Enough about the Buckeyes performance on Saturday – let's talk about me, Mr. Bucknuts, and my predictions!
Jerry Rudzinski and I are both noted for saying things like "Well, we'll go 9-2 this year…" and then we pick the Buckeyes to win every individual game. Hey – before the season started, Las Vegas had the Buckeyes as favorites to win every individual game, but I wonder what the odds were then that they would go undefeated? Eh?
So, it vexed me that so many Buckeye fans and pundits gave us the sorry-but-learn-to-live-with-it reports that Ohio State, was, indeed, going down to defeat there in Raleigh over the weekend. Even our nearly perfect Kirk Larrabee and the almost-unerring Steve Helwagen picked the Pack. Jerry? Like me, he always picks the Bucks to win!
I said it would be 24-10 Buckeyes. And I was feeling pretty smug at 22-7 until Lydell decided – for the second week in a row – to get the other team back in the game (more on that in a bit…). I will still take the win, and will still say it was set up in classic Tressel Ball style: great opportunistic defense, good-enough special teams, and don't-let-it-beat you offense. And one more thing:
(OK, it starts low in the back of your throat, and then you have to use the diaphragm, get your back into it and conjure up Gabriel's trumpet…)
That's right, I will keep blowing that horn as long as the best kicker in college football keeps it up. On a wet and muddy field, the Nuge knocks through five field goals (shoulda been six, but more on that in a bit…) and all of them were No Doubters. If OSU gets 2-3 first downs on any drive, no matter where they start on that possession, you know you've got three points. Because you've got the Nuge. Not only is he the best kicker in Ohio State history, he is the best in the country this year, and over the past three years. And if he isn't a first-team All-American this season, then we are relegating that voting to the Irrelevancy Scrap Heap of History. Sort of like…well, SEC cheating investigations and pre-season polls.
Nugent seems automatic and how big is the fact that we then follow up those automatic points knowing that The Other Guys are going to be starting on their own 20? You don't think the Nugent foot is a difference maker? Just ask the fans in Tennessee or Maryland or West Virginia or Auburn after last weekend's freaky kicking spree.
Mike Nugent – you are the reason we were undefeated in 2002 and the reason we are 3-0 in 2004. ‘Nuff said…
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Piling on Lydell…Here's the thing: there's no one who tries harder or wants it more than Lydell Ross (that's why his teammates made him captain), but we are entering the Emperor Has No Clothes segment of Lydell's career here. Look, Tressel's offense is based on establishing the run and grinding the clock. Then, how's this for a stat: on first down attempts in the first half of the NC State game, OSU had one total yard on thirteen tries. The second half? Thirteen total yards on ten first down plays. And last week? 79 yards rushing. All those questions you want to ask as follow-up end up with the answer being "Lydell Ross".
Let's say this about that: facts are stubborn things. Against fast-closing defenders, Ross is dead meat. He doesn't have the burst, he doesn't have the vision, he doesn't have the speed to the outside, and he doesn't cut back in traffic.
All I am saying (to paraphrase John Lennon) is give P's a chance. That's "P" as in Tony Pittman, who has vision and a burst. And two less game-altering turnovers than Lydell, at this point in his career…
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And speaking of senior moments…For a large part of the game, and the first 3/11ths of the season, we are out on the field with 21 out of the 22 starters being juniors and sophomores. (I am discounting Mike Kne, only because he is something else altogether!). With Joe being congenitally injured and Lydell being Lydell (see above…); with Dustin Fox sidelined with a broken arm, that leaves just Simon Fraser as the senior on the field. That also leads this dazed mind to conclude that we will continue to get better this year as we continue to get these guys reps and experience. No more killer penalties, for example, from my "Killer P's" (Pitcock and Penton), better decision making from Zwick and his receivers, better blocking up front and better all-around defense. And next year?
Hey – it's a great time to be a Buckeye…
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When we look down the road…we look way down the road. Next year, we open against the Miami RedHawks (Cincinnati crushed them two weeks ago) and then we host Texas and San Diego State (almost a crusher, themselves, of the mighty Wolverweenies). The Texas game, of course, looms as a great regional match-up. Then the following season, we have to go to Austin (payback) after opening at home against Northern Illinois and with a third game – at home – against Cincinnati. That takes care of our multi-year commitment to the Bearcats. The oddity, to me, is playing Northern Illinois. I know, I know, they are in the MAC. Hey – I can see playing the Ohio teams in the MAC (plus, Marshall is virtually an Ohio team) but what do we get out of a game with Northern Illinois?
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What is chic today might be trouble tomorrow…Chic Harley is arguably the greatest running back in Ohio State history. Heck, they even built the stadium because of him! A three-time All-American back when OSU wasn't even noted for their football teams. So it comes as no surprise that – when they finally got around to retiring numbers – Chic Harley was at the head of that list. Why, then, did it take them so long? A small problem: back in 1916, when the Chic-ster first started playing for the Bucks, there were no numbers. Hence, nothing to retire! It is said that he started wearing #47 in 1919 when he was finishing his glorious career. That's the number they will use this year to honor Chic Harley. And if you don't like the logic, just assume they would retire AJ Hawk's number one day, anyway…
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Another dubya from New York…It was wonderful news that Duane Long broke to recruiting-hungry Buckeye fans last week when he was the first to reveal that Athol Springs' Doug Worthington committed to the Bucks. This is our fourth Top 100 player already, and at a position of need (defensive end). We still don't have the kind of rush end we got spoiled with last season when Will Smith was All-World. Yes, Will was the other dubya from New York state (Utica, New York), a state that also brought us record-breaking Sammy Maldonado. Just so you don't think we forget these New Yawkas, we noted – pleasantly – that Sammy ran for over a hundred yards two weeks back for his new Maryland team…
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Also on the Bucknuts recruiting front (page)…Our newest columnist, Bill Conley, keeps hitting long balls with his insider pithy style and willingness to take on controversial questions. The ex-recruiting coordinator for Ohio State laid it on the line again during a Bucknuts' chat last week. In case you missed it, Coach Conley was asked what he thought about our young offensive line (before last weekend's game…) and opined, "The guy that I think is playing good is Tim Schafer at RT. Everybody else has been disappointing". When asked about the strange recruiting saga of NC State's Richard Washington, Conley remarked, "Richard committed to us. Even his dad, high school coach and teachers at the school assumed he was signing with us. We knew something was up when we couldn't get a hold of him the last 36 hours before Signing Day. NC State worked on him hard, if you know what I mean, the last few days." The emphasis is ours, the implication is Coach Conley's, the inference can be all your own…
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Ducks, sitting ducks, and quarterbacks…We faced two of the better quarterbacks in the country in Cincinnati's Gino Guidugli and Marshall's Stan Hill. So, when we got to tee off on a lesser light (NC State's Jay Davis), was it really any surprise that we took him out to the woodshed and beat him like a rented mule? We will continue to daze and confuse young quarterbacks with disguised fronts and changing coverages. That bodes well against, say, Wisconsin's John Stocco, Iowa's Drew Tate, Indiana's Matt LoVecchio and Michigan State's "newbie", whoever it might be at that point in the season. And it bodes more conservatively against the Kyle Ortons and Zach Mills. Chad Henne, you ask? More on that in a few more weeks…
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Florida comes to Raleigh…Not only their weather, but their trash-talking, gun-slinging, discipline-eschewing ways. Chuck Amato wants his teams to be in the mold of his mentor, Bobby Bowden. And like those hip shuckin' and jivin' Miami or Florida squads of yore. So far, Chuckie has the undisciplined part down without the talent or the teamwork part. After recruiting kids that had multiple problems elsewhere, he turns them loose on the field with instructions to "just go out and make something happen". And on Saturday, they did just that: 14 penalties, five turnovers, and some dance moves straight from Archie Bell and the Drells (you can look it up…). Did anyone else find it ironic that there was Chuckie on the sideline, losing control over a penalty given to TA McLendon for…losing control? The sunglasses, the hipster quotes, and the fast-but-sloppy play – it's all been done before, and by lots of better teams. It might be a new act in Raleigh, but on the national scene, Chuck, it's already old
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And finally, from the "Derek Ross School of Recruiting"…and Hard Knocks, we bring you the reaction of Virginia tailback Marquis Week's, when asked about his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown two weeks ago. The player soon to be voted "Most Likely To Escape" said, "That was just instinct. Kind of like running from the cops"…
E-mail Mr. Bucknuts at firstname.lastname@example.org