Bank Blog: Bucks Squeak Past Rockets

Ohio State narrowly escaped with a win over Toledo last Saturday, slipping past the Rockets 27-22 in a game that was just as close as the score indicated. Was that game a good win for the Buckeyes, a look-ahead to Miami and a sign of problems down the road, or just a game you win and move on with nothing to worry about? Let's take a look at Ohio State's recent win.

How does one go about breaking down Ohio State's 27-22 win over Toledo last Saturday? Call it a good win and get ready for Miami? Say it was an uninspired performance and a sign of trouble down the road? Blame it on the suspensions? Let's give it a shot.

First off, anyone thinking Toledo = Akron because they're both MAC teams isn't paying attention, and that's like saying the Yankees = Indians because they're both in the American League. The fact is that Toledo is a well-coached, talented, confident football team, and Akron is none of the above.

But any player at Ohio State probably looks down at the MAC and any football player or team in that league, despite Luke Fickell and his staff preaching all week in practice that the Rockets were a dangerous foe. A look-ahead? Probably.

ALL HANDS ON DECK: Would Fickell like to have DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Dan Herron, Soloman Thomas, Philly Brown, Nathan Williams, Travis Howard, Corey Brown and Jordan Hall suited up and ready to go? Would he like Jaamal Berry 100% healthy? I'm going out on a limb and say YES, he would. But in college football you line up and play with what you have, and that's what Fickell did. It's his job to navigate through the minefield and win games, and right now Fickell is 2-0. Go on and have a fine season and everyone forgets the close call against Toledo. Lose four games and everyone points to the game and says "Told you so."

BRAXTON AWOL: Why didn't he play one down? I have no idea. Maybe a young coach found himself in a game that required him to throw out the script, improvise, and try to get a victory any way he could. Joe Bauserman did not have a turnover, and had he had one Ohio State likely would have lost. If the season ends up a success, credit Fickell for being smart enough to not play a freshman in a game where a mistake could have ruined the season. There was no downside to not playing him. It was a chance for Miller to get valuable experience, but Fickell's job is to win games, not bring along someone for later this season or next year.

JOEY GAME-MANAGER: On the plus side, he ran the offense without a turnover or a sack, got rid of the football quickly, checked out of bad plays and gave a solid, efficient performance. On the downside, he missed open receivers, gave up on plays too soon, and showed the Buckeye faithful that he isn't Braxton Miller. And for that he is despised by a portion of the fan base. The day is coming when Bauserman gets booed out of the Horseshoe by a large collection of horse's asses, and that won't be a pleasant scene. Get ready kid, as you are about to take your place alongside Hoying, Bellisari, Jackson, Zwick and Boeckman. They are all good people and never deserved that treatment from the unfaithful, so you're in good company. Tough it out and do your job the best you can, and walk out with your head held high.

GAME MVP: Etienne Sabino raised his game to the level we all expected when he came out of Florida high school football as a five-star recruit. He flew to the football with reckless abandon, and played sideline-to-sideline using his great speed. He made plays behind the line of scrimmage and made tackles where if he missed, it was going to be a huge gain for Toledo. If he can build on that performance, Sabino has a chance to be a great linebacker for Ohio State. Nobody has his combination of size, speed and athleticism on the roster.

DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE: Pretty good showing against a high-powered offense. Ohio State gave up 338 total yards, with 66 coming in one play on a busted coverage. Had the Buckeye offense possessed the football longer, Toledo would have had a lot less snaps, but that's a story for another segment. The Buckeye front-four eliminated any semblance of a running game and pressured the Rocket quarterbacks. The linebackers and defensive backs had to defend the entire field and did a good job. C.J. Barnett, Orhian Johnson and Christian Bryant could not miss a tackle or it was going to be six points, and all three tackled well. Bradley Roby and Dominic Clarke were excellent in coverage once again, and Clark comes up big every time he's asked to play.

OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE: Just not good enough play from the quarterback and the tailback position. With each series Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith show why they should be #4 and #5 on the Buckeye depth chart, but they are getting valuable experience and it should pay off at some point. The offensive line is playing well, with nothing to show for it and it has to be frustrating for them. There are holes for backs to run through and more time than Bauserman realizes to find receivers, but that isn't happening right now. Both position groups need to pick it up soon, or things could get dicey against top-flight opposition. Ohio State is built to dominate the time of possession statistic, but they lost that battle to Toledo, putting the defense on the field for too many snaps. Don't do that against Nebraska or Michigan State.

COACHING: Much props to Tim Beckman, who had his team convinced they could win and they played well. As Ohio University found out a few years earlier, you battle more than the Buckeyes when you venture to Columbus and Ohio State benefited from some home cooking from the chefs in striped shirts. To Beckman's credit, he kept his poise (Brian Kelly-Bo Pelini) and kept his team focused all game. For Luke Fickell, it was a great learning experience having to deal with a "real" football game, not a scrimmage against the Zips. Having to make decisions when the wrong one likely gets you fired is a great way to get the heart rate up, and a great way to learn to be a head coach. He is now 2-0 and trying to find a way to go 3-0.

THE UNSPECIAL TEAMS: You should be able to go many seasons without getting a punt blocked, a field goal blocked, having a punt returned against you for a score, or having a kickoff returned on you for a touchdown. All superior athletes need is great coaching to succeed on special teams. I will go to my grave feeling Ohio State has superior athletes. That's all that needs said about the special team coaching effort the past three years. What used to be a source of pride in the first few years of the Tressel era is now an embarrassment. Can special teams ruin a season? Would you like to replay the opening kickoff against Wisconsin from last season? It needs fixed, but it isn't getting fixed. Please fix it.

THE TRUE FRESHMEN: A ton of them are playing, and nearly all of them are showing well. It's time for Devin Smith to be The Guy until Posey returns. He is the best wide receiver on the team not named Devier, and he is a threat every time he lines up. Michael Bennett gets penetration constantly. Joel Hale played during crunch time last week and did well. Jeff Heuerman, Ryan Shazier and Kenny Hayes were out there a lot. This was predicted to be a special class of athletes, and they are showing early they are just that.

MIAMI IS NEXT: I see this as a pure toss-up game, and a contest that will be decided by avoiding turnovers, possessing the football, being sound in the kicking game and not making mistakes defensively. All of that should favor Ohio State if they play the way they should play, but Miami is talented enough to win this game. Al Golden is not Randy Shannon, so you don't get the Tressel-Shannon matchup that was almost comical to watch. This game is too tough to call, and it could be won by the team that establishes a lead early and forces the other to play catchup. I don't think either side wants their quarterback throwing into a 14-point deficit and becoming one dimensional. This should be an emotional game, and one that sets that tone for the rest of the season for both squads. The winner of this game gets a big boost heading into the meat of the schedule. It should be a fun night in a fun city.

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