Uh huh, that's what I'm talkin' about. Here we come Motor City Bowl. Look out El Paso! Hang in there, San Antone. The Bucks are going bowling again, and there ain't nothin' you can do about it.
That's right. That's right. I've been a little critical, this year. Well, me and Kirk Herbstreit. So, now I am back on the bandwagon. Back in the positive column. We're relishing. We're wallowing. We're gloating it up big time. 32-19. Scoreboard, Spartans. Who's your Daddy now?
A positive column? You bet! Despite looking…uh…well, I guess…you know…hey – we won, right? And I got a whole bunch of cosmically positive thoughts out of the affair. Like:
* Ted Ginn. "We begin again with Ginn," I said last week. We began again like we did against Penn State. Teddy had two touches and two touchdowns.
* The first quarter and the last two minutes. We were great. Yeah, there were some times in-between that we didn't look as sharp. But that's for another day…
* Hall's best run ever. Maurice caught them napping when they thought he would take a knee (after two operations – he needs a knee!). But Mo got some revenge for the 1998 loss and we got some Mo for next week.
* The most points (32) you will ever see scored by that kind of an offense. In the old days, I would have used terms like "anemic" or "enervating" or even "atrocious". But not now. I am in the throes, man, I'm telling you!* Ted Ginn. "Cash It In a'Ginn". Reverses, slants, punt returns – and he rarely gets his uni dirty!
* Ashton Youboty. In the first quarter (the only one we really needed…), he picks Dowdell and has three big tackles. Huge. Sheik Youboty is for real. And for a real need at corner.
* Mike Nugent and field position. Not only does he nonchalantly nail a 53-yarder, but after his first four kickoffs, the average field position for Michigan State was their own 18-yard line. BTW, the other kid had a pretty good leg, too.
* Ted Ginn. "Ted ‘Ginn the World". Despite guys holding on his reverses (what's the point, they can't catch him), he scored on one of them and gained 20+ on the other.* We can overcome penalties, no matter how disastrous the timing or how senseless. A facemask penalty after the clock expired to give them a free kick? No problem. Two offensive line penalties on third-and-short? Piece of cake. Defensive offsides in crunch time? Just brinkmanship.
* Did I mention Ted Ginn? If he were a golfer, they would call it the "Ginn Scoring System".
Just Ginn, baby…
Testing positive… This rampant optimism has my head spinning but I reflected upon my football life over the past 20 years and here is what I concluded: I spent 13 years (let's just call them "The Cooper Era" for ease of reference) watching great Ohio State teams lose and then explaining (apologizing?) those losses to fans. That really hurt. I have now spent the past four seasons ("Tressel Time") watching Ohio State teams win. And I'm still explaining. Sometimes apologizing. Given those choices, I'll take wins with my apologies, thank you…
That one announcer, Rob David… Part of the fun of watching college football at home is to listen to barely literate announcers trying to zero in on the game. Hey – the players have to prepare for Saturday, why not the announcers? Not since Curt Gowdy commonly chewed up names back in the 60' and 70's, have we been treated to such a Mumble Fest as ex-coach Bob Davie put on display at East Lansing. I can't possibly do Davie justice by remembering all of his gaffes, but here are the top ones off the top of my head.
David Dowdell (over and over again…)
SanAntonio Holmes (that was actually tongue-team partner Mark Jones)
Ted Jinn Junior
Deandre Hall (he corrected that one to "Cobb")
No wonder Notre Dame kids didn't respond to him when he was coaching – they didn't know whom he was talking to…
Keep those cards and letters coming… I get mail. Hoo boy, I get mail. And, believe it or not, I try to answer all my e-mail. I know that's harder to believe for those of you to whom I've never responded. Some of those, of course were pithy eat-my-shorts type correspondence. And before I lose my point altogether, the point I was trying to make is this: Three weeks ago, after the debacle in the Iowa cornfields, I received 127 e-mails within the first 24 hours after my Bucket of Bullets appeared. Most were seething. All had intriguing ideas (I am still not sure that any coach could contort himself into many of those suggested positions…). The following week, we had our victory over the mighty Hoosiers and I received 32 e-mails. After the Penn State rout? 28 e-mails. The trend is clear. When folks are mad, they vent to me. When they are sanguine, there's no reason to talk about it. I do appreciate the fact that most of you assume I have almost total control over the program. So when I still run off-tackle for the 16th straight time on first down, sure – e-mail me and I'll do something about it. I am here to serve…
We put on a bouncing and grasping clinic… The new theory in tackling is to do it in three parts; the first guy is the "bouncer", the second defender is the "grasper" and the final guy does the "takedown". And with that strategy, we did put on a clinic Saturday. The officials wanted to remove Anthony Schlegel to check his hands for Vaseline. The press box came up with a new stat: yards after the first hit. In years past, that's what saved the defense's bacon – crisp tackling. Maybe its Salley and D'Andrea and others being out. Maybe it's a lack of enthusiasm. But we are certainly grasping for answers…
Deja voodoo… It's like 2001 all over again. Back in that halcyon year, we mucked around and ended up winning but seven games. But, looking back, many of us thought it was a successful season - ‘cause we beat Michigan! I posit that if we win seven games again this year, and beat the vermin from up north, we will feel the same way. It will redeem this band of underachievers in most Buckeye fans' eyes and set us up grandly for 2005, when most everyone is back (except for the Nuge and – hopefully – a couple of position coaches…).
Now, let's go farther back in time, circa 1968. That season was an awful lot like 2002 – a magical time that makes a Buckeye smile just thinking about it. The following year? The magic vibrated all season-long until that awful loss to Michigan. Same as 2003. Last year would have been just fine if we would have overcome the rodents.
One thing is clear: beat Michigan and all is forgiven…
Great quarterbacks versus great big quarterbacks… If you have a choice between a great QB that's 6'0" on his tippy-toes or a 6'5" Paul Bunyan, I will stipulate that the bigger they come, the harder it is to get them to fall. But otherwise – what's the big deal? I would rather have the great shifty guy with a rocket (think what Drew Tate is doing…) who is a bit undersized than some big Palooka that can't win. If you are Doug Flutie or Andre the Giant, it's no matter. Winners come in all sizes. Hey – how big was Joe Germaine, anyway?
The staff at OSU doesn't buy in to my theory, obviously. They believe in three sizes: big, bigger and biggest. Krenzel was big. Zwick and Boeckman are bigger. And Schoenhoft is the biggest. Maybe that's why Troy Smith was able to sneak onto the field – they didn't see him coming! But all seriousness aside – when a DE puts up his hands and you have to pass over him, does it matter if you are 2-3 inches shorter than the bigger QB? Only if you start hitting your own linemen in the helmets should that be an issue. And when a guy throws on the run (or runs on the run), how big is everyone then? QB-ing isn't all about size or measureables. More on this later in the program…
Yes, we can recruit – from Glenville to Centerville… It's amazing how much of the Buckeye productive talent comes from just two places: Glenville and Centerville. From Glenville comes Ted Ginn and Troy Smith, of course. But also Donte Whitner, Curtis Terry and – for a season or so – Dareus Hiley. Next year? In comes Jamario O'Neal and maybe Freddie Lenix. We flirted with an all-Glenville defensive backfield possibility with Ginn and O'Neill on the corners and Whitner/Hiley as the safeties. It still could happen if Lenix comes aboard. And from Centerville? The best kicker in the nation in Mike Nugent and the best linebacker – AJ Hawk. Also living in Centerville (although he went to Alter) is Nick Mangold. Both of these Division I high schools are having a banner season this year but the future (next weekend, that is…) looks cloudy. Centerville takes its undefeated record and #3 ranking up against The Machine – Colerain from Cincinnati. Glenville takes its 10-1 record and phenomenal speed up against St. Ignatius…
If the question is… Can Mr. Bucknuts remain positive for an entire column reviewing his beloved Buckeyes? The answer is "no". As we have often stated in the past – facts are stubborn things. Opinions, on the other hand are ephemeral and can be built to suit. My opinion used to be, keep the offense off the field so that our defense and special teams can win the thing for us. Now, my faith in the D is wavering. My opinion (a plea, actually) for the D is "Send ‘em or cover ‘em". When we blitz, we throw off their passing game. If we don't blitz (the question is…) why are we in soft coverage? It seems like the worst of both worlds. There were times on Saturday that our best pass defense was to leave them wide open and hope for drops.
Which brings us back to that quarterback question. We are in the midst of an incredible run during which we will see three straight second-string quarterbacks (not counting ours, even). Michael Robinson? Troy is better than that. Damon Dowdell? Hmmm, I don't think so. Brandon Kirsch from Purdue? Troy isn't that good.
In high school, Troy Smith could lock on to one receiver (Ted Ginn, then, too) and if he was covered, he could take off. Smith is a good – but not great – runner. He has a great arm with occasional spasms of touch. That combination of locking in, taking off quickly, not going through progressions and not seeing the field has been offset by remarkable poise and (let's face it) a large dollop of good fortune. The "great" pass that he threw to Ginn against Indiana could have easily been turned for six the other way. He threw a really ill advised pass against MSU that a linebacker appearing to be wearing oven mitts let drop.
But the real question is, how much better will Troy get and can you develop an offense around him? He's likeable and a great asset and a great #2 guy. But if the question is: "Who should be the Buckeye quarterback to build a program around?", I will give you a hint…The answer is not "Troy Smith".
If you want to test positive, or simply vent after a win, feel free to contact Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com