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Near Miss: How a Fourth-Quarter Misstep Affects Ohio State and Other Bits

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst ISeptember 9, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass against the Navy Midshipmen at Ohio Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

With about six minutes left in Saturday's game in Ohio Stadium, Ohio State failed to convert a fourth-and-two inside the Navy red zone. Ten seconds later, a 29-14 game became 29-21.

It was a shocking meltdown that ended in LB Brian Rolle's two-point conversion return to make the final score 31-27 Buckeyes.

The stunned Buckeye faithful now have lost all faith that their team can beat the mighty Trojans this Saturday. Even the oddsmakers agree, making Ohio State an underdog in their own stadium, something that rarely ever happens.

And after a sudden collapse by a young Buckeye defense, who could blame the fans for thinking as such?

The pollsters agree with the sentiment, putting a Penn State team that beat a middle-of-the-road MAC team ahead of the Buckeyes.

No one wants to give Ohio State anything because those people consider the Buckeyes to be continually overrated either by combination of poor coaching or the product of a recently weakened conference.

And they should not give them anything; it's up to the Buckeyes to earn it. The only way to do so is to win on Saturday.

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Many immediately compare this past week to the precursor to last year's matchup when Ohio State barely escaped Ohio U at home. The comparison is very trivial and lacks depth.

Ohio was a bottom-of-the-barrel MAC team that year and the Buckeyes had to play without Beanie Wells, who at that point was the OSU offense.

This season, the opponent, Navy, was a team that has played in bowl games consecutively since 2003, and led the nation in rushing the last four seasons. After watching the game Saturday, many can agree that Navy is just not a fluke.

The triple option would give a lot of teams fits, and regardless, Ohio State held the Midshipmen over 100 yards under their average of a year ago.

Instead, it was an unexpected, unanticipated passing attack that caught the Buckeyes by surprise.

Last season, Navy only threw six touchdown passes. Saturday, Navy QB Ricky Dobbs threw for two TD passes on his own.

Clearly, it was something OSU did not expect and therefore had little ability to prepare for.

But one can say that Ohio State was looking ahead when they got far enough ahead, which they seemed to do at 29-14. Leave that as a lesson to all football fans: Navy will not stop playing until the end of the game.

With all of this behind them, the Buckeyes will now face a more conventional offense in the Trojans, led by RB Joe McKnight and freshman QB Matt Barkley, who looked efficient in a 56-3 blowout over San Jose State.

Barkley has never had the kind of road test the Horseshoe presents, but he has said at times that he has picked things up very quickly.

Ohio State is very much the toughest defense he has faced to this date in a game.

My full preview of this matchup will be written up on Thursday, but history appears so far to be repeating itself, with USC blowing out an overmatched team, and the Buckeyes struggling at home.

For Ohio State to come out as victors, QB Terrelle Pryor's legs and the rabid Buckeye fans will have to be the great equalizer.

Other Buckeye Bits:

• In a move reported on theozone.net, S Jermale Hines is most likely replacing incumbent starter Anderson Russell in the secondary.

The move comes after Russell was burned by Navy SB Marcus Curry on an 85-yard TD reception, months after missing a key tackle on Texas WR Quan Cosby that sealed up the Fiesta Bowl.

The coaches have not officially confirmed the change, but Hines has been practicing at SS, and S Kurt Coleman has moved to the FS spot, where his ballhawking abilities will be more prevalent in centerfield.

Hines may not be tremendous in coverage, but he is a great athlete and quite a hitter, which made him excellent in the STAR role in the Buckeye defense.

• Terrelle Pryor's eye black supporting embattled Philadelphia Eagles' QB Michael Vick drew a hailstorm of controversy.

Coach Jim Tressel told the media that he understands how compassionate the sophomore QB is and that his words may have been poorly chosen.

One thing Pryor must work on in addition to his game preparation may just be how he talks to the media.

The ability to use proper tone and connotation is the difference between getting an important message out and looking like a fool, which is how the nation is divided after Pryor's quotes leaked out.

• Quite a large amount of potential recruits is expected in Columbus this Saturday.

Top prospects such as OT Seantrel Henderson, LB Jordan Hicks, and DB Lamarcus Joyner are among many high school seniors and juniors expected to make visits to Columbus that weekend.

Some players may commit after the game, and there may be none at all that night.

But there's no doubt that players are genuinely interested in the game instead of just a free ticket to this matchup, will be excited by the gameday atmosphere.

Tressel is as good as anyone at hooking recruits to Ohio State with their hospitable official visits.

It's unclear how many will be Buckeyes if at all, but it matters enough that such a large amount of supreme talent will be in attendance, even if not all don the Scarlet and Gray.

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