Sunday Morning QB: Tressel's Formula Works

We are back with our weekly look at the college football world at large and, specifically, Ohio State. This week, we look back at OSU's 19-10 win over Iowa. Plus, we go around the Big Ten and around the country to look at the top headlines in college football this week. We share our own top 15, Heisman candidates and a look at next week's key games.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

Here‘s what we have after yesterday's win over Iowa:

* Oh, so this is how you win football games -- great special teams and defense and, largely, mistake free and opportunistic offense. It all makes sense now.

Certainly, Ohio State deserves credit for the job it did on Iowa, although I'm not sure Iowa would rate as the nation's ninth-best team. Remember, they moved up five spots after last weekend when they did not play and half the poll lost.

But I left Ohio Stadium with the same feeling I had leaving Camp Randall the week before. That night I believed the better team -- at least on that day -- had won. The same applied yesterday, despite the fact OSU could only muster a paltry 185 yards total offense.

In fact, I think the 19-10 final score is somewhat of a misnomer. I think, if properly adjusted, the final should have been 33-6.

Think about the fact that Drew Carter, who is having a career each week right before our very eyes, was flagged for a bogus pass interference penalty on the final play of the first quarter. Carter hauled in a 42-yard bomb to the Iowa 6 on that play. In reviewing the play, it is clear that Iowa's Sean Considine grabs Carter at the 21-yard line and rides him all the way down inside the 10, where Carter finally discards him with a slight shove.

Just how, pray tell, is Carter supposed to catch the ball when Considine is holding him? I'm sorry, but the hold taints the whole play. You have to be able to free yourself. Considine touched Carter three seconds before the ball arrived. Instead of first-and-goal at the 6, OSU had first-and-25 on its own 37, and, naturally got not points.

Then, midway through the third quarter, Craig Krenzel fumbled the ball away on the goal line on a quarterback sneak. The replay appears to show the ball crossing the plane of the goal line just before Iowa's Abdul Hodge knocked it out. The line judge was blocked, though, by Considine, who ended up falling on the ball.

I would probably agree with the ABC announcers that Krenzel has to make it clear that he's in, and for more than just a split second.

A few years ago when I was at BSB, I suggested that the line judge and head linesman on the goal line be allowed to stand on an elevated platform on the sideline to judge whether the forward progress reached the goal line. Maybe that would help the officials see what's really going on.

And, of course, that was everybody's hope on the fake field goal that allowed Nate Kaeding to score his first career touchdown. Very clearly, Iowa's Tony Jackson grabbed OSU's Bobby Carpenter and rode him right into the ground as Kaeding easily skitted by for the 5-yard touchdown. That was a total joke. The side judge, who appears to move in to assist the umpire behind the defensive line, should have been able to see that right in front of him.

But, just as last week, when Wisconsin's Matt Schabert broke contain on his naked bootleg for a key late first down, OSU outsmarted itself on the fake field goal. For starters, Kaeding's earlier 36-yard field goal got so high it almost hit the top of the goal post. The All-American was certainly going to blast a 22-yarder high enough that nobody would be able to possibly touch it.

Plus, Iowa was trailing 17-3 early in the fourth quarter. A field goal, trimming the margin to 11, was not going to dramatically improve Iowa's chances of winning the game. In fact, had the fake failed, Iowa would have been in better shape by backing OSU up to its own 5, than kicking off down 11.

So, having said all of that, I'm not sure why the Buckeyes tried a field goal block. They should have showed that, then dropped into a regular defensive alignment at the snap and made sure they snuffed out any possible fakes. Yes, they were victimized by a terrible no-call, but going for a block in that situation made no sense. It was like they put the block team on auto pilot and, because of that, got what they deserved.

You put all of these situations -- plus the two times OSU started on Iowa's side of the 50 and the two Iowa fumbled snaps, all of which netted OSU a grand total of zero points -- together and you see that the Buckeyes truly controlled this game.

* The OSU offense was not mistake-free and was certainly not opportunistic, but for the umpteenth time in umpteen games the Buckeyes still won. What can be said that hasn't been said before?

Well this: The OSU running game appears to be in a total shambles. OK, Iowa's run defense was ranked 11th nationally, so nobody expected a 150-yard rushing game. But OSU continues to have absolutely no luck setting up Lydell Ross, Maurice Hall or Ira Guilford for anything remotely close to a positive play.

It's almost like a moral victory when OSU is able to get a first down. In the fourth quarter, OSU ran for three of them as they were able to play keep away from the Hawkeyes.

For the game, the tailbacks had 25 carries for 53 yards -- just over 2 yards a carry.

They tried benching Bryce Bishop in favor of Alex Stepanovich at right guard, and even that expected bump didn't mean that much. They rarely ran out of the I formation, which tells me that Branden Joe must not be fully healthy just yet.

The only silver lining is OSU faces sadsack Indiana and Penn State, which has allowed not yards but miles on the ground this year, the next two weeks. It is time to use these next two games to get the ground game in gear.

I hope to break down the running and passing games, such as they are, in Buckeye Grove on Thursday. But the impression I had of Krenzel's play after the game was he failed in more than one instance to complete simple, elementary throws. On the first drive, Ben Hartsock was wide open and the ball was way wide of him. In the fourth quarter, he threw behind Michael Jenkins. I know Guilford, Hartsock and Santonio Holmes all had balls go off their hands incomplete, so maybe the problem isn't entirely with Krenzel. But there just doesn't seem to be any zip in that facet of the offense, either.

* Another incredible defensive performance later, Ohio State is making some believers at least with its defense. We are watching Quinn Pitcock, who got more plays in place of an injured Marcus Green, grow up right before our eyes. Mike D'Andrea and Fred Pagac Jr. were tough as nails as the linebacking corps made up for the loss of Robert Reynolds.

Nate Salley had another huge game, although he did allow Iowa's Ramon Ochoa to get deep on him. Salley's big hit on a third-down pass set up the scenario where Michael Jenkins returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown.

I have crabbed about the lack of turnovers -- OSU was 70th nationally in turnover margin -- coming in. They got three this week, two fumbled snaps and a late Chris Gamble interception. That's a good start, certainly.

* Jenkins made Jim Tressel look like a genius for putting him back on punt returns. Jenkins fielded his first career punt and rolled 54 yards for his team's first touchdown. Ironically, Gamble helped shield Iowa's sniper, freeing Jenkins to start rolling toward the north end zone.

"Mike's been working as a punt returner and as we studied on Tuesday morning Iowa's punt coverage, we felt one thing, they weren't going to hit the ball real high," Tressel said. "Number two, if you could block No. 33 (Bob Sanders), you had a chance to bring one back. And so you say, well who could do the best job of blocking No. 33? It's Chris Gamble.

"Well, then who could do the best job of catching the ball and going north and south? It was Mike Jenkins. So we made the decision Tuesday morning to go that route."

Congratulations to the coaching staff for seeing an area that needed addressed and addressing it. Now about this offense …

Now, for a look around the Big Ten:

* The Game of the Week was at Madison, where No. 13 Purdue rallied for an 18-yard Ben Jones field goal with three seconds left to defeat 14th-ranked Wisconsin 26-23. QB Kyle Orton had driven Purdue 82 yards in 11 plays to set up the winning kick. The Badgers had tied the score at 23-23 on Jim Leonhard's 63-yard punt return with 2:55 remaining.

Orton finished 38 of 55 for 411 yards and a touchdown for Purdue. Purdue's Taylor Stubblefield and John Standeford combined for 30 receptions and 314 yards against Wisconsin. Stubblefield had 16 catches for 130 yards and a score, and Standeford caught 14 passes for 184 yards, including a 50-yarder that replays showed should have been a 76-yard score had officials not ruled he stepped out of bounds.

"We threw the ball 55 times? That's shameless," joked Purdue coach Joe Tiller, whose team once threw 81 passes in a game at Wisconsin.

Linebacker Alex Lewis recorded five sacks for the Badgers.

The result was exactly what OSU fans needed. Now, OSU controls its own destiny in the Big Ten championship race with remaining games against league unbeatens Michigan State and Purdue. In a nutshell, OSU needs to win out and have Wisconsin lose a game to get at least the Rose Bowl bid. Things become a bit more nebulous when other teams figure into tie situations, however.

* In another Big Ten battle of top-25 teams, No. 15 Michigan State extended its win streak to five games by outscoring 25th-ranked Minnesota 44-38. QB Jeff Smoker threw for 252 yards and ran for a touchdown, Jaren Hayes had two touchdown runs, DeAndra Cobb returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score, and Dave Rayner hit field goals of 46, 50 and 52 yards to extend his streak of consecutive successful kicks to eleven.

Jason Teague's 60-yard scoring run with 6:30 remaining gave the Spartans enough points to withstand two late Minnesota touchdowns. Minnesota's Asad Abdul-Khaliq threw for a career-high 377 yards.

``I said, 'What can you do with 43 seconds?' They said, 'Coach, we can take it back,' '' Michigan State coach John L. Smith on Cobb's 100-yard kickoff return with 37 seconds remaining in the first half.

* Michigan blasted Illinois 56-14 as Chris Perry ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns and Steve Breaston returned a punt 74 yards for another Michigan score. The Wolverines, who rallied from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Minnesota last week, had no letdown as they stormed to a 35-to-0 halftime lead.

Illinois, which won the Big Ten title two years ago, is 1-and-7, with the only victory coming over Division I-AA Illinois State. The Illini have dropped their four conference games by an average of 32 points.

Now, for a look around the country:

* The ranks of the unbeaten remained five after Oklahoma downed Missouri, Miami (Fla.) crushed Temple, Virginia Tech was idle, TCU avoided upset at the hands of UAB and Northern Illinois downed Western Michigan.

* Top-ranked Oklahoma was held under 50 points for the first time in five games, but the Sooners still rolled to a 34-13 win over No. 24 Missouri. QB Jason White threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns and Antonio Perkins tied a Division I-A record with his seventh career punt return for a touchdown. Perkins' touchdown with 1:02 left in the first half gave Oklahoma a 31-10 halftime lead.

The 69-yard punt return was Perkins' fourth this season and seventh of his career.

* Fifth-ranked Southern Cal beat Notre Dame by 31 points for the second year in a row. Last year, the score was 44-13. This year, it was 45-14 as Matt Leinart threw for 351 yards and four touchdowns. Leinart finished 26 of 34 with no interceptions.

Six USC players scored touchdowns, the Trojans rolled up 551 yards of offense, and at 6-1, they're off to their best start since 1995. USC had only won once (1997) in its last 10 trips to South Bend. ND, which was optimistic after a win at Pittsburgh last week, fell to 2-4.

* Florida State's Bobby Bowden has drawn even with Penn State's Joe Paterno in the race for the all-time Division I-A coaching victory record. Bowden's Seminoles rebounded from a home loss to Miami (Fla.) by defeating Virginia 19-14 in a battle of ACC contenders.

Chris Rix threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Craphonso Thorpe and Xavier Beitia kicked four field goals as seventh-ranked Florida State gave Bowden his 338th career coaching victory. The win moved the 73-year-old Bowden into a tie with Penn State's Paterno for first place on the Division I-A coaching victories list. The Nittany Lions were off Saturday. Bowden is in his 28th year at Florida State and 38th as a head coach. Bowden is 338-97-4 in 38 seasons, 28 at Florida State. Paterno is 338-105-3 at Penn State. Bowden could move into sole possession of the top spot next week as FSU hosts Wake Forest, while Penn State visits Iowa.

* Florida posted its second straight road victory over a ranked team by upsetting 11th-ranked Arkansas 33-28. Freshman Gator quarterback Chris Leak completed 20 of 34 passes for 269 yards. The Gators took a 33-to-7 lead into the fourth quarter before the Razorbacks scored 21 straight points to make it close.

But a third roughting-the-passing penalty wiped out an Arkansas interception with a minute to play and killed the Razorbacks' chances.

* Late last night, Washington rebounded from a loss to Nevada by defeating No. 22 Oregon State 38-17 in Corvallis. Charles Frederick caught nine passes for 216 yards. He scored on three long touchdowns. Frederick caught TD passes of 35 and 87 yards. He also returned a punt 86 yards for a score.

* Auburn's Carnell Williams ran for 161 yards and broke Joe Cribbs' 25-year-old school record with six touchdowns as the 19th-ranked Tigers beat Mississippi State 45-13.

* Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald had eight catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of the Panthers' 42-32 win over Rutgers.

* No. 18 Nebraska equaled a school record by forcing eight turnovers in a 48-12 victory over Texas A&M. The Cornhuskers intercepted three passes and recovered two fumbles by Aggies' quarterback Reggie McNeal. The last time Nebraska had eight turnovers was 1991, against Colorado State.

* Hawaii and Louisiana Tech combined for 939 net passing yards in Hawaii's 44-41 win. Warriors quarterback Timmy Chang was 33-of-46 for 534 yards and four interceptions. For the Bulldogs, Luke McCown was 31-of-48 for 405 yards with one interception.

* QB B.J. Symons was 42-of-67 for 552 yards with five touchdowns, and ran for another score in Texas Tech's 51-49 loss to Oklahoma State. It was Symons' sixth straight game with more than 400 yards.

* Eli Manning accounted for four touchdowns as Mississippi beat Alabama 43-28. The Rebels have beaten the Crimson Tide just eight times in 51 meetings -- half of those with either Eli or his father, Archie, at quarterback. The Manning family is 7-3 against the Crimson Tide, with brother Peyton going 3-1 against Alabama at Tennessee.

* My new Heisman Trophy ballot (subject to change, of course, before I have to send it in): Virginia Tech‘s Kevin Jones (he stays there even in an off week), Oklahoma's Jason White (22TDs and 4 INTs), Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald (13 TD grabs) and Texas Tech‘s B.J. Symons (32 TDs and 8 INTs).

* My new top 15: Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech (just waiting for the Nov. 1 showdown with Miami in Blacksburg), Florida State (clearly ACC‘s best), Southern California (blistered the Irish), LSU (class of the SEC), Georgia (only loss to LSU, may get rematch in title game), Ohio State, Purdue (big one at The Big House next Sat.), Washington State (unbeaten in Pac-10, but must face Oregon State and USC next two weeks), Michigan State (one-point loss to La.Tech only blemish), Nebraska (back on track after loss), Michigan (needs Purdue win desperately), TCU, Northern Illinois.

* Here is a look at next week's key games: Virginia Tech at West Virginia (Wednesday night), Maryland at Georgia Tech (Thursday), Oklahoma at Colorado, USC at Washington, Oregon State at Washington State, Auburn at LSU, Purdue at Michigan, Tennessee at Alabama, Penn State at Iowa.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week, followed by the Big Ten standings.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Aug. 30, Washington (4-3), beat Oregon State 38-17, Oct. 18; vs. Southern California, Oct. 25

Sept. 6, San Diego State (3-5), lost to New Mexico 30-7, Oct. 18; vs. Wyoming, Oct. 25

Sept. 13, N.C. State (5-3), beat Clemson 17-15, Oct. 16; at Duke, Oct. 25

Sept. 20, Bowling Green (6-1), beat Eastern Michigan 33-20, Oct. 18; vs. Northern Illinois, Oct. 25

Sept. 27, Northwestern (3-4), idle, Oct. 18; vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 25

Oct. 11, at Wisconsin (6-2), lost to Purdue 26-23, Oct. 18; at Northwestern, Oct. 25

Oct. 18, Iowa (5-2), lost to Ohio State 19-10, Oct. 18; vs. Penn State, Oct. 25

Oct. 25 (noon, ESPN), at Indiana (1-6), idle, Oct. 18; vs. Ohio State, Oct. 25

Nov. 1 (TBA), at Penn State (2-5), idle, Oct. 18; at Iowa, Oct. 25

Nov. 8 (TBA), Michigan State (7-1), beat Minnesota 44-38, Oct. 18; idle, Oct. 25; vs. Michigan, Nov. 1

Nov. 15 (TBA), Purdue (6-1), beat Wisconsin 26-23, Oct. 18; at Michigan, Oct. 25

Nov. 22 (noon, ABC), at Michigan (6-2), beat Illinois 56-14, Oct. 18; vs. Purdue, Oct. 25

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Michigan State (7-1, 4-0)

Purdue (6-1, 3-0)

Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1)

Michigan (6-2, 3-1)

Ohio State (6-1, 2-1)

Minnesota (6-2, 2-2)

Iowa (5-2, 1-2)

Northwestern (3-4, 1-2)

Penn State (2-5, 0-3)

Indiana (1-6, 0-3)

Illinois (1-7, 0-4)

Oct. 18 Results

Purdue 26, Wisconsin 23

Michigan State 44, Minnesota 38

Michigan 56, Illinois 14

Ohio State 19, Iowa 10

Oct. 25 Schedule

Ohio State at Indiana, noon (ESPN)

Penn State at Iowa, noon (ABC)

Minnesota at Illinois, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Wisconsin at Northwestern, noon (ESPN2)

Purdue at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)


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