In a Bucknut shell, this sullen Sunday…
The coaches had two weeks to come up with an effective offensive game plan. They didn't.
The special teams weren't.
The defense couldn't overcome those two problems.
End of story. Next…
OK, we know these things to be true: In the JT Era, Ohio State doesn't do well after a week off (1-4 in the last five years). They don't play well on the road in the Big Ten (lost five of our last six!). They haven't been winning at night (that's twice just this year!). They seem kind of inept in wet conditions (remember Madison?).
So why did we think Ohio State should have won on the road, at night, in the Big Ten, with wet conditions on Saturday?
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I know that a number of you are flabbergasted at how inept the Buckeye offense appeared to be on Saturday night. And, of course, you have expressed yourself accordingly. The frustration seems to be that they have stockpiled all this weaponry but seldom use it effectively. So, we think about (and unload upon…) the coaching staff.
Here's what I think about: The four main cogs in the strategic planning machinery for the offense are Coach Tressel, Jim Bollman, Doc Tressel and Joe Daniels. Amongst just the four of them, they have a combined 124 years of coaching at the collegiate level. They spent two weeks watching film of a very straightforward Penn State defense. They spent two weeks designing plays around the Ohio State offensive tools.
And that's the best they could come up with?
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All right. Enough venting and barely-disguised cheap shots. I certainly don't have all the answers. But I do have a few more questions that the sage amongst you might help me with. Some queries before I leave the subject and venture back into more productive, satisfying and upbeat areas:
1) Did Tony Gonzalez miss the team bus from the hotel? Where did he go?
2) Were the Penn State jerseys slipperier in the rain than the OSU jerseys?
3) When the officials looked to place the ball, were those the worst marks you've seen since, say…Reggie Germany's transcripts?
4) After six weeks of the season, who amongst you would have predicted that the Buckeyes and Wolverines would be a combined 6-5?
5) Deja voodoo: a) The heart-breaking loss in Madison – wasn't it 17-10 in the rain? And b) Doesn't it feel like we have seen this quarterback and this offense before? (If you answer "yes" to the first one and "Steve Bellisari" to the second, you get bonus points!).
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Two levels of frustration…When the team loses, the frustration usually makes you turn your darkest thoughts inward and unload on the coaches, the team, the school and anybody not quick enough to get out of the way of your foot (sorry, Fido…). I am now through that cycle of grief and am ready to move on. The best way to do that is to examine just why we get so darn frustrated. Are our levels of expectation simply too high? Do we invest too much in our heroes?
Probably yes and yes. But there are deeper levels of frustration for old Mr. Bucknuts. The first is what I call the "1998 Syndrome". That simply refers to a Buckeye team that was so good, you wanted to preserve it forever in your memory treasure trove. You want no possible besmirchment. You want to tell your grandchildren that you were "part" of that team. When they lost, a piece of your life – as well as your heart – seemed to be lost with them. That's a huge frustration ‘cause it's never coming back. I feel that way about this group. They are too good (at least on paper) to not win the national championship. The frustration becomes exponential, then, when you realize they are but 3-2.
That second level of frustration comes with recruiting. Nobody loves recruiting more than Bucknuts. And no one at Bucknuts loves it more than me, Mr. Bucknuts. But it is difficult today to imagine recruiting better talent than the Buckeyes have on this 2005 team. Are they going to have better receivers? No. Much better O-linemen? No. And on and on. So to look forward to the new linebackers or Chris Wells or a big tight end with hands or a whole new look even, well… that doesn't seem like it will solve the problem and get us over the hump.
And that's frustrating…
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Grrreat defensive lines…One of my favorites is from Oscar Wilde who said, "All of us are in the gutter; just some of us are looking at the stars". That defended his behavior (which is for another time and another type of column). All too often, OSU fans' thoughts certainly inhabit the gutter – just check our message boards this week – but are we looking at the stars? Segueing back to the real "defensive line" I wanted to address here, the Buckeyes really do have some stars: Quinn Pitcock is a first-rounder for Sundays, Mike Kudla is not only earning accolades but is generating more production than most of us thought possible; Carpenter is a surprise as a part-time DE; and the group of Marcus Green, Joel Penton, David Patterson, Jay Richardson and Lawrence Wilson are a great mix of young and old, excitement and stability.
But who is the real star on defense this year? Coach Jim Heacock. To me, last year's version of Buckeye defense under Coach Snyder was playing "not to lose". They were reading and reacting. They were bending and not breaking. They had all the clichés in place BUT…when you have the stars, you can't cover their light and wonder why the performance becomes dim. You got those bullets, you got to shoot them. And that's what Heacock has done.
Jerry Rudzinski has remarked on more than one occasion that whenever the defense starts thinking too much, the defense slows down. Snyder and the defense thought too much last year. This year, Heacock has turned loose the savages. And it shows. And it's fun to watch. And with the recruiting is emphasizing even greater speed, this year – it should be fun to watch for years to come. Heacock the gun – and the bullets are flying…
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Sutton impact…And another thing (while we are in the moment, of moaning over the losses of what we never had…), I have had extended dialogues with letter writers about Tyrell Sutton, Javon Ringer and Maurice Wells. For those of you not as expert at re-opening scabs, Tyrell Sutton is one of the top rushing leaders in the nation (as a freshman) for Northwestern and Ringer is one of the best in the Big Ten (also as a freshman). Both of these are good Buckeye kids. The football people at Ohio State turned down Sutton, while the academic people at Ohio State turned away Ringer. Our very own Bill Conley – who has been known to break down some recruiting film in his time – stated on multiple occasions that he would rather have Maurice Wells than either Sutton or Ringer.
After nearly half of the 2005 season, Sutton has 772 yards rushing and 12 TD's. Ringer has 404 yards (nearly eight yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns. Maurice Wells has 53 yards rushing and no scores. My point? Something subtle, as usual. There was one juncture earlier in this season that I thought we could swap any of these kids around and Maurice at Northwestern would have Sutton-like stats. Ringer at OSU would have Wells-like stats. Different offenses make or break the different players. Plug and play.
I don't think that anymore. Sutton got a ton of yards against Penn State with a line no better than OSU's. Sutton tore up a pretty good Wisconsin D Saturday with that same line. We missed one here, folks. Tyrell Sutton is terrific and would have helped Ohio State. A lot…
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And another thing…Duane Long has long insisted that the two hardest positions to project (from high school to college) are quarterback and offensive linemen, because they take the greatest amount of continuing development at the next level. Let's talk again about those linemen. For every Orlando Pace or Korey Stringer that comes around, you get a couple of dozen guys with potential that might make it or not. Some big names (like Adam Olds or Jefferson Kelley) don't make it because of injury. Some (like Ryan Cook or Scott Kuhnheim) just disappear in the middle of the night. The vast majority, however, evolve to different levels at different, well…paces.
Other examples: When we began this 2005 campaign, the starters were basically accepted to be Steve Rehring, Rob Sims, Nick Mangold, TJ Downing and Kirk Barton. I gotta tell you, folks, none of those five were big names on the recruiting trail. Sims was the highest profile partly because his dad played on Sunday. Barton, Rehring and Downing were in the "Who's He?" category. In fact, Rehring was the throw-in from the class two years ago that included sure-fire starters like Kyle Mitchum, Ben Person and Jon Skinner. All of who are developing at their own, well…pace.
I love the new group of O-linemen that we haven't yet truly experienced: Alex Boone, Jim Cordle and Connor Smith. I think they will all be starters and make us forget a lot of trench-toilers we have watched in the past 3-4 years. But I wouldn't want to necessarily bet that way. In the past, they have missed on such names as Andrew Bain, Izzy Bauta, Leon Hart, Carlos Feliciano, Jeremy Zuttah, Greg Harrison, Brett Gallimore and Jonathan Colon. We have seen Ohio kids like Munoz and Hall and Christopfel and Brandon Braxton play for out-of-state schools. And now Aaron Brown chose to go to V-Tech. Hey – I will take my chances with the guys the Buckeyes have and the program that is (finally) developing at OSU. I say "good luck" to the rest of those guys (and their potential) and we hope to meet on down the road. Because there can't be an Orlando, well…pace for every team
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Who dey…Yes, who amongst us would have ever projected – at this point in the season – that entering Sunday night's game, the Bengals would be undefeated and the Buckeyes would be 3-2? Is it global warming? Is it Al Qaida? Is the earth tilted on its axis, or what?
I guess that's why they play the games…
Just six weeks ago, we were looking forward to a run at the national championship. Texas all but ended that dream on September 10. But – we still had some hopes to back into the Rose Bowl. And the Bucks could still run the table and claim OSU's first outright Big Ten championship in almost two decades. Penn State woke us up from that dream Saturday night. Now? Well, they could back into sharing the Big Ten title. And this team could be known as being undefeated in all the day games they played in 2005.
Who dey, indeed!
If you have deep questions that are shaking you to your core – or if you are just bored – feel free to contact Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com. He is always there for you. Mostly, because he has no where to go…