Mr. Bucknuts' Bucket Of Bullets

As only Mr. Bucknuts can put it: "The sun was disrespectful to come up again today." You can enjoy those sentiments and much more as Mr. Bucknuts dissects OSU's stunning overtime loss at Northwestern. Click this free link for more.

I feel like a bucket of bullets shot right to my heart. Total defeat. What else can be said? (Well, you know us – there's always more…) It's tough enough to lose. But, geez, to Northwestern? What did they lose last week, to Minnesota by like 141-9? Hey – we have certainly pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat often enough that we shouldn't feel we deserve to win all the close games. Or even most of the off games. But here, the karma got run over by the dogma. It just never felt right from the moment of kickoff to that dreadful thing that passed for overtime.

And while we are doing a death-spiral into depression, let's really dwell on some melancholia. We all pretty much smugly thought that this defense of Ohio State's was special. It isn't. We also thought we would replace two great punters with another fifth-year walk-on. We haven't. And we thought that this offense just had to be better than last year's plain vanilla effort. It's not. This team looks a lot like the 2001 campaign. A year away. We'll beat some of the teams we're supposed to beat. Lose to some others. We'll listen to the theoretical justifications from the well intentioned and some gleeful analysts. And we'll have to wait and see if this team can form some kind of positive identity.

We are waiting guys. And we're still here for you…

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By the way… I am sure that some of you might remember another series of downs in contention for this honor, but I can't remember a worse series of downs in the history of the program. I'm talking about what followed Bobby Carpenter's incredible interception. Our high-powered offense comes back with a sweep that loses three yards. Then a quarterback sack. And finally, when a field goal would inch us closer at least – an interception. Three plays. Wow. Did we deserve to win that pig? No way…

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It could be worse… With our evident offensive woes, we could have really been undressed by a team with a great defense. Like a Wisconsin. Or a Purdue. Or Michigan. Oh, that's what's coming up? When you think about why you feel so bad today, as an ardent Buckeye fan, you think about the disparity between "expectation" and "result". In Tressel's first season, we just didn't expect that much. So it didn't hurt that much. Now, it seems like we are stuck in some of the darkest days in memory. Worse, maybe, than losing to Air Force in the Memphis bowl game. Or that nauseating Earle-era defeat to Indiana. Analyze all you want, but it comes back the same thing. It hurts…

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The underside of Tresselball…When other fans poked fun at our Buckeyes, the easiest shot back was something like "28-2", meaning that's been our record over the past 30 games so shaddupa ya mouth! When foes would point out the obvious horrors of our offensive attack? "28-2". And the Stone Age play-calling? "28-2". Today, "28-3" just doesn't seem to have the same ring…

Now here's another sodden thought while we are wallowing in it: Who would want to come into this program as a running back? Imagine Maurice Wells or Jonathon Stewart sitting at home, knowing they could go anywhere in the country to play. And then thinking about coming to the Buckeyes with their (now) historically ineffective offensive line and their sacrificial play calling ("we donate this body to…."). Would that be the kind of inspiration needed to toil for four years under those circumstances? Let's see how great a salesman Coach T really is…

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Profiles in courage… Let's change gears to clear the air a bit, eh? On last week's Bucknuts chat, Coach Bill Conley said an interesting thing (you can look it up…). He talked about "courage and the running back". In a question assessing the "talent" of our running backs, Bill said, "I think sometimes it's the courage of the running back, along with the vision and the talent. The great thing Maurice Clarett gave us when he was healthy and his mind was right, he could physically hurt someone trying to tackle him. After 2-3 quarters of that, guys found a way to miss". Great comment. Us armchair guys under-appreciate both the physicality and the courage out there. Maybe "absence of vision" equates to "absence of courage" at some level. Maybe you lose a little of that courage as your body takes a beating. But it is certainly an "unmeasurable" that doesn't equate to a number like weight lifting or speed. Character? An interesting issue, that…

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Just the backs, ma'am… I mentioned earlier the now-daunting task of attracting great running backs to OSU. As we head toward the finish line of another great recruiting year, our position in the Top Ten (based both on need and on the less-relevant hype…) will come down to "the backs"; that is, running backs and linebackers. With just 9-10 spots left for 2005 and a fantastic class already ready to sign, how do we finish off these positions? From a running back perspective, I would be thrilled with a combination of (any two) Maurice Wells, Javon Ringer and Jonathon Stewart. Of course, Wells and Stewart are widely considered the best two RB's in the country. Yet, I'm not sure either is better than Ringer and Javon wants to go to OSU. I would close that deal… As to the linebackers, we are in on some great ones: Alex Daniels, Travis Beckum, Neefy Moffett, and Rico McCoy. They are all outside linebackers (except Daniels, who can play about six different positions), yet the need in the middle is slight with the hopes of Kerr being around and Hoobler living the dream. There are probably two-three guys we would take regardless of who we have at any position: Fred Rouse (WR), Justin King (WR/DB/RB), Derrick Williams (WR), Eric Sledge (ATH), or Dan Doering (OL). But let's not get greedy.

For all the details (and a load of speculation), check out my monthly "Recruiting Update" this week on Bucknuts. It's free, and I promise you will get at least what you pay for…

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A quarterback progression, from "A" to "Zwick"… Unlike some of my brethren, I don't throw the blame or the responsibility for the "Disaster in Evanston" at the feet of our quarterback. Hamstrung by ineffective play-calling and an ineffective line, our expectations are too high that one player can overcome all that. But let's look at what should be expected from that position at Ohio State.

My thesis is that you have to be a quarterback for life; you have to grow up thinking like a quarterback and have a lifetime of quarterback reps. That's why Steve Bellisari couldn't cut it: great athlete, smart and with great desire, but he was a safety playing quarterback. Justin Zwick has always been a quarterback. When he was 14, he QB'd his Orrville team to a state championship, winning in the final seconds by throwing a TD pass against a powerful Coldwater squad. He transferred to Massillon to continue his QB progress, against the best in the state. And my memory of him there included his getting sacked seven (eight?) times in one game (St. Ignatius?) where he stood in there and took a horrific beating. Because that's what quarterbacks do. This is no slight to Troy Smith, but he wasn't a QB until his senior year in high school. That doesn't bode well for those intuitive moments a quarterback has to live through, almost by instinct. It does bode well, however, for eventual QB, Todd Boeckman, as he has been a QB since Pee Wee ball and grew up with his father as the coach at powerful St. Henry. It's not easy being a QB. But it's a lot easier if you are born to the role…

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We missed our Mark… Dantonio, that is. Remember all the great adjustments Coach D used to pull off at halftime? Saturday night, the defense actually looked worse in the second half. How long has it been since we have said that? Hey – Dantonio has "Peter Principled" himself from a position as a fabulous defensive coordinator on a great team to a mediocre head coach on a team going nowhere. Maybe we could all just cool off and re-think that deal…

But, I gotta say, it's not just Mark Dantonio. We were out-coached in every aspect of the game in Evanston. We were out-prepared (who had the two weeks off, anyway?) and that rarely happens. Game concept? Strategy? You could take the Hubble Telescope and increase the magnification and you still couldn't find our game concept. And look, too, at the individual coaching pieces…On defense, you have to attack the spread and stop Herron from cutting back. We couldn't do either. Herron ran wild and Basanez's uniform looked like he hadn't played at all. Our offensive line? Their "push" wouldn't have moved a blocking sled. And they couldn't have opened a hole in a conga line. This was Northwestern, people! How can their coaches, with that talent, get so much more done than our coaches with our talent? The Buckeye staff needs to come up with concepts that fit the players, and not just assume we can show up and overcome that particular lack of concept with ability and tradition…

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All right, that's enough, let's move on… Just as I live vicariously through the Buckeye players when times are good, I have a masochistic bent to become the "lightening rod" for fans' frustration and angst when times turn sour. I have vented. I have picked on the most obvious flaws that anyone else could have picked on. I have gone through the traditional cycle of grief. And I say, "Enough already. Let's grow up. Let's go forward. Let's move on."

Yes, the sun was disrespectful enough to have come up again today. That must be meaningful. As Barry Diller said after losing out in the bidding war for a television network, "They won. We lost. Next".

It can be that simple. Yet, we love our Buckeyes so much that we suffer disproportionately until it almost seems unhealthy. Perhaps, we need a little better perspective. Perhaps it's time to show unconditional love and support to our suddenly struggling band of brothers and help lift them back up instead of scratching the obvious itch; instead of continuing a morbid post-mortem.

To paraphrase Hemmingway, "Life breaks everybody. It's only what you do afterwards that makes you any different." Let's hope for a difference. Let's look forward to better times. If we could will it that way, well…then we should!

It's "On to Wisconsin" and time to re-focus in a positive way. And can we all say together now: Go Bucks!


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