Mr. Bucknuts Bucket of Bullets

Was Marshall better than we could have expected? What is the significance of this week's NC State game? All this and more in Mr. Bucknuts' weekly opinion column.

OK, so we looked past Marshall pointing to the NC State game next week because Marshall looked past Troy pointing to their OSU game on Saturday. It turned out, Troy was better than most anyone thought, beating Top 25 Missouri after spotting them 14 early points. And Marshall turned out to be better than what us smug OSU fans thought, beating our Buckeyes in many phases of the game before being turned away at the last second by the kicking game. OK, got that? Then altogether now, say it along with me:

NUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE!!!!

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That Gem City Madman…The Nuge, that is. We feel pretty close to Mike, for a few reasons. He has been on our radio show five times. His family sits behind me at the stadium. Hey - I went to high school fergawd sake with his father! I've followed his career since he was at Centerville. Back then, he was distraught that OSU had just taken Josh Huston (the year before) and that he wouldn't get a shot to play for the Bucks; Tressel then came aboard and made Mike one of his first two "gets". The rest is history. However, part of that history came out - off the air this year - when we talked about his fabulous career and all the individual accomplishments. Regarding a quirk of cumulative coincidences, Mike pointed out that he never had the opportunity to kick a "walk off" field goal for the win. After 55 yards - and eight inches inside the left upright - on Saturday, that mission is now accomplished, as well…

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Captains and the capper…Now I understand why we need so many captains. Captain #1 (Dustin Fox) goes down in the first quarter with a broken arm. I thought about him when EJ got his two penalties (one deserved) and when a wide open Brad Bates beat us shoeless to tie the game. Captain #2 (Flydell) was distributing points for both teams, giving up seven to the Marshall Mauler - Jonathan Goddard - then running hard to get us back into the game. Captain #3 capped it, of course, by nailing the game-winning heroics off his right foot. So, Simon Fraser? It's your turn next week…

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Was Cincinnati Washington?…I remember leaving the stadium last August 30th (2003) thinking that this particular Ohio State team was going to simply mow down the opposition, based on our opening night game against the 17th ranked Washington Huskies. We won 28-9 and we dominated. Washington had only 7 yards rushing and their sainted QB (Cody Pickett) looked decidedly mortal. Sound familiar? Yes, we whacked - and dominated - Cincinnati in this year's opening fracas by a similar score and left tread marks on another good quarterback - Gino Guidugli. So…

Well, the second game last year was a wake-up call. We struggled against an average San Diego State squad and squeaked out a 3-point win after generating only ten first downs the entire game. What would be the comparison this year? This year, we knocked off a quality and determined squad, in the Thundering Herd, by a similar 3-spot.

Not to forget, our third game last year was against this same North Carolina State squad we will face in six days. Hey - you know, we actually dominated that game, as well, until a series of miscues got the Pack back in and then Rivers got hot and…, oh, he isn't there this year?

Now, that's different…

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There's a new Marshall in town…Just how good has Marshall been these past few seasons? Their record over the last seven years is one win off (from Miami) as being the best in the nation! They produced players like Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Randy Moss. They won D-IAA national championships right before that (plus losing in the finals - twice to Tressel-led Youngstown teams) and won the first six MAC titles in the first six years they were in the league (and the first six years that they were D-1A)! No, these are not your father's doormat teams. The MAC might not be back, but Bob Pruett's Marshall teams have never been away…

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Turnabout and fair play…Someone switched the scripts on these two teams, at one point in the game, and the coaching staffs never noticed. After littering the air with passes the whole game, Marshall runs off a 17-play run-dominated drive, going through a suddenly porous Ohio State defense. Not to be outdone, the Buckeyes turn their back on tradition and light up the sky with a spread offense that first-year starter Justin Zwick ran beautifully. Then, there's Marshall's much-maligned offensive line looking stout. And our return kicking game looking feeble. And Marshall's kicking game looking great. Until the last few minutes when…well, that didn't go according to script now, did it?

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If at first you can't tackle…How many missed tackles? How many bad "wrap-ups"? The poorest job tackling the ball that I have seen in a Tressel-coached Buckeye team. And despite my reverence for Coach T, I have to ask this: how many of you were screaming along with me not to take that holding penalty (it was fourth down, man!) and not to let a passing team have another crack at the end zone. I have got to get the coaches' phone number down there on the sideline…

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You can cuss Amato…All right, how many players on North Carolina State should have been Buckeyes? My favorite story (and I swear this is true, but you could never prove it…) has to be the ménage a trios with Richard Washington, a terrific WR that could be helping the Good Guys this year. Here it is, straight from Conspiracy Central: Amato was an assistant under Bobby Bowden and still remains a friend. When we were trying to recruit Buster Davis, we also had a commitment from Washington - the same year. Washington lets Amato know that he will renege to the Buckeyes and become a Wolfpacker. Bowden asks Amato to keep that quiet. Back in those days, you could only send out the exact number of letters-of-intent that you had open scholarships (a Big Ten only rule that has subsequently been changed). Thus, when we thought Washington was coming to Columbus, we ran out of letters and couldn't send one to Buster. Washington pulled the last minute switcheroo, Buster got peeved and everyone got what they wanted. Except us. Just another reason to hammer these wayward wolves…

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And other bottom feeding adventures from …Then there is the celebrated case of Derek Morris. He actually signs with the Buckeyes, tells us on the radio that his goal is "to win two Heisman trophies" for Ohio State, moves to Columbus and then is asked to leave town before he ever plays a down. Here's a guy who couldn't qualify academically to get back into high school. And whose father would make Jimmy Connor's mother blush. A whole country-full of colleges stayed away from this 300 pound moving violation. But not Amato. Derek is penciled in now and his "offensive lines" about Ohio State reek with payback potential. Then how about sleek running back, Tramain Hall? He actually moved to Huber Heights his sophomore year in high school to live with Coach Jay Minton at Wayne (a great friend of the OSU program). He got homesick (and it was kind of a waiting-to-be investigated story…) and moved back to Florida. He is part of the Brat Pack, too. And - gosh - let's not forget about Dajuan Morgan. But that's a story for another time…

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And what about Buster Davis anyway?…Buster became great friends with fellow ‘backers, AJ, D'Animal and Carpenter. He e-mailed me (I must be a

magnet for troubled youth) after his first year of non-playing time and suggested - strongly - that he wanted to come back to Ohio State if they would have him. The feeling he received from the staff was that Buster looked good staying in Seminole war paint. Here's the question: if he had "come home" to Columbus, where would the voluble Buster Davis be playing right now? I suggest he would be splitting back-up duty with either Marcus Freeman or Thomas Matthews. He was in that flop game with Miami Friday. But, Buster, we hardly knew ye…

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Recruiting as an exact science…Après pos to the Busted Davis references, we recruiting fans shed crocodile tears over the ones that got away. Yet All-World QB Mike Bush is now being tried at defense for Louisville. And guys like Prescott Burgess and Fred Davis - who shunned OSU based partially on their preferred playing positions - are now playing other positions. But how about all those non-qualifiers who are not playing at all? Like Eugene Germany (USC), who we wanted badly. Or wide receiver Brandon Barrett (WVU) or O-lineman Brandon Braxton (OK) or compatriot Oklahoma linebacker Chris Patterson, who we thought the world of. Listen - Hargrave Military Academy has a virtual "Who's Who" of players we wanted a year ago, that never qualified academically: Olu Hall (Virginia), Lorenzo Washington (Alabama) and Willie Young (NC State). Getting the kids to commit to you to play football is one thing. Getting them to commit to the books is another. Over time, Tressel seems to understand the differentiation and - over time - that could put the whole sordid messes of Miles Williams and Dajuan Morgan in a whole different light

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Suddenly, it's where do we go from here?"…Yes, the obvious answer is Raleigh. But do you see any easy wins left on the schedule after how we played Saturday? First, it's those pesky Wolfpack guys. Then, after a week to think about it, we play a high-powered Northwestern offense late at night in Chicago. Home against Wisconsin? After they scored two safeties Saturday and ran back a fumble to win, this looks like the same scrappy scary Badger team that we have trouble beating. Iowa? Well, they might be the soft spot (and isn't that ironic?) but we play them there. Indiana just beat a Top 25 team and isn't that ironic?), while Penn State and Michigan State have yet to show their 2004 identities. Purdue looks like they could win a BCS bowl game after their first two shellackings. Then there is Michigan. Could they have played down to a team worse than they did in South Bend? The Carr-Wreck factored reared it's ugly head once more; he can beat any team and lose to any team in the nation.

You tell me: which of the games look like no-brainers from here?

I will be waiting for your e-mails… MrBucknuts@yahoo.com 


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