The Defensive Line
This unit pressured Guidugli and had nice penetration for OSU all day long. Quinn Pitcock is a bull. Jay Richardson did some nice things. Simon Fraser looked very good in pushing people around and tipping at least two footballs (one early and one on a fourth down). He might be a difference maker at the DE slot now that he is not playing on a broken kneecap. David Patterson may not be 100% yet, but he is coming on and will play himself into the rotation. On several occasions OSU put in three DTs and Fraser. That is a whale of a defensive front to try and control. They produced decent pressure with that personnel package. The 3-4 alignment was essentially a 4-3 most of the time with a blitzing Mike D'Andrea or Bobby Carpenter screaming in to hassle the quarterback.
Dustin Fox and E.J. Underwood both played very well at corner. Fox in particular deserves mention for a couple nice plays. When Cincinnati tried a little trickeration play late in the game, he was beaten initially. He turned on the jets and showed phenomenal closing speed - and then knocked away the football. More plays like that and opponents will think twice about picking on Fox this season.
Ashton Youboty served some time at nickel and is simply solid. When OSU had their back to the wall after the Justin Zwick fumble, he stopped a Cincinnati running back in his tracks by taking out his legs. He tackled instead of hitting. That set of downs ended in a 3rd and 6 with an incomplete pass instead of a possible 3rd and 2 or even 1st down because Youboty tackled.
With the exception of Fox and Youboty, the rest of the defensive backs need to run tackling drills. There were a number of occasions where the first defensive back to make contact went for a big hit instead of wrapping up. One of those was the fake punt when Nate Salley allowed the ball carrier to slip out of his grasp and fall to the ground. On another occasion Salley and Underwood combined for a big hit on the Cincinnati tight end but neither wrapped him up. They were fortunate he fell down instead of pinballing off of them for more yardage.
Bam Childress. It's about time for him to have a game go his way. It could have been better if the touchdown had not been called back. One fan sitting beside me opined that poor Bam was cursed at that moment, but even so - it was a fine offensive performance. His jitterbug in the open field reminds the spectators that Mike Doss said he was the toughest receiver to tackle he had ever faced in college. Justin Zwick did very well in zipping the ball to him. He might have blocked a bit better, but considering his production in yardage – he was clearly a spark for the offense.
Santonio Holmes. Smooth. When OSU tossed the deep pass to start the third quarter, he made it look easy. He hauled it in and then carried the would-be tackler for a good 10-15 yards before going down. His late touchdown on a picture perfect pass from Troy Smith capped an expected big day for the wideout.
Roy Hall. When you consider him, think Michael Jenkins as a freshman and sophomore. You cannot go to him at all times. He is not ready to be 'Da man' quite yet, but he is going to be tough once he and Zwick get on the same page. Had Zwick not thrown too early or too late a couple of times, Hall might have had a touchdown today.
Ted Ginn, Jr. He will be special. In a bit of a surprise, he played pretty extensively today. He ended without a touchdown, but it was close.
Ryan Hamby. He wants to be like Ben Hartsock. If he plays like this, people will ask ‘Ben who?' by October 1. He showed solid blocking and fantastic receiving. He (like Hall) might have had another touchdown if not for Zwick overthrowing him at the 10-yard line early in the 3rd quarter. He clearly used the weight he has gained in muscle to be much more physical than last season while still showing the ability to get open in the middle of the field. He is a weapon that defenses must not overlook.
Their run blocking improved as the game progressed. Not surprisingly they struggled a bit early on in their first game as a starting unit together. However, as Justin Zwick began repeatedly burning the Bearcat defense with short passes to Hamby, holes opened. The defense had to play honest and the line became more physical, clearing at least a few holes I could have wheeled my grandmother through in a hospital bed. Toss sweeps, delays, I formation runs...in one game there was as much variety in the running game as the entire 2003 season. Jim Tressel appears to finally have a line molded in his image of a front five, and the offense reflected that reality.
If there was a large negative, it was in pass protection. It really hurt Ohio State at times. Zwick's interception at the start of the third quarter was partially the result of being rushed. He had pressure and let it fly. It flew all right - too high. At least one Zwick fumble was also partially due to this problem.
Kyle Turano. Holy Swiss cheese Batman! Turano can punt for distance. All the spring and fall, I never once saw him unleash a kick like the one he did against Cincinnati. He may just be another All-American type kicker. The best part for the Buckeye faithful is that his number was called only once today. When is the last time OSU punted only once in a game?
Maurice Hall and Ted Ginn, Jr. back to return kicks is a great call by the coaching staff. If given a hole and some blocking, Hall will be a terrible burr under the saddle of other teams this year. Ginn has incredible gifts and his speed makes him a threat to return the ball 100+ yards every time he touches it.
Santonio Holmes. That Dantonio kicked away from him all day spoke volumes to his abilities there. Do not be shocked if other teams follow that example.
Blocking. Last year the special teams units were routinely beat off of their blocks. They looked either lazy or soft. The return game stunk as a result. At least against Cincinnati, the Buckeyes held their blocks. If they continue to do that, expect OSU to run back several kickoffs punts this season.
Justin Zwick is learning. He is only a redshirt sophomore. People forget Craig Krenzel only started his redshirt junior season. In the negative category, Zwick needs to go to ball protection 101 this week. Perhaps Tressel should make him carry a football to class and everywhere he goes. The ball also slipped out of his hand a little too frequently. On the flip side of the coin, do not let some of the sloppiness fool you - Zwick made some very nice plays overall and solidified his hold on the starting position. He led the team and despite defensive pressure, turnovers, and a called back touchdown, he never appeared rattled.
Troy Smith. His fade pass to Santonio Holmes in the 4th quarter to put the game away was simply fantastic. That ball could not have been thrown any better and showed tremendous touch. However, like Zwick his game needs great improvement. He is still a run first guy. His first series resulted in a batted pass and then two runs for 9 yards. When Smith is pressured he almost invariably pulls the ball down and runs. A good defense will put a stop to that.
Bobby Carpenter. What can you say? He made the transition from not expected to play to near domination. Sent on blitzes multiple times during the game, he pressured Gino G. most every time. He gets his job done. Late in the game (before the final OSU score) Cincinnati was faced with a 3rd and long. It looked like they would get it. The Bearcat wideout caught the ball with a tremendous hole and nobody in Scarlet and Gray in front of him. Carpenter came from nowhere to burst into the play and stop it for only a 4-yard gain. On 4th down the Bearcats were successful with the fake punt, but even so - Carpenter's play stood out with the closing speed he showcased.
Mike D'Andrea. He appears to be finally coming into his own. He made tackles and harried the quarterback. He and Schlegel and Carpenter and Hawk have to get on the field more this year together. They are a wrecking crew and will all play on Sundays if this continues. D'Andrea absolutely ate up the screen pass attempt by Cincinnati on 3rd and 17 at the start of the 4th quarter.
A.J. Hawk. Not his greatest performance, but he did what he was supposed to do. Most teams would kill for one linebacker of his abilities, but it is looking more and more like OSU has him and three others (not to mention Freeman or Matthews). He dropped a possible interception that could have helped OSU, but it would have been a tough play.
Anthony Schlegel. He lived up to his reputation as a run stopper, and he looked to be around the football. He showed nice coverage on the Cincinnati tight end on a 1st down with 1:05 left in the half and the Bearcats trying to mount a drive. The pass was denied and the defense held thanks in no small part to Schlegel.
Lydell Ross looked like the freshman that burst upon the scene in 2001 - only better. He ran tough, ran hard, and he kept his legs moving to get short yardage. His final numbers were 17 rushes, 141 yards and a touchdown. Overall, he had a fantastic day. There were still a couple instances where he finished with 3 yards on a play instead of 10 due to where he chose to cut, but on the whole, if OSU can get this kind of effort from him every week, they will be in a BCS bowl. I'm not talking these kinds of numbers but this kind of effort. Possibly his best run of the day was not the 68 yard scamper but rather one in the 4th quarter with OSU up 17 to 6. On first down, Ross made one man miss when he tried to stop Lydell in backfield. Then, he broke a tackle for a 10-yard gain. He accounted for not one but two men on his own.
Maurice Hall. Given his travails and injuries, most Buckeye fans couldn't be happier for him. He ran hard and though he finished with only 14 yards on 7 carries, he contributed by spelling Ross and returning kickoffs. He ran tough and instead of cutting in the backfield and trying to make too much out of every play, he took the short yardage. He is putting forth maximum effort.
Antonio Pittman. It was clear the instant he was in the game. The tailback showed a really nifty move, and I watched to see who it was as the pile gradually diminished. I saw the number on the jersey and knew why. Pittman has a real chance to be special. Defensive players rarely hit him straight on, and he patiently waits for his blockers to open the hole. Then, he takes a look at his options and squirts through to daylight. Just as nice is that he does not fumble when belted. He finished with 7 rushes for 66 yards for an eye-popping 9.4 yards per carry.
This is a young team. Expect a great deal of improvement as the season progresses and they learn to play together. The offensive line progressively began to feel out its abilities the more they played. Hall and Zwick will get on the same page soon and then look out. Childress and Holmes appear to already be on the same page with Zwick.
Why have a gazillion dollar scoreboard to only show 30-40 replays during the course of a game? More than once I heard fans asking, "Why won't they show that play again?"
I have no idea what the one referee was watching when Roy Hall was being grabbed and frisked by the Cincinnati defensive back on the 2nd and goal play. No idea. The backjudge called the obvious hold/interference. Cincinnati defensive backs played very physical with the OSU wideouts inside the 20-yard line. Bam Childress clearly had his progress to the ball impeded on the first series for Ohio State inside the Cincinnati 20. The referees did not call it though and Ohio State was forced to settle for a field goal.
To hold Cincinnati to only 6 points - and those 6 points all came from turnovers by OSU - is phenomenal. This could have been a 40-0 game with fewer turnovers by the offense. They are young, but this is a batch of future NFL players. Look at the roster: Fox, Salley, and Underwood will clearly all be drafted. All three will likely be taken in the first three rounds when they come out. Carpenter, Hawk, D'Andrea, and Schlegel are all NFL caliber linebackers. At least two of them could end up taken in the first 50 picks of the draft. Patterson and Pitcock are future first round picks on the defensive line. Fraser and Green have the chance to be taken in the first four rounds.
Jim Tressel had to inwardly be grinning like the cat that ate the canary on a few of those Ohio State drives. To punt only once and be able to eat clock like the Buckeyes did really hurt UC as the game progressed. The lanes for the tailbacks widened with every quarter.
It's just possible that despite the loss of a number of NFL players, the OSU offense could find itself with more difference makers in 2004 than 2003. Ross, Roy Hall, Holmes, Ginn, Hamby, Zwick, Childress, and Troy Smith all appear to be on the cusp of making a name for themselves. Branden Joe will be returning before too long and add another dimension to the fullback position. Toss in Antonio Pittman for good measure, and this could be an explosive unit.
If those at home wondered why the crowd sounded lethargic, it was due to the heat. Broiling is how I would describe what was happening to most. They did rise to the occasion when the OSU defense motioned them for noise, but other than that their main concerns were to see Ohio State win and to try and stay cool (in that order). Noise was an afterthought.
The best marching band sequence of the day? The Alumni band spelled out "VOTE!" and then played John Philip Susa's The Stars and Stripes forever.
The best play call of the day was the fake field goal. Though Nate Salley should have stopped it cold, it was a gutsy call that turned out well for the Bearcats.
Don't tell me about Tressel being 'conservative'...
There is this widespread notion that somehow Jim Tressel is an offensive
dinosaur who is so conservative that he thinks women's right to vote should be
revoked. That simply does not fit with what happened on the field yesterday or
even last season. When faced with a 4th and 1 from nearly midfield, most coaches
would have kicked the ball. The Buckeyes were down only three, but a disastrous
nonconversion of that down could have started events to put OSU down 10 points
early in the game. Tressel tried it anyway (to the crowd's delight), and like
Dantonio's fake field goal – it took some intestinal fortitude. Further,
watch the game again if you have it on tape/Tivo/dvd and count how many times
OSU ran 3, 4, and even 5 wide receiver sets.
Finally... the offensive numbers...
Last year Tressel said he wanted 250 passing and 200 rushing yards. The majority of the media (and fans) scoffed. Yesterday OSU finished with 462 yards in offense. They had 220 rushing and 242 passing. It is only one game, but this offense might just be able to pull off the balance the Buckeye coaches are seeking.