or anything else for “College Football Comprehensive", e-mail CFCmailbag (at) yahoo (dot) com or contact Tim on Twitter at @TimCary. Send in your ideas throughout the week...and check out the latest installment of CFC each Monday morning on BleacherReport.com.
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