Offensive Notebook: Bucks Look To Rebound

Ohio State's offense sputtered throughout the loss to Penn State. But this week, the Buckeyes will look to get back on the winning track against a somewhat shaky Michigan State defense. We have comments from captains Nick Mangold and Rob Sims, as well as tailback Antonio Pittman.

Ohio State's offense struggled against a good Penn State defense last week and the Buckeyes will look to rebound against visiting Michigan State on Saturday (noon, ABC).

But before the Buckeyes could turn their attention to the Spartans, there were still plenty of questions about what went wrong in Happy Valley.

"We didn't make the best of our opportunity," center Nick Mangold said. "We made turnovers, which you can't have, especially when you're driving down the field at the end there to go in for the tie. We can't set up our defense to defend a good offense at the 1-yard line. Those are big things we need to work on."

Ohio State's offense has not established an identity this season. Are the Buckeyes a passing team? Running team? Spread team? Option team?

"I always hear people talk about ‘identity' and I don't know exactly how you put that on an offense because we game plan every week," Mangold said. "I would say our identity is that we've got great receivers, we've got a great tailback in (Antonio) Pittman, we've got some good offensive linemen up there trying to make holes. We're going to do whatever they tell us to do, so, identity, I don't really know how to put that to an offense."

Michigan State's defense has struggled most of the season. Mangold was asked what teams have done to be effective against the Spartans.

"Teams have gone against some of their weaknesses and that's what we're trying to look for right now," he said. "And it's kind of tough to find them. I was watching the film from last year and they have the same two D-tackles and they gave us a challenge last year and having them back is going to be a challenge again. They're big guys. So, we're looking for that. I expect the coaches will look and see what other teams have done and try and emulate what people have been able to do against them."

Like most everyone else, Mangold is puzzled why OSU's Ted Ginn Jr. is not making big plays this year.

"I don't know," Mangold said. "I don't know if it's difference in the plays we've run for him, or maybe he's a little bit slower, or something. I don't know what it is. I've had my dad say the same thing. You know, ‘What's up with Teddy?' I don't see anything wrong. I think it's just the fact that teams have been able to defend him really well. They've been able to watch him and get things done that way. He's working right now to try and overcome that. Defenses have been able to contain him, but how can he get past that? I think it's just good defense coming at him."

But Mangold says Ginn still carries himself in a confident manner.

"He does," he said. "From talking with him, he doesn't lose that ‘Teddy style' that he has. It's just kind of rough going for him right now, but he keeps working at it."

* Pittman continues to look impressive for the most part. No, he's not the big back that many clamor for, but he has very good vision and quickness, and is running hard this year.

Pittman knows that the Bucks need to get back on the winning track against Michigan State.

"This week's game is going to be a big one for us," Pittman said. "After coming off a loss, we've got to get back and earn respect."

Pittman was asked what the offense focused on this week at practice.

"Just focused on everything," he said. "We've got to get better in all aspects of the game. We've got to move the ball a lot better. That's something we have to get better at if we want to win out the rest of this season."

Pittman was named OSU's offensive player of the week for the Penn State game.

"It's something that I can build off of, but as a team, we need to build off of each other," he said. "We've got to get better. We've got to come out and put more points up on the board for once. And we can't have as many three-and-outs and expect to win the game."

Michigan State has struggled stopping the run all season. This could be a week where OSU's run game flourishes, as it did against Iowa.

"Hopefully, but that's the coaches' call, that's their decision," Pittman said. "But I'm just good with a win, really."

Pittman has been solid, averaging five yards per carry again this season. He was asked if he's satisfied with the season he's having thus far.

"Nah, I feel that I could be doing more, but we've got a lot of season left to play," he said. "We'll just see how it pans out."

The 5-11, 200-pound Pittman added about 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason. Even though he didn't carry the ball much last year, he still felt the effects of Big Ten ball.

"Yeah, I can feel the difference from last year," he said. "Last year I got banged up early in the season and it just never went away."

In the Penn State game, right tackle Kirk Barton was lost to injury in the first quarter and did not return. That forced the Buckeyes to do a lot of shuffling up front.

"That affected us a lot," Pittman said. "We had to change up our game plan early in the game. It was like the first quarter. That hurt us a lot. Barton was a big loss and hopefully we can get him back soon."

* Speaking of the O-line, one of the biggest plays in the Penn State game was something that not many people are talking about. With the Buckeyes leading 3-0 in the first quarter and facing a third-and-four, Smith appeared to pick up a first down on a scramble. However, the play was wiped out by a holding call on Rob Sims. The Buckeyes came up empty on third-and-14 and were forced to punt – which led to PSU's first touchdown of the evening.

On the replay, Sims appeared to make an excellent block on the play.

So, Sims was asked point blank: Good call, or pancake block?

"Pancake block. By far," he said. "I got the guy … Big Ten has great refs, but they missed that one. I got under him and I got him pretty well. But that's part of the game. Holding and the refs are part of the game and something that you accept. I know the coaches were mad, but you just kind of move on. I thought it was a great block. It was a big call. But like I said, live and learn and forget. My mom thought it was a good block."

Sims usually keeps his cool on the field, but he could feel his blood boiling after the call. He also noticed that OSU's Mike Kudla got tackled later in the game, with no ensuing holding call.

"Of course you get mad," Sims said. "Of course you see stuff that should be called on your guys and everything like that. But the refs can't see everything and we understand that. We've been around enough to know that. We've been holding a couple times and didn't called. You get mad on the field because you want to win and I know mine wasn't a hold and theirs was, but hey, that's how it goes."

When Barton went down against PSU, Sims was forced to play right tackle until Alex Boone was inserted.

"I think that was part of the problem," Sims said. "I hadn't taken any right tackle snaps and that was kind of learn on the fly for me. But we got out there and did the best I could. Wish I could have done a little bit better. Alex got in there and he's still young and still learning. I think moving around … Kirk really hurt because he's been such a vital part of the offensive line holding down the right side."

Boone has been practicing at left tackle this season, but will likely start against Michigan State at right tackle.

"Not too much difference (between left and right tackle)," Sims said. "It's different footwork, but everything is just kind of backwards. So, (Boone is) a smart kid. He should be able to get it together. He's been working hard ever since he came in here. If he gets the call this week, he deserves it."

Sims was asked what he would do to fix the offensive woes if he was offensive coordinator.

"I would give me the ball," he quipped. "No, I'm not the offensive coordinator and I think what our coordinators … or whoever calls the plays, has been doing a good job. It's really on us as players to really execute them."

The key to OSU's season offensively from this point on is its running game. If the Bucks can run the ball, their offense usually clicks. When they can't run, everything seems to fall apart.

"I think so. I think it's always about the running game," Sims said. "But I think we've been able to run the ball all year. We're just looking to improve upon that this week."

Like Mangold, Sims was asked if OSU has established an identity on offense.

"I don't think we have one thing that we can lean on," Sims said. "I think we have numerous things we can do. Whoever calls that play, it's just our job to go out there and get it done."

Quarterback Troy Smith has taken criticism for the way he played at Penn State. He put up over 300 yards of total offense the previous game against Iowa, but looked shaky at times against the Nittany Lions.

"We decided Troy was going to be our quarterback. I'm sure he hasn't played as well as he thought he would, but he's a winner and he's a trouper," Sims said. "He's going to go out there and play hard every single week. It's not really about what he did last week, it's about what is he going to do this week. He's just one of those kind of guys that puts everything behind him and just goes."

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