The epic battle between the Miami Hurricanes and Ohio State Buckeyes took place on Saturday, and it ended with the Buckeyes taking a 36- 24 victory. The game itself was exciting, and had several big plays in addition to moments when the momentum of the game swung almost instantly. If both teams played a little bit more of a crisp game, then we may have had a game that rivaled Virginia Tech versus Boise State in terms of excitement.
There were many revelations that came out of this game, far too many to list here. Here are 15 things we learned from the game, but feel free to add more in the comments.
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Coming into the game many gave Ohio State the big edge, and even used the term “over matched” when referring to Miami’s chances in the football game. The Buckeyes defense was stout in the game, but there were plenty of holes to exploit as well. Cameron Heyward was a beast, and is one of the most dominating players at his position in the country.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes benefited from several short fields. Pryor did have several good passes during the game, but there were many that still were off the mark. His running ability was bottled up early, and as the game wore on Pryor’s running became more effective. The most important part is he didn’t turn the ball over, and he played his game rather than trying to prove he could sling it all over the place.
The Buckeyes made very few mistakes, but Miami made the more costly ones. The Buckeyes proved they are deserving of their top five ranking, but need to clean some things up before a possible BCS bowl berth. Ohio State only had two drives on the Miami defense over 60 yards, and despite being setup inside the Miami 30 yard line four times to start drives they came away with mostly field goals. This is what kept Miami in the game, and seems to be over looked by a lot of fans. Fans should not think that this is a slight at Ohio State, it was a solid win at home over a game Miami team.
Miami had success running the ball against the Ohio State defense. Damien Berry ended up with 94 yards on 16 carries, but the Hurricanes did not stick to the run game. On the drives where Miami moved the ball, they were successful with a mix of run and pass. This is the same issue that plagued the team last season, as offensive coordinator Mark Whipple seems to get pass happy when he has the best stable of running backs in the country.
Ohio State made a decision to play the pass more, and just deal with the run as it came along. Their strategy worked as they were able to get four interceptions and countless pass break ups. The Hurricanes did not recognize this and fell right into the trap, and continued to think that dropping back throwing the ball was the solution.
In a previous article the fact that Ohio States receiving corps was largely underrated was highlighted. Well Devier Posey had four receptions for 105 yards, while the other OSU receivers averaged 10 yards per reception. Add in a 47 yard reception by Dan Herron, and the effort by those players did the Hurricane Defense in. The Hurricanes decided to stop the Ohio State running game, and were confident their secondary was up to the task of stopping the passing game of the Buckeyes.
As the game progressed the Buckeyes receivers made enough plays to force the Miami defense to keep their safeties back on more plays. This opened up the running game for the Buckeyes enough for Pryor to make several big plays.
Coming into the game, everyone knew how good the Ohio State defense was. The Miami defense played a heck of a football game, they heard everyone talking about the defense on the other side of the ball all week. They bottled up Terrelle Pryor and the OSU running game for the entire first half, and were holding the Buckeyes to mostly field goals despite being put in short field situations the entire first half. The Buckeyes made a few big plays on great individual efforts from Brandon Saine for a TD and Devier Posey on a 62 yard reception, but the Hurricanes defense played well considering the spots they were put in.
Many articles and fan comments keep talking about the Hurricanes defense missed tackles. These statements are a bit uninformed, considering Ohio State ran 30 more offensive plays in the first half than Miami the defense was on the field early and often. Add in the fact that Miami scored on two sudden change situations a punt return and kick return which put the defense right back on the field. This has a cumulative effect on the defense as the game wears on, and they are constantly defending short field situations while getting little to no rest between drives you wear down quickly. A vast majority of the miss tackles were in the second half when they were spent from bailing the offense out over and over again. Despite all of the tough spots they were put in this unit kept forcing Ohio State to kick field goals which was huge in giving the team a chance at a come back.
The defense was the bright spot of the game, and if this game was an indication of what they are capable of the Hurricanes should be in every game this season. They have some things they need to work on in a few areas like catching interceptions, but as the season progresses they should improve each week.
Is Jim Tressel a better coach than Randy Shannon? Yes, he has a BCS title, multiple Big Ten Titles, and multiple BCS game appearances. People have taken to blaming Shannon for the loss, which is expected as coaches always get blamed when their teams lose. Shannon gets an unfair amount of scrutiny and hardly any kudos when he does something right, it comes with the territory. One point on this is Tressel gets all of this credit, but his special teams have been garbage for two weeks. Randy Shannon has his team run kickoff and punt team drills at full speed in pads at practices! One of the only coaches in the country doing it, and it pays off for them in a big game. Yet no one recognizes it at all. I guarantee Tressel coached every little detail into his special teams leading up to the game that is his reputation, but the players did not perform or simply were beaten on those plays.
Anyone that has played sports should realize that once you step on the field there is nothing the coaches can do. It is all the players executing the game plan and wanting it more than the guy he is lining up across. You can’t coach desire or heart into a player, either they have it or they don’t plain and simple. Ohio State looked like they wanted the game more than Miami, the Hurricanes just looked like they wanted to put up a good fight as the game wore on. No one stepped up save a few players in spurts, but no consistent effort, no team huddle with Jacory firing up his team. You constantly saw shots of players kneeling next to each other looking on, while on the other sideline Pryor gathered his players on several occasions. Sorry that is all players wanting it, coaches don’t have to tell leaders to fire up their teammates.
Some Fans seem to be uninformed on the History of Hurricanes Football, since 1991 Miami is 0 – 6 in games against opponents ranked #1 or #2 on the road. This streak was started when we had supposed “good” coaches, those games are hard to win. Miami has always had an issue with penalties in big games, that has plagued the team for decades. Miami for years led the nation in penalty yards accrued, and it may be the reason the program does not have more national titles.
This is nothing new to the Miami program, but it is something that they need to find a way to correct in the future. All of it starts with the quarterback having control of the huddle and organizing the players on offense, if the quarterback is rattled then the offensive line will be as well.
Outside of Cameron Heyward Miami’s offensive line protected fairly well for the entire game. The offensive line only surrendered two sacks which is an improvement over the five sacks they surrendered to Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. This is an amazing stat considering Harris threw the ball 39 times in the game. Harris had time to throw, but was rattled and erratic at times which caused him to make bad decisions or throw prematurely even though he had more time. To the surprise of many the Hurricanes were able to run the ball with relative success against the Buckeyes defense. There were a few times when Cameron Heyward was purely unblockable, and a few Hurricane lineman ended up on their back. To their credit they did their best to contain and battle with Heyward rather than getting their tail whipped on every play.
The offensive line committed several penalties at crucial times in the game, but those things happen when playing in a hostile environment like The Horseshoe. If they clean up the penalties this unit should be solid going forward.
This was considered to be one of the deepest and most talented positions on the team. It started off well when Leonard Hankerson caught a pass, took a hard hit and held on to the ball. It was downhill from there, Travis Benjamin made two mental errors that led to interceptions. These plays changed the complexion of the game because they set Ohio State up with short fields on two occasions, Benjamin redeemed himself a little bit with a punt return touchdown, but his mistakes in the passing game put Miami in a hole. The receivers did not seem to be able to get open consistently, or were out of position on many occasions. This problem was corrected at half time, but then a new problem started to arise. Jacory Harris finally was able to get in a rhythm and drive the team deep into Ohio State territory, but several touchdown passes and big gains were dropped after Ohio State defenders hit them.
This is not on Harris, Whipple, or Randy Shannon. This is on the receivers catching the ball with their hands instead of using their chest, which would allow them to hold onto the ball even when taking a hit. These drops happened at crucial times when Miami was mounting a come back, and is probably the second biggest reason that the Hurricanes lost this game. There were many opportunities to make plays, and to Ohio State’s credit they hit the Miami receivers and got in their head enough to make them lose focus.
Many are laying the entire game on the shoulders of Jacory Harris, that is a knee jerk reaction. There have already been dumb columns written about Harris being overrated, and how horrible of a player he is. Fans and the media are so focused on what have you done for me lately that they do not look at the big picture. No one ever said Jacory Harris was Peyton Manning, he is a good college quarterback and to be honest both he and Pryor did not look like elite quarterbacks on Saturday (outside of Pryor’s running ability).
Harris has come up small in big games, and the reasoning seems to be a combination of a few things. He puts too much of the burden on himself when he needs to rely on the players around him, and Whipple seems to get the urge to call pass play, after pass play when the game is far from decided. 39 passes against a defense like Ohio State is a recipe for disaster and putting too much of the game on Jacory to make plays. Harris scrambled a few times late in the game for decent yardage, which the defense was giving him all game. He needs to step out of his comfort zone, and avoid trying to force plays to happen that are not there.
Perfect example of this effect on the game is when Harris pump faked the slant to Benjamin and saw Travis was obviously confused, instead of Harris firing the ball out of bounds he threw it anyway. It was picked off and led to an Ohio State score, now most of that play is on Benjamin, but if you see something odd with the route why still throw it? Harris needs to evolve as a leader, he stepped up after the game and took all of the blame which is commendable, but he needs to start leading more on the field.
In college football the formula to win is relatively simple, the team that has the better quarterback is going to win about 90% of the time. Think about all the games over the weekend, and look at the stat lines of the QB’s and the winning teams QB typically had a better day. Terrelle Pryor out played Jacory Harris, and he displayed more control over the offense and his teammates than Harris did. Harris turned the ball over four times while Pryor did not, the quarterback touches the ball almost every play so they have to take care of it.
Pryor still has some work to do as a passer, but he now seems to realize the throws he can and cannot make. The only worry for him is with 20 carries his potential for injury is high, so it is a feast or famine situation for the Buckeyes. Without that running dimension would they be the same team?
Watching the game objectively both of the teams looked evenly matched, it is safe to say that Miami and Ohio State have similar talent levels on both sides of the ball. Ohio State has a more stable program as Tressel has been there for 10 years, while this is the first season Miami has kept the same coaches for two consecutive seasons. The Buckeyes have a more mature team with an almost business like approach to the game. The Hurricanes still have some growing up to do as a team overall, the mistakes made by lack of focus is what is preventing this team from being in the top five.
Many fans comment on how sloppy the game was, but that is what happens when two evenly matched teams play each other. It is easy to look sharp against the FAMU’s and Marshall’s of the world, but when the receivers are covered tightly and you have less time to throw mistakes happen as a result. If you watch most NFL games they are rarely crisp and mistake free because the talent is evened out more. So a sloppy game generally means a good game if either team is playing any kind of defense at all.
The revenge factor in this game was overrated as many people discussed the 2002 National Championship game over and over. The game was sold as the Hurricanes are trying to avenge their defeat in that game because it was stolen from them. That entire storyline while it provided a good back story really had nothing to do with the game itself. There was no avenging that game because there was not a national title at stake on September 11th, 2010. The entire “revenge” discussion was a path to setup Miami for failure, if you go for revenge and fail then it looks even worse. Neither team needed a game from eight years ago to motivate them to play, it was just one of those things that the fans enjoyed bantering about.
There were many heated debates going back and forth between Hurricane and OSU fans for the past few months. The conversations became downright disrespectful on both sides at times, but that is what college football rivalries are all about. There were moments in that game where Ohio State fans were worried, but their team eventually took control late to ice the game. After the game there have been a lot of good discussions about both teams, and although each side still feels they have the better program it has been settled on the field.
Both fan bases share a mutual distaste for the Florida Gators, and that alone is a strong unifying factor. Hopefully this will become another in a long list of rivalries that Miami has established, it has a nice back story behind it and gets the fans into the game.
In the famous words of Dennis Green "They Were Who We Thought They Were!", Ohio State moved further away from Boise State to solidify their spot at #2, even stealing several first place votes. But Miami who was ranked #12 coming into the game loses to #2 team and drops five spots in the polls?
This is the reason teams do not schedule tough out of conference games, they are punished for losing to a much higher ranked team? Surely if the Hurricanes keep winning they will move up, but the five spot drop does not make any sense at all. Of course the spots between their old ranking and new ranking were filled with several SEC teams like LSU who struggled with Vanderbilt.