Ohio State's offense was anemic to say the least against a San Diego State team that gave up over 30 points and 400 yards per game last year.
The Buckeyes managed just 196 total yards (120 rushing, 76 passing) and were a paltry 1-of-14 on third down conversions.
If you're looking for a silver lining, there wasn't one. Craig Krenzel had the worst game of his career (5-of-20, 76 yards, 1 INT), the line didn't play well and the running backs broke very few tackles.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman was left scratching his head afterwards. He won't know exactly what went wrong until he studies the game film, but he knows it was an offensive meltdown for the most part.
"It's hard to comment sometimes on things until you see the film," Bollman said. "But, obviously there were things wrong. Now, what was wrong? That's hard to comment on without seeing the film."
Bollman credited SDSU for having a good defensive game plan.
"I know that their free safety - a lot of times when we ran the ball, there were extra guys in the box and they were doing a good job of making the tackle. It didn't look like very many times that we were beating that free guy. They did a nice job."
The Aztecs - playing with nothing to lose - blitzed quite a bit. They pass blitzed, or run blitzed nearly every down. They took chances all afternoon and they almost pulled off the upset of the year.
"I don't know how many times some of the blitzes got us in the running game, but they got us a couple of times when we were passing," Bollman said. "They were aggressive. Very aggressive."
Bollman, who doubles as the offensive line coach, knows that his troops didn't have their best game. But Krenzel was also to blame for some of the sacks.
"It was a very different game," Bollman said. "There were times when it looked like we had good protection, yet Craig was not throwing the ball. He ended up keeping it, or throwing it away, or doing some different things. So, I'm really anxious to look at the film, but I know there were a couple errors protection-wise from different people. Once or twice was the backs, once or twice was the line and it's hard to put all the pieces together of what was errant today. But, certainly, there were plenty of problems."
We asked Bollman if he felt relieved to get out of the Horseshoe with a win.
"Certainly," he said. "A win is a win. But we've got to put our nose to the grindstone and improve - no question. We've got a tough game next week and we're certainly going to have to perform better than we did today. We need to get some things squared away."
San Diego State used a philosophy that we saw a lot of the last two seasons: put eight men in the box and dare the Buckeyes to throw.
"They played four linebackers a lot of the game and I don't know how much that fourth linebacker bothered us, but I'm sure there were a few times that he did," Bollman said. "And I know the safety was up there making a lot of hits when we were running to the boundary, away from our twins. So, we'll have to take a look at the film and see what we are doing. See what the backs are seeing. See if there's any holes."
Bollman shook his head when we asked him about the inability to convert on third down.
"A couple of times, I know we got beat on a couple of blitzes on some heat," he said. "And simply put, obviously we weren't getting open; or we weren't protecting; or we weren't throwing the ball on time, or on target. So, a lot of things were errant on third down today. Things just weren't very good today and they have to get better."
On the injury front, the Buckeyes lost Alex Stepanovich with a sprained ankle at the end of the first half. His status for NC State is unknown, but it's not looking good right now. He did not return to the sidelines in the second half and was on crutches in the locker room.
On top of that, tailback Lydell Ross was not available for much of the game with a reoccurring foot problem.
"His foot has been bothering him," head coach Jim Tressel said. "It's been off and on and I thought he, a week ago, had turned the corner and was starting to do well and then later in the week, you know, just didn't seem to - didn't seem to be right and we were still hoping that it would be. But, you know, I think in pre-game it didn't feel great and I think (Tim Spencer) put him in a couple times and he just didn't think he could push it."
Startling tailback Maurice Hall had 19 carries for 91 yards, but 33 of them came on one run. Ross finished with just seven totes for 16 yards.
Like Bollman, Tressel was perplexed by the lack of a running game.
"They were going to play eight men up there and we were hoping that we could run the football better than we did," Tressel said. "We had initially planned to have a little bit more of a tailback rotation and Lydell just wasn't 100 percent. Tried to get in there a couple times, but just couldn't go. We allowed them to control the tempo of the game. We didn't throw it well enough really to make them afraid to play that front."
Krenzel shouldered much of the blame. He was noticeably upset at the press conference. You can't really tell by his comments, but he was steaming mad.
"The passing game today, there were some guys open and I didn't get them the ball," Krenzel said. "Sometimes we had some guys open and maybe I didn't step up, or thrown when I should have thrown the ball away. We definitely were not consistent enough in anything we did offensively. Run game, pass game, protection. We didn't do anything consistently."
You would not expect this from a senior-laden offense playing against an inferior defense, but Krenzel said there was a lot of miscommunication from the Buckeyes' today.
"There were a number of times today where we weren't on the same page," he said. "I was expecting one thing and maybe threw a route and we got something different or guys ran a good route and I didn't give them the ball."
Krenzel was asked if he is leaving the stadium "dazed" after such a poor performance.
"I don't think I leave here dazed," he replied. "I'm not going to leave here mad or upset. Obviously we didn't play well. I know I didn't play well. A little bit frustrated with that, but the most important thing is to make sure that we learn from the film, we get in and start preparing for another good football team next week and we know offensively we're going to have to play better."
Tressel was asked to pinpoint the most disappointing thing about the offense. He cited the in ability to put points on the board - namely touchdowns - after turnovers.
"It's hard to say just one, but I suppose if I had to, I'd say when you get the ball in the field position we did and don't cash in, that really concerns you," he said. "That's not to minimize the fact that we got to pass protect better and we've got to do lots of things better. When you have opportunities and you don't seize them, you know, that concerns you."
With the injury to Stepanovich, center Nick Mangold got the most playing time of his short career. Mangold played quite a bit as a freshman last year, but never quite this much.
"It was pretty crazy just getting thrown in there," he said. "That was the first time I started a half of football here. So, it was definitely exciting and I was pretty pumped about it."
Mangold does not think that the Buckeyes have less confidence in their running game without the services of Maurice Clarett.
"We got all the confidence in the world in our running backs," he said. "We were just running our game as well as we can, but they had a great defense, which put us in a bind. We were kind of getting frustrated out there and it builds as the game goes on. You want to get back in there and get things going."
We asked Mangold to assess his game. What grade would he give himself?
"I think I played pretty well, but I can never tell until I watch the film," he said. "So, right now I feel pretty good, but it can change real quick when we watch the film on Monday."
Relieved is the best word you could use to describe OSU's players afterwards. They knew they escaped disaster.
"Victory is a victory, so we're always happy about a victory," Mangold said. "But we were in the danger zone and we can't do that and expect to win. We know that we've got to put this behind us. We've got a big game next week and we've got to go to work."
Mangold is not all that worried about OSU's offense. He looks at the SDSU game as an aberration.
"There is always games that you have little slip-ups and everything," he said. "I know we'll bounce back - I've got every confidence that we will - so it's not that big of a concern."