The Buckeyes always had the swagger against the Hawkeyes. We had not lost to Iowa since 1991. We hadn't lost at Kinnick Stadium since 1983. Kirk Ferentz had beaten every team in the Big Ten…except OSU. That changed on Saturday afternoon as the Buckeye football program lost 33-7.
An argument could be made that a few plays here or a few plays there caused the losses to Northwestern and Wisconsin. On Saturday afternoon, the Hawkeye nation was too much from start to finish. A few plays here or a few plays there would not have made a difference.
As the game is dissected in the media and around the water coolers, many people will point fingers at many different issues. Everyone is right. The quarterback, receivers, running backs, offensive linemen and offensive coaches deserve the blame for the offense. The same is true for the defense. Our special teams were inferior to Iowa's special teams. Our 0-3 record indicates a personnel problem with our roster. It also indicates the coaching staff is not maximizing what they have. We have youth and inexperience. Michigan lost Navarre, Perry, and some stud offensive linemen.
Enough of the dark side of our situation. What do we need to do?
- Focus on turnovers. Hey, this loss was much deeper than a late first half interception and an early second half fumble, but those two plays didn't help our cause. If we can't move the ball effectively…if we can only run for 27 yards…if we give up over 440 yards to Iowa…we have to win the turnover battle. We just can't win if we don't win that important aspect.
- Pass to open up the run. That is the first time in my life that I have said that. I have always claimed balance, but I didn't care what opened up what. Run first? Pass first? Just make sure you do both was my claim. After seeing Marshall, NC State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa bring in extra hats into the box and bully our front, it seems the only thing left to do is open things up. Defenses are having a field day between the tackles.
I truly believe our defense was vulnerable to the run against Marshall, NC State and Northwestern because of the opened up offensive schemes. We were worried about what was going on in the perimeter. After we lost our "stop the run first" mentality as a defense, they ran the ball. In a perfect world, we could go out and run it with dominating linemen (like Wisconsin did to us). Our line has not shown us that we can do that thus far. That three receiver, one tight end, one back set can be dangerous for defenders. The defense is forced to spread out (usually with nickel), yet they still have a big tight end and a back to respect (along with the play action). An empty set with five wide takes away a threat to run the ball for that defensive coordinator. Ultimately, we need to keep them honest and remain two-dimensional, but we need to move some defensive bodies away from the line of scrimmage to accomplish that.
- Play assignment defense. We can be so close, yet so far away as a defense when people try to do too much. A defensive end can't do a middle linebacker's assignment. A safety can't do an outside linebacker's job. Play your responsibility (and play it REAL well) and trust your teammates. I have seen defenses with NFL talent look very average and vulnerable when people try to do too much. If you have contain, play contain. If you have a deep third in coverage, don't sneak over and try to be a hero in the middle of the field. If you have one gap to play, don't be a two-gap player with two-gap technique. Solid assignment football leads to stopping the run. It also prevents breakdowns in rollouts, bootlegs, waggles and the other plays Iowa had success with.
- Recruit hard. Recruit Ohio. Recruit nationally. Talent and
playmaking and the ability to play fast are contagious on teams. Depth will make
for faster practice tempo. Depth will bring swagger. Tressel can flat-out coach
a football team. He will lose though to lesser coaches if they have better
players. Speed, size, vertical leaping, work ethic and intelligence will make
good coaches look great. It will also make great coaches national champions.