Sunday Morning QB: The Wrong Side Of History

We look at the weekend that was in college football, focusing on OSU's landmark loss at Northwestern. Click here for all the details.

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.

We start with a look at OSU's loss to Northwestern:

* Where do we begin after a stunning loss of historical proportions?

You'd say start with the offense, OSU's Achilles' heel most weeks. This game was lost, in my opinion, when the OSU offense failed to score a touchdown in the first half. OSU's lone TD in the first half was provided by Santonio Holmes' punt return for a score.

The Buckeyes managed just 95 yards on 32 first-half plays.

One week after Minnesota trampled NU for 253 yards rushing in a 43-17 blowout, the Buckeyes managed 94 yards on 36 attempts. OSU finished with 305 yards total offense.

"I just kept telling Coach, `Throw the ball,' " Holmes said. "We had to throw the ball to win the game. They were stopping our running game. When it came down to it, we had to throw the ball.

"We had to come out and go after them, but we just didn't. That's tough. We made a couple mistakes on the offensive side. Our defense kept giving us opportunities. We just didn't take advantage of them."

The Buckeyes finally incorporated Tony Pittman into the offense, but it was almost too little too late.

"The older guys were telling me how everybody comes to play in the Big Ten and I saw that tonight," said Pittman, who had 29 yards on 10 carries.

Meanwhile, Justin Zwick had an up-and-down night at quarterback. NU harassed him most of the night and he made a critical error late with an interception by NU's Jeff Backes that thwarted.

"He's young," Holmes said. "He's got a lot of growing and learning to do. He makes some mistakes but he has to come back from those mistakes. I know he will."

* Of course, you have to point a finger toward the OSU defense, which never solved NU's spread attack. The Wildcats rolled up 419 yards total offense, with quarterback Brett Basanez throwing for 278 and Noah Herron carrying 30 times for 109.

"We're disappointed because we had high expectations coming into this game," said linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who had an interception. "We're a good team, we're going to respond to this next week. We're going to come out and play hard. We played hard tonight. We just didn't get the job done."

It seemed that this may have been a game where veteran corner Dustin Fox's experience was missing. NU converted 12 of its first 17 third-down conversions – many in excess of 7 yards – in building its 27-17 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"They had a good offensive scheme," Carpenter said. "They played well. We just had to make plays to stop them."

One staple of Ohio State's defenses in recent years has been halftime adjustments. But NU came out and took the first possession of the second half 78 yards for a touchdown, then followed with an 80-yard TD drive as well.

NU got two of its touchdowns on throwback screens, one to Herron and another to Mark Philmore.

"We really couldn't stop their screen tonight," Carpenter said. "They did a good job of executing their screens. They got their linemen out there to block us and we couldn't stop it. We pursue hard to the ball and sometimes we give up the back side."

Carpenter admitted that the Buckeyes may have been lulled to sleep by the Mildcats … er Wildcats' recent futility against OSU.

"When you beat a team for so long, you just expect to win. We played hard, but we just didn't get the job done. I know when we came up here in 2002 they gave us a heck of a game and we expected that."

* You would say the special teams were exemplary with the Holmes return and a big kick return by Maurice Hall. But Mike Nugent's missed field goal – just a foot wide left – in overtime made the final outcome fait accompli.

"It's pretty rough," Nugent said. "Playing with such great players and great coaches, you kind of forget what it's like to have a night like tonight."

On his kick, Nugent said, "I hit it good and usually it curves back in. But that one just stayed straight."

* The mark of a man is how he handles adversity. This is when Jim Tressel and his staff will earn their money. They need to rally this team to play a powerful opponent in Wisconsin in six days. It helps that the Buckeyes will be back in front of their home fans.

But this game illustrated so many holes for the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball.

They are unable to run the ball when they want to run it. That was illustrated from the first series of the game. That really gums up the passing game, in turn.

And defensively, OSU was exploited by a veteran quarterback and a strong tailback, among others. The Buckeyes could not get to Basanez to affect his game. Imagine what Purdue's Kyle Orton would have done against that defense, as it was constituted Saturday night.

Now for a look around the Big Ten:

* No. 15 Purdue put 30 years of misery at South Bend to rest with a 41-16 pasting of Notre Dame. QB Kyle Orton became an official Heisman Trophy candidate by completing 21 of 31 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns. That included a 97-yard strike to Taylor Stubblefield, who ended up with seven catches for 181 yards.

"You guys keep bringing up the Heisman, but I don't have a vote on that," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said of Orton. Stubblefield made a Heisman pose in Orton's honor on the sidelines. ND's Brady Quinn completed 26 of 46 passes for a career-high 432 yards for Notre Dame.

What We Learned: Orton is scary good. That was against a team that beat Washington 38-3 last week. He now has 17 touchdowns and no interceptions on the year. Wow.

* No. 18 Michigan downed Indiana 35-14. QB Chad Henne had the biggest day of his young career, throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns. It was also a career day for WR Braylon Edwards, who had eight catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Leon Hart had a 76-yard kick return for a score as well.

What We Learned: Michigan dealt with some adversity here and came through it just fine.

* Iowa crushed Michigan State 38-16. Drew Tate completed 25 of 36 passes for 341 yards and one touchdown as Iowa had a season-high 464 yards total offense.

What We Learned: Iowa is doggone tough at home and Tate looks like he's going to have a pretty nice year … MSU is a year away.

* No. 20 Wisconsin got RB Anthony Davis back and steam-rolled Illinois 24-7. Davis, sidelined several weeks with an eye injury, had 27 carries for 213 yards and three touchdowns.

What We Learned: Wisconsin will be a tough out next Saturday at Ohio Stadium … Davis gives the Badgers another dimension.

* No. 18 Minnesota ground out a 16-7 win over Penn State. The Gophers hammered out 288 yards with Laurence Maroney getting 144 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. Marion Barber III also had a TD run for the Gophers.

And a glance at headlines nationally

* It was supposed to be the Game of the Day, but No. 8 Auburn got all over No. 10 Tennessee 34-10 at Neyland Stadium.

* Virginia Tech shocked No. 6 West Virginia 19-13. The Hokies blocked a WVU and returned it for a touchdown and Brandon Pace atoned for a missed field goal on the final play the week before against N.C. State by making four field goals. WVU's 11-game regular season winning streak was snapped. WVU had rolled 28-7 a year ago.

* No. 3 Georgia avenged a pair of losses to LSU a year ago by blistering the 13th-ranked Tigers 45-16. David Greene threw for 172 yards and five touchdowns in the win.

What We Learned: Georgia is a legitimate national championship contender.

* Louisville's Eric Shelton tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns in the No. 22 Cardinals' 59-7 rout of East Carolina.

* Florida's Chris Leak threw for a career-high 322 yards and three touchdowns to help the No. 16 Gators beat Arkansas 45-30.

* Louisiana Tech shocked No. 17 Fresno State 28-21.

* N.C. State rallied from down 14-0 to defeat Wake Forest 27-21 in overtime. After Wake missed a field goal to open the overtime before T.A. McLendon, who had 139 yards on 30 carries, scored the game winner on an 8-yard run.

* Heisman Watch: Put Orton at the top of my list, which also includes Oklahoma QB Jason White, Texas RB Cedric Benson, Arizona State QB Andrew Walter, Georgia QB David Greene, USC QB Matt Leinhart and USC RB Reggie Bush.

* My new top 15: Oklahoma, USC, Georgia, Texas, Miami (Fla.), Auburn, Auburn, Florida State, Florida, Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, West Virginia, California. Purdue is my biggest mover. They're a top-10 team.

* Games to watch next week: Texas-Oklahoma, Cal-USC, Tennessee-Georgia, Wisconsin-Ohio State, Clemson-Virginia (Thursday), Minnesota-Michigan, Georgia Tech-Maryland, Purdue-Penn State, LSU-Florida.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

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

Sept. 4, Cincinnati (2-3), lost to UAB 30-20, Oct. 2; at Army, Oct. 9.

Sept. 11, Marshall (1-3), beat Miami (Ohio) 33-25, Sept. 29; at Ohio U., Oct. 9.

Sept. 18, at N.C. State (2-1), beat Wake Forest 27-21 (OT), Oct. 2; at North Carolina, Oct. 9.

Sept. 25, idle

Oct. 2, at Northwestern (2-3), beat Ohio State 33-27 (OT), Oct. 2; vs. Indiana, Oct. 9.

Oct. 9 (3:30 p.m., ABC), Wisconsin (5-0), beat Illinois 24-7, Oct. 2; at Ohio State, Oct. 9.

Oct. 16 (TBA), at Iowa (3-2), beat Michigan State 38-16, Oct. 2; idle, Oct. 9; vs. Ohio State, Oct. 16.

Oct. 23 (TBA), Indiana (2-3), lost to Michigan 35-14, Oct. 2; at Northwestern, Oct. 9.

Oct. 30 (TBA), Penn State (2-3), lost to Minnesota 16-7, Oct. 2; vs. Purdue, Oct. 9.

Nov. 6 (TBA), at Michigan State (2-3), lost to Iowa 38-16, Oct. 2; vs. Illinois, Oct. 9.

Nov. 13 (TBA), Purdue (4-0), beat Notre Dame 41-16, Oct. 2; at Penn State, Oct. 9.

Nov. 20 (1 p.m., ABC), Michigan (3-1), beat Indiana 35-14, Oct. 2; vs. Minnesota, Oct. 9.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0)

Minnesota (5-0, 2-0)

Michigan (4-1, 2-0)

Purdue (4-0, 1-0)

Michigan State (2-3, 1-1)

Iowa (3-2, 1-1)

Northwestern (2-3, 1-1)

Ohio State (3-1, 0-1)

Indiana (2-3, 0-2)

Illinois (2-3, 0-2)

Penn State (2-3, 0-2)

Oct. 2 Results

Iowa 38, Michigan State 16

Wisconsin 24, Illinois 7

Purdue 41, Notre Dame 16

Michigan 35, Indiana 14

Minnesota 16, Penn State 7

Northwestern 33, Ohio State 27, OT

Oct. 9 Schedule

Minnesota at Michigan, noon (ESPN)

Illinois at Michigan State, noon (ESPN2)

Indiana at Northwestern, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Wisconsin at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Purdue at Penn State, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)


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