Texas came in to Ohio Stadium Saturday night as the first Top Ten non-conference team to play here since LSU in 1988 (OSU won 36-33 in that one…). They are also the highest ranked out-of-conference team to ever appear in the Shoe. Ever, I repeat. That goes back 84 years for those of you keeping track at home. OK, those are the high points.
Here are a few of my sordid and assorted thoughts on this first Game of the Millennium (well, at least for this year, so far…):
Hang on Sloppy, Sloppy hang on…That was the byword for the night: sloppy. It was as if the Buckeyes had watched the Texas/Louisiana-Lafayette films and decided to play the part of Louisiana-Lafayette. Really. There were times that the Bucks looked so rag-tag that it took me back to Division III high school films reviews. Then they lulled me into thinking they would be fine. And it wasn't just Ohio State, either. Texas looked sloppy (that Louisiana-Lafayette affair probably wasn't much of a tune-up). The referees looked really sloppy (please, don't get me started). Coaches on both sides showed some sloppy thinking, gamesmanship and strategy (the pooch kick-off at the end of the first half should live forever in infamy), and even the fans were sloppy. The fans were mostly sloppy drunk; cheering at inappropriate times and being noisy just to be noisy. But it was a fun crowd, I will say that. Particularly the two ladies next to me who kept offering to sit on my lap.
Let's face it: we all need some work this season…
Drawn and quartered: OSU won the second and third quarters. Big. Texas won the first and fourth quarters. Bigger. That was the game.
I think their superior lines came out faster and lasted longer. The O-line protection that Young got was a thing that Brinks would have been proud to sponsor. If OSU had that kind of time for our quarterbacks, even Troy Smith might have looked at a second passing option. OK, I am exaggerating for affect here…
Opportunity knocked: When you have six chances to score from inside the forty or so, and you end up kicking for six field goals, that tells the tale on your Opportunity Conversion rate. Just awful. All the turnovers that went nowhere. All the breaks and possibilities to…yes, break the game wide open. Hey – how about the time the Texas boys accidentally tiptoed to the goal line on a Huston kick-off, we watched with curiosity, then watched him tiptoe all the way out to the 35?
Opportunity might knock more than once, but if you don't answer sooner or later, it knocks you on your ass…
Old time playground football: Their playground quarterback was much better than our playground quarterback. Really. Did you get the feeling at times that Troy Smith was designing plays with twigs and bottle caps? Texas didn't know what was coming because half of Troy's teammates didn't seem to know what was coming. That's not an offensive strategy, that's an abdication of an offense to the whims of your 21-year old recently unsuspended quarterback. And it showed. While spontaneity and ad-libbing are very entertaining in some venues (Robin Williams and comedy come to mind…), when it doesn't work, you fall on your face. Hard…
Offensive game plan…As has been noted elsewhere and often, the go-to guys (Holmes, Ginn, Hall and Gonzo) got to about 11 touches the entire game against Texas, after getting 24-25 in three quarters against Miami. 11 touches – or about half the number of called quarterback draws. Ironically, the message boards were abuzz with speculation last week that OSU "hadn't shown the whole play book" against Miami and they were holding back for the Longhorns. Now, we can only speculate that the offensive brain trust was disguising the good stuff so that they would be ready for San Diego State…
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Tailgate ‘n Bucknuts style…The game was purely anti-climax for us here at Bucknuts as the tailgate was really the main event. We saw lots of friendly faces and some new ones to boot. Players like Rob Kelly and Michael Wiley stopped by. Bucknuts luminaries such as Bill Greene and JJ Huddle and Nevada Buck and Kirk Larrabee and Steve Helwagen and Dave Biddle and Jerry Rudzinski and Gary Housteau and Bill Conley were there. Colin Cowherd also helped us wrestle down the Coronas. Hey – even Scout's Brian Kosar was there, lured in by the free food, beer and babes.
But the best story was Ryan Edwards. Again. For those following my weekly twists and turns: Ryan is a Captain stationed in Baghdad. I wrote him up last week along with a picture of him showing both a "Beat Texas" t-shirt and his rifle, in front of the presidential palace. Ryan sent a letter to Coach Tressel to be read to the team. Well, the Cinder-fella story gets better.
Edwards took two-and-a-half days to travel back to Columbus to catch the Texas game on a two-week leave. Tressel found out, called him en route in Atlanta and arranged for Captain Edwards to address the team the Thursday prior to the game. He came in with Earle Bruce and gave an impromptu pep talk. Say what you want about the game, but some things came out right!
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Beware the Fighting Swiss…I often fall victim to the illogic of knee-jerk liberal reactions. That is, I know I should leave this particular irony and idiocy alone, but I just can't stop myself. After all, I can resist everything but temptation. And the pure nuttiness of the NCAA going after Indian-related mascots has stirred some deep-seated reactions in old Mr. Bucknuts.
It is good to see that the sage and wizened leaders of the NCAA have taken a break from screwing up the BCS and other football-related miasmas long enough to take on the #1 priority of universities worldwide: ensuring that college mascots are appropriate and politically correct. After all, the bureaucrats have safely dispatched the minor issues of steroids, SEC schools cheating like five-year olds circling a candy trough, kids dying in football practices, meager graduation rates of athletes, and such, so that they can take on the true problem of our time: hundred year-old team mascots.
I realize that I am kinda late to pile on this particular issue but I was busy for the past weeks helping UC work out the final details in the payout of Bob Huggins so I was distracted. $3,000,000 for Huggy not to get liquored up in public under the Bearcat banner but not a dime for public policy and group funding for this mascot problem. What is a Bearcat anyway? Is that a derogatory version of a bear (and what would local bears think?). Or a derisive look at the nature of house cats (and what would their organizations think?).
I am susceptible to this sturm and drang because I have spent a lifetime jousting with the mascot problem. When I went to elementary school, we were a brand new school and the principal left it up to us students to choose an appropriate mascot. The only mandate was that it should be a woods animal since our new school was heavily forested. The majority voted for "The Coons". She didn't approve, for some reason, and used her executive position to arbitrarily put in place "Chipmunks". I can't tell you the grief and trauma we suffered as kids with our "Fight Chipmunks, fight – kill Lions" types of cheers.
Years later, at Cornell, we were asked to name our generic University Halls something that resonated more profoundly. Two provisos this time – it had to have "Hall" in the name and it had to be named after a person we admired. We picked "Alka Hall", named after Al Capone (who, after all, was in a similar business). For twenty years after our vote, the name remained "University Halls #4".
Finally (and maybe more on point), I was at Stanford during their exorcism of the Stanford Indian mascot many moons ago. As if the administration didn't know better, they left it to the student body to pick a replacement. The only admonition this time was that it had to have something to do with our founder, Leland Stanford. The students thus spoke. And the new name? "The Robber Barons". That wasn't acceptable for various reasons so a new vote was held. This time, the guys in charge expanded the parameters to anything that was obvious on the Stanford campus. The new choice? "The Stanford Trees". Still not good enough for those picayune admin types. The third vote produced the still popular Stanford Cardinal. Yes, not the bird but the color…
Which allowed Stanford to become one of the few universities in the nation to have a mascot name that didn't end in the plural "s". Who are some of the others? (And this definitely brings us back on point!). "The Fighting Illini" is one. "The Fighting Sioux" in North Dakota is another. Now the NCAA wants to eliminate names that should make those particular tribes proud – at least those members that fought long enough to survive liberal do-gooders like the NCAA.
What about the Fighting Irish? Or is that a caste lower than Indians? What if it were the "Spendthrift Irish" or the "Stubborn Irish"? Yes, all these points are absurd, and – in the end – that is my point.
Meanwhile back to football…
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Movin' on from Texas…Out to California. To San Diego State University. Hey – is an Aztec an endangered species as far as NCAA-sanctioned mascots are concerned? Why not? Different country of indigenous people to pick on? Oh, that's OK…
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Is it just me or did Florida go south?…Remember when Florida football was the place with a nasty disposition, "southern speed" and a swagger? Yeah, it's been a while. Spurrier left Florida to fail in the NFL. Butch Davis left Miami to fail in the NFL. And Bowden got old(er). The swagger might be there but now it's unjustified. Anyone who viewed the mess on September 6 when FSU and Miami met in an uncontrolled scrimmage knows what I mean. Yech…
Now, upon further reflection, the state of Ohio had its fingers in much of the Florida demise. Cleveland threw a bunch of cash at Butch Davis so that he could set the Browns back a decade. Larry Coker (ex-OSU, you know…) has proven that even with all that talent, he could push the Hurricane program into a decline. Ron Zook loaded up on the talent but couldn't get the boys to perform quickly enough so another Ohio coach (the Urban legend) is down there to pick up the pieces. The Bowden Ohio connection? We let him have Buster Davis.
Since neither Florida team could make many points on September 6, I will make one here: these program things seem to move in cycles. Nebraska has been down for years. USC has been surging. Notre Dame? Watch out… Ohio State looks like they are on a long march upward – with a few zigs and zags, of course.
Now, we are in the unfortunate position – just one week later – of looking up at Florida and Florida State in the polls. I think all these teams, along with the Georgias and LSUs and Tennessees will taste defeat in the next few weeks. And the sound of the south rising again will be temporary. Just like the feeling of us being down for a week.
All right, I am ready for the fans that have misinterpreted my feeling on Native Americans to begin their righteously indignant rants. If you want to join that line, or have other lines that feel necessary to impart, send them along to Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com