I don't know how much the Buckeyes improved, but they improved. I don't know how good Indiana is, but I know OSU improved.
OSU coaches (and fans) wanted to see the Buckeyes take a step in the right direction. In our 0-3 Big Ten start, we either declined or we just hit a plateau. The Northwesterns, Wisconsins, and Iowas of the world were climbing and getting better. I love Woody's old saying: "If you are not getting better, you are getting worse." We got better from the Iowa game to the Indiana game.
Troy Smith seemed to take command of the huddle. I don't know if he was talking about football or if he was telling jokes because I wasn't in the huddle, but I could see Troy had everyone's attention and they were looking him in the eye. The command he took of the offense makes a few timing miscues and overthrown balls very excusable. The running game was sparked. The protection was sparked. We didn't turn the ball over. Troy Smith is not responsible for all of that, but the supporting cast surrounding the OSU quarterback had more urgency on Saturday.
It was encouraging to see those deep vertical passes. It would have been lovely to see those brought in for the highlight reel, but the fact that we are going for the jugular puts some pressure on defensive backs and defensive coordinators and causes them to respect us. We may not complete 1 of 10, but then again we might hit a few of them. Get away from our line of scrimmage and respect the fact that the ball is going over your safeties heads.
You have to take what the defense will give you. On the chalkboard, when you over-emphasize one area of strength, you under-emphasize a different area that becomes a weakness. If you pressure our running game and our quarterback, you make sacrifices downfield as a defense. Throw off your back foot if you have to. Throw rolling out. Throw out of the shotgun. Throw it on first down or third down. Just make sure that defense thinks about us going over their head with the football.
Nothing will ignite tempo quite like competition at the different position groups. Whether it is Anthony Gonzalez blocking downfield at wide receiver or Dionte Johnson at fullback or Chad Hoobler covering kickoffs, the Buckeyes are rolling different bodies onto the field. Coaches may claim it is just new players maturing and now being prepared for Saturday afternoons, and that's probably so. Coaches also might claim they have some injuries which force different roster moves. Again, I buy it, although there also might be a slice of "Hey starters, we are 0-3 in the Big Ten and your rear end will be on the bench with me if this continues, and if you don't believe me, I just played a guy that we were going to redshirt. You might want to pick it up, Mr. Starter." Complacency is not a good thing in a tough conference like the Big Ten. It is very difficult to plateau and become complacent when people are right on your heels.
The sustained drives from the offense made a difference. It keeps our defense fresh. It disrupts the tempo and rhythm of the opponent's offense. The fact that we scored on our first four possessions can even make a difference to IU's play calling and game plan. 6-plays, 10-plays, 12-plays, and 5-plays means 20-7 Buckeyes. Singles and doubles worked against IU. I bet it also works against better opponents.
What to do with the quarterbacks…Coach Tressel will break down the film and critique practice all week. He will talk to the doctors and he will also talk to his staff. From my 10,000 foot-view, assuming Zwick is healthy, I would start Smith and play both them. Granted, I am not a person that runs away from two-quarterback systems. If you have quarterbacks that pout and sulk and lose all confidence because of competition, then you haven't recruited quarterbacks with swagger or mental toughness. Others disagree with me on that, but I believe that certain years and certain situations call for two quarterbacks. Play both of them until this sorts itself out.
I thought Smith had good command and feet. I thought he threw some nice passes. I think the big, tall body of Justin Zwick also brings some nice things to the offense. He can probably bring some upside to the passing game with some of the throws he is capable of making. We are 1-3 in the Big Ten, so tell both quarterbacks they are sharing time. If they don't like it, they can be used sending in signals from the sidelines. Justin and Troy will be fine. They are mentally tough young men. All they want to do is have the Buckeyes win football games.
Ted Ginn, Jr. - When a coach says, "we need to make plays," that is what they mean.
Antonio Pittman - 144 yards and a big one was called back. Silky smooth against a weak IU defense. We will need him against the Nittany Lions, Spartans, Boilermakers, and Wolverines. Antonio, you are officially the guy.
Tony Gonzalez - His blocking downfield will create highlights and playing time.
Anthony Schlegel - 10 tackles was awesome. Would that mean he gets 20 if he was playing on two knees instead of one?
Mike Nugent - Even if his only kicks were PAT's and kickoffs from here on out, Mike should walk away with first-team All-American honors and the Groza.